Member in the Spotlight | Graham, Smith & Partners
NBCC were pleased to recently interview John Graham, the partner and founder of Graham, Smith & Partners International Tax Counsel, a specialist international tax consulting firm based in Amsterdam. Graham, Smith & Partners clients include public companies and medium to large private businesses doing business in Europe and elsewhere, international families and other high net worth individuals, expatriates, professional firms of lawyers and accountants and international and non-profit organisations.
What is Graham, Smith & Partners?
We are international tax advisers, so we advise on international tax matters. That can either be businesses or individuals, so it could be a foreign business setting up in the Netherlands, a business in the Netherlands setting up somewhere else, or foreign businesses trading through the Netherlands into Europe. Or it might be an individual coming to the Netherlands for work, or somebody already here. We have special focus on UK and US nationals, with an interest in a trust, of which the tax treatment can be quite complicated in the Netherlands. Because of my UK background, I probably understand a trust a bit better than most. Of course, in the last year or so, we've been advising many UK businesses on how to sort out their VAT on selling goods and services into Europe, post Brexit.
What is your USP?
We are a small set-up, but we only do international tax. We're hands-on. We are proactive. We operate quickly and, I think efficiently, so we can turn things around faster than many firms because the lines are short. We keep to what we know and have other specialists standing by should their services be required.
Why did you set up Graham, Smith & Partners?
I started as an accountant in the UK and moved across here a long time ago. I worked for a firm that has long since disappeared into a larger organisation, and when they merged, I was asked by the international organisation they had been in if I wanted to continue as part of their network. So I said I would think about it, and to cut a long story short, I set up a firm in 89 and here I am still.
How big is the UK market to you?
It's significant. It's certainly nowhere near half, I'd say, maybe 10 to 20 percent. It has increased in the last year because of the Brexit issues. I wouldn't say we have any particular country that weighs particularly heavily. We also deal a lot with France, the US, Canada, and Germany. Our clients come from all over the world. Almost anywhere.
How big is the NL market to you?
It depends on how you look at it because where we have clients based in the Netherlands, they almost always have something international. But some Dutch businesses are part of foreign groups. I'd say, although I'm guessing now, probably 20, 25 percent. But it's all internationally related, almost. I mean, there might be a small number of purely local clients, but not many.
How has the COVID-19 Pandemic impacted your business?
Not at all really. Because we are fairly international, things have improved in some respects, because Zoom and Teams have become standard and the concept of a conference call has completely disappeared. So in some cases, we have better contact with clients than before and surprisingly enough, certainly the clients that we are advising, most of them have been as busy as ever making acquisitions or moving people around and so on. And of course, you also have the people who are working from other locations and that also means extra work because you've got to sort out where they are resident and where they are taxed, that sort of thing.
It has given us new opportunities in the sense of providing new sources of work because of businesses that have suddenly might found that they have a problem selling goods into Europe or setting up in Europe or transferring people to Europe. I'm not a Brexit supporter, but it hasn't done us any harm from the firm’s point of view.
Why did you join NBCC?
From the point of view of the contacts and so on, such as client referrals, contacts and information.
What are your plans for future growth that you are able to share with NBCC members?
Well, we have a joint venture with another firm, which provides general support to businesses setting up in the Netherlands, and they're based in the same building as we are. That means that for a business wanting to set up here, while we can't provide a director or an office address because thenwe would need a trust company licence, we can provide them a fairly complete package for setting up in the Netherlands and in assorted languages as well, because other than Dutch and English, we can work in French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Turkish. In conclusion we can provide a fairly complete package so that people don't have to work it all out themselves.
Do you have anything you want to add?
I think the only thing is that there is a lot of cross border business around. The Netherlands is probably a good place to start. It is not a big thing to do business with in Belgium, Germany, and France. It's got more challenging with the UK because of Brexit, but I think there are still plenty of opportunities. You just have to figure out a solution to the problems.