By Annie Makoff Inspiring stories For the love of tax: meet the accountant helping clients become financially free 19 Apr 2021 Caroline Hocking has bright red hair, tattoos, piercings and rides a motorbike. Her approach to accountancy is a little different, too. Caroline Hocking FMAAT, the founder of Cornwall-based Mona Accountancy, is on a mission: to bring financial freedom to clients. A big part of this, she says, is opening up conversations and being comfortable discussing finance. We start to form our beliefs young, says Hocking, so how our families talk – or don’t talk – about money can start to shape our outlock. “Money and finance are still big taboo subjects,” says Hocking. “Most people view money as shady and dirty. There’s a real sense of shame around it. We rarely discuss salaries and if someone is struggling with debt, it just isn’t discussed. Money isn’t a conversation most people have sitting around the dinner table.” After all, how do you know you’re being paid the right amount if you don’t know what your co-workers are earning? How do you know you’re charging clients a competitive rate if you don’t know what other businesses are charging? How do you know how to avoid getting into debt if you’ve never discussed the issues around it? Achieving financial freedom Hocking, who talks about money all day, is determined to change this, one client at a time. Through the bespoke Money Mentoring service she offers alongside traditional tax accountancy services, Hocking supports clients with financial goal setting, planning and cognitive reframing – to help individuals challenge their own self-limiting beliefs around money and finance. In Hocking’s view, financial freedom isn’t necessarily about earning lots, but about being comfortable talking about money and not being afraid to ask questions or confiding in someone if there are money issues. To some extent, there’s even a level of shame around being successful too, because it can be seen as bragging. And then there’s the issue with tax. Hocking regularly hears clients complaining about having to pay more tax when they start to earn more. “I try and reframe that thought. I say, ‘actually, paying more tax is a payment of gratitude to the universe’. We pay more tax when we earn more, and that’s right. I like to encourage clients to focus on the gratitude for what they have, not what they don’t have.” Hocking herself admits she ‘loves’ tax. “My unofficial motto I tell clients is, ‘I enjoy it, so you don’t have to.’” Team red Hocking may be a far cry from the stereotype accountant, but her unique personal brand (red-themed, like her hair), makes her stand out, even if people are initially surprised by her line of work. “I have bright red hair, tattoos, piercings and I ride a motorbike, so I don’t come across as a typical accountant,” she explains. “I’m also massively into wellness and personal development, so all together, it’s probably a bit of a clash.” The majority of Hocking’s clients are within the wellness industry, an inevitability, considering she spends a lot of time within the community for her own personal and spiritual development. And because the industry is very active on Instagram, she’s managed to pick up a number of clients that way, despite not posting on Instagram much. “Instagram is my preferred social media channel. Unlike Facebook, you can choose your following and pick your own crowd. You’re not obliged to follow family and friends unlike Facebook. I follow a lot of wellness and spiritual accounts. I’m that person who follows inspirational quotes.” Cornish roots Hocking set up her business Mona Accountancy as a side gig back in 2013 while she was working for DIY diamond tool supplier, ADP Diamex. Back then, her business was called Trevenna Accountancy but because very few could either spell nor pronounce her Cornish maiden name, she changed it to Mona Accountancy. Mona, being Cornish for money. “Friends and family were always asking if I could do their tax for them,” she explains. “I didn’t get to do a lot of tax in my day job at the time and it’s one area I love working in, so here I am.” Hocking didn’t take the plunge into full-time self-employment until 2020, after her military husband was posted to Hampshire and the couple needed to relocate. By then, she had been entirely cloud-based for three years. When the pandemic hit, Hocking’s cloud-based business was already in a strong position to support her clients. Hocking is proud of what she’s built up, having worked both in industry and in practice over the years. And her jargon-free, open-door approach means that clients aren’t afraid to pick up the phone and call if they have a question or there’s an issue. She’s worked hard to build up that level of trust, particularly as she’s well aware that not everyone finds tax and business finance as straightforward as she does. Financially minded It’s something that’s always come easy to her, even at 17 when she embarked on a Business Studies qualification at sixth form. At the time, Hocking had been dreaming of one day opening a coffee shop, but a business finance module changed her way of thinking. “I thought it would be dull and boring,” she recalls. “But actually, I flew through it. It was like water off a duck’s back. Our tutor would be going through something relating to business finance and then ask us to have a go at working it out for ourselves. But I’d have done it and finished while they were still explaining. It made me wonder about accountancy.” At the time, Hocking assumed she was ‘too young’ to train as an accountant so she put it to the back of her mind. Then, a newspaper advert offering free AAT Level 3 in 2006 caught her eye, so she decided to enrol. “I just loved it. Everything just clicked,” she says. Fast forward fifteen years later and Hocking hasn’t looked back since. “I absolutely love what I do,” says Hocking. “Especially the tax side. Tax is quite technical and the legislation changes quite a lot, but not so much it drives you insane, just enough to keep you on your toes. All in all, my job gives me a lot of satisfaction. Working with clients, helping them achieve financial freedom. It’s everything I want to do.” Annie Makoff is a freelance journalist and editor.