Businesses need to be aware of escalating auto-enrolment fines

A number of businesses who have failed to sign staff up to a workplace pension scheme have been hit with escalating fines by the Pensions regulator for the first time and Andrew Cowe, Senior Tax Manager at Thomas Coombs is warning other firms not to get caught out.

Under current workplace pension rules, all employers with at least one member of staff have to undertake certain duties, including enrolling those who are eligible into a workplace pension scheme and contributing towards it.

Under this process, known as auto-enrolment, businesses must meet certain requirements by their set staging date, which is based upon the number of people they employ.

Those that miss their staging date are initially sent a statutory notice reminding them to comply however, those who persistently and deliberately refuse to comply, or who breach workplace pension rules, could face a fixed penalty notice of £400.

Failure to pay this fixed penalty notice could lead to a series of escalating fines, with a prescribed daily rate of £50 to £10,000, depending on the number of staff the business employs.

Andrew Cowe at Leeds based accountancy firm,  said: “So far the Pensions Regulator has only handed out escalating penalty notices to four firms, but this number is likely to increase as more staging dates pass.

“All businesses in the UK with at least one employee are expected to create a workplace pension scheme for their employees by the end of 2018 and most will already be aware of their staging dates, if it has not already passed.

“Failing to enrol staff into a workplace pension carries with it the prospect of hefty fines that could have a significant impact on you and your company.”

Andrew Cowe added that firms need to take penalty notices seriously as the Pensions Regulator has confirmed that they will take civil action through the courts to recover penalties and will prosecute employers who deliberately and wilfully fail to comply with their duties.

If you are concerned about auto-enrolment or have been issued a penalty notice then it is important you consult an accountant sooner rather than later to ensure you do not incur any serious fines.

For more information please contact Andrew Cowe, Senior Tax Manager, Thomas Coombs Accountants.

“Yorkshire Day” comes early as Thomas Coombs launch rebrand

“Yorkshire Day” has come early for Thomas Coombs, a Leeds based tax and accountancy firm. Known already by their clients as the Yorkshire Accountants, the firm decided the time was right to bring their brand into the 21st century. The partners believe they now have something that truly reflects who they are as a business, whilst retaining their traditional Yorkshire roots.

“The decision to rebrand was something we considered very carefully. We have many long standing clients, some who have been with us for decades, and wanted to ensure that the update was more of an evolution, rather than a revolution. Retaining our Yorkshire heritage was incredibly important to us.” said Christopher Darwin, one of the partners at the firm.

Thomas Coombs are one of the oldest and most respected independent firms in Yorkshire and have been trading since 1878. The firm was founded by Thomas Coombs, a chartered accountant. Since then, the firm has grown to 4 partners, 25+ employees and is a member of the UK200 Group.

David Jones, Managing Director at Sun Jones said “It’s been an exciting challenge for us to bring the Thomas Coombs brand up to date. We’ve worked very closely with the partners to ensure all aspects of the brand are consistent and convey the right message. The Thomas Coombs logo in particular is a blend of old and new, featuring the traditional Yorkshire Rose but with a modern twist. Thomas Coombs now have a brand that matches their exceptional service”.

Find out more about Thomas Coombs by visiting

Is your SME ready for FRS102?

Leeds based accountancy firm Thomas Coombs is reminding small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that a new accounting standard could affect their financial affairs.


Stuart Adam, Partner at Thomas Coombs said: “The proposed changes of the new UK GAAP [Generally accepted accounting principles], known as FRS102, will align the requirements of FRS102, which is generally used by smaller firms, with those of the relevant International Financial Reporting Standard; as used by larger organisations.”


The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) said the changes were needed as the complexity of the existing rules had led to ‘potential unintended consequences’ which meant that they were not only more arduous to apply, but they could also result in ‘inappropriate accounting outcomes’.


The FRC has launched a consultation on amendments to accounting standard FRS102 in a bid to simplify rules surrounding share and share option awards for smaller firms. In its draft, called FRED61, the FRC has set out amendments to the standard, which deals with share-based payment transactions with cash alternatives. The FRC is looking to make the changes for accounting periods beginning on or after 1 January 2015. When a business adopts FRS 102, comparative accounts for the year prior to conversion will also be needed. The comment period on this proposal closes on 1 June 2015.


For more information please contact any of the partners of Thomas Coombs.


SME Growth

Thomas Coombs has reacted to news that 46 per cent of SME owners believe that a lack of access to skilled workers is the main obstacle to growing their business. The figure comes from research conducted by the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) and Populus in which 500 directors, senior leaders and SME owners were polled.

A similar number (43 per cent) believe that cutting so-called ‘red tape’ would be the quickest way to stimulate growth among mid-market businesses.

For smaller companies – those with 10-49 employees – access to credit is a wide concern, with 26 per cent citing this as the biggest barrier to expansion.

“It’s disappointing that so many SME owners feel that there are barriers in their way,” commented Christopher Darwin, Partner at Thomas Coombs.

According to the BIBA and Populus survey, the biggest barriers to growth are:

  • Lack of talent/skills: 46 per cent
  • Red tape: 43 per cent
  • Rising supplier costs: 36 per cent
  • Lack of tax breaks for small business: 24 per cent
  • Lack of business opportunities/sufficient network: 23 per cent
  • Availability of credit: 23 per cent
  • Knowledge of overseas markets: 13 per cent
  • Protective overseas markets: 11 per cent
  • Lack of cost-effective transport: 10 per cent

“One of the biggest obstacles to growth is a lack of effectively skilled staff, so more needs to be done to encourage SMEs to take on apprentices.

“Interestingly, availability of credit is seen as a barrier for nearly a quarter of those polled. Clearly, banks need to review their lending policies,” added Christopher Darwin.

Thomas Coombs, based in Leeds, is experienced at assisting SMEs and can offer a range of services to help owners facing any of the problems highlighted in the survey. For more details, please contact Christopher Darwin.

Yorkshire Children of Courage Awards 2015

For the second year running Thomas Coombs will be supporting the St James Place Yorkshire Children of Courage Awards

The evening will be presented by Steph McGovern, BBC Breakfast Business Journalist and will be held at New Dock Hall on Friday 16th October 2015.

Nominations for the awards are now open. More details can found on

Thomas Coombs Charity (WY-SME) Index

We are proud to introduce the Thomas Coombs Charity (WY-SME) Index. The specialist charity accountants within our practice have constructed this index from available data on West Yorkshire based registered charities which meet the criteria of a small or medium sized enterprise.

These charities, numbering 861, represent a Yorkshire powerhouse of third sector activity with a combined income of £0.7 Billion and £1.1 Billion of assets as at 31st March 2015.

On a quarterly basis we will revisit the Index and monitor key variables such as income growth, asset composition and reserve levels.

There is a wealth of information within the database. If you wish to receive more detailed benchmarking analysis with reference to your charity please do not hesitate to contact Christopher Darwin, the head of our charities department on 0113 2449512 or

Leeds Fashion Ball

Thomas Coombs is delighted to be continuing its support and involvement in the LEEDS FASHION BALL on 7 May 2015, New Dock, Leeds.

Always a fun event and in 2014 it even featured one of our partners Christopher Darwin as a model within the Business Leaders scene.

The evening comprises of:

  • Glitzy red carpet drinks reception
  • Sumptuous 3-course celebratory dinner
  • Sizzling 10-scene fashion show
  • Model Employee Awards
  • Exclusive prize draw
  • Entertainment until late with VIP glitzy after show party

The Awards Panel is headed up by Philip Jordan, president of the Leeds Law Society and partner at Ward Hadaway, Chris Manners, regional director of the ICAEW and Claire Young, entrepreneur from the Apprentice presenting awards for: Rising Star, Best Business to Work for, Most Helpful Bank and ABL Accountancy, Legal and Property firms with Outstanding Service, PA/Secretary, Role Model, Client of the Year and Yorkshire Business Leader of 2015.