Accountant Heidi Harris believes she has created a first by setting up a Birmingham practice incorporated as a community interest company.
She believes hers is the only accountancy firm in the UK to come under the category of limited company created for charities and not-for-profit social enterprises.
And she believes she has stolen a march on other accountancy firms, many of which have a poor grasp of the rules and regulations as they apply to social enterprises.
She recently launched her Bordesley-based company, Harris & Harris, with her husband Ceciel, and the firm’s surpluses are reinvested to support Bloomsbury Cyber Junction – a registered charity based in Nechells that works to create an inclusive and equal society by providing a range of educational and support service to the community.
In order to qualify for CIC registration, organisations have to pass a ‘community interest’ test to establish that they qualify for the special status that registration brings.
They must also submit to an ‘asset lock’ which ensures that cash and other resources cannot be used for anything outside their stated charitable purpose.
Despite these restrictions, she said, between 40 and 50 social enterprises a month are joining the CIC register.
Mrs Harris said: “We intend becoming recognised nationally as the leading accountancy firm for CICs.
“A significant number of social enterprises are registering as CICs and we would like to be in a position to pick up most of them as clients as soon as they do. The plan is to grow and expand with the market,” she added.
Mrs Harris is a chartered accountant who worked in the tax department of PricewaterhouseCoopers, before qualifying with a smaller firm. She went on to teach numeracy, and worked for a number of local charities before establishing the new firm with her husband.
Mr Harris is a qualified teacher who holds a diploma in charity accounting. He has worked as a manager in the third sector for a number of years, helping to establish, develop and run several successful community based projects.
Mrs Harris said: “We are much more than an accountancy firm. As well as being unique in having CIC status we also undertake impact measurement in order to demonstrate to organisations the effect of the programmes they deliver, and the difference they make.”
She added: “There’s no doubt that our services are badly needed.
“One of our clients came to us after another accountancy firm told them they needed two lots of accounts because they were a social enterprise, and wanted to charge them twice.
“In fact only one set was needed, but there is a great deal of misunderstanding about these issues among conventional accountants.”