Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Tax Help joins the YouTube age

I write this as my YouTube channel marks an important milestone. Videos on it, offering free tax advice, have now been viewed a total of 10,000 times.

This is great news for those in search of free tax help – since the success of the channel means I will continue to record and post videos on it. The channel is at www.YouTube.com/HustonTV

I thought readers might be interested in learning why I set up the channel and which videos have proved of most interest.

Back in 2009 (and in digital terms that’s a long time ago) I realised there really was no-one offering video help with tax matters for the UK. A few people were doing it Stateside. If you were worried about your tax all you could do was go on the terrible HMRC website (still not great in 2012) or search online for an article posted by someone. I felt there was surely an unfulfilled desire for the information to be put out differently. Visual seemed to be the way forward. I am pleased to see that since I started a few others, including the professional press, have started dabbling, though some charge for watching the videos.

So out came the camcorder. Out also came my good friend Bill Jeffrey – a veteran commentator on business issues. I reckoned Bill, with his wealth of experience in front of theatre audiences, TV and movie cameras, was just the man to interview me on camera.

Before I used Bill, the first few videos were simply a recording I did sitting in my living room. It was around the time MPs were getting grief for having taxpayer-funded second homes. I did a few videos, one on the MP’s thing and a couple for landlords and people selling their holiday homes or let properties.

Of course I am in business as a tax consultant and accountant. So these videos have to do more than offer free tax advice – they need to grow our business. Thankfully they also bring in new clients. People often have a look at the video and then decide to give us a call. Like all social media used in commerce, it needs a certain amount of managing, and needs to form part of the strategy for promoting our business. For a while we had a separate website showing the videos, but that dissipated our numbers of hits. So when we redesigned our web presence all was brought together under one site, from which people can depart to view the videos.

These early videos on rents and CGT have been the most popular and continue to be viewed to this day, clocking up some 1,400 views each.

The thing about having your own YouTube channel is you might use it for personal as well as business items. (Note to HMRC - The channel is free – so I am not claiming tax relief on personal expenses.)

When my son Alex Huston stood up and addressed the House of Commons (in a sitting of the UK Youth Parliament) I was able to post the recording online so friends and family could see it. It was an immediate hit, currently sitting with over 800 views.

When our other son – under-18 British Champion archer Patrick Huston – makes a TV appearance, his will also be posted, allowing his mates, coaches and fellow competitors to see it.

Back to the tax side, then, which tax videos are most popular and remain on the current site?

Renting out property – the tax rules.

Capital Gains Tax on second homes.

Jail for married couple over tax fiddles.

With a YouTube site offering advice I do find from time-to-time that I will take a video off the site. There may have been a time limit on its validity, or the rules may have changed. Some popular ones stay on because people are still viewing them and they have been mentioned elsewhere on the web, so I don’t want someone else to have a link to a video which then won’t work.

What, then, pushed the channel over the 10,000 views mark? Well it was my video about how Tony Blair’s companies bring in over £12 million yet minimal tax is paid. This followed my article on the same subject in the Belfast Telegraph. When I blogged on this subject I got national attention.

Finally, thank you to all those who are part of the first 10,000 viewers. I look forward to the next milestone.

Adrian Huston, a former tax inspector, is a director of Belfast tax and accountancy firm Huston & Co – www.huston.co.uk or 028 9080 6080.

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