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Key People

John Brear - Partner

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John Brear has particular expertise in the IT (including software) and medical sectors. Numerous IT and software businesses with turnovers of £50m-plus are among his clients and he also advises many medical practitioners and dentists on issues such as changes to NHS superannuation, contracts and incorporation by consultants.

Denis Cross - Partner

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Brown Butler’s forensic accounting expert, Denis also advises on a range of commercial and tax issues, including VAT and share valuations, in addition to undertaking audits.

He is especially proficient in advising large professional partnerships, charities, companies in the international online gaming and gambling industry, importers and distributors, plus printers, among other types of organisation.

Many sizes of business benefit from Denis’s input, as his clients’ turnovers range from £50,000 to £40m.

Denis qualified in 1977 and joined Brown Butler in 1988, becoming a partner two years later.

Mark Dearnley - Partner

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Mark joined Brown Butler in 1985 having previously gained experience in both practice and commerce.

A partner since 1992, he has built a wide skill base covering the audit, taxation and accountancy issues on which his clients regularly require advice.

As a general practitioner, Mark's portfolio of clients includes a mix of small, medium and large companies, partnerships, LLPs and sole traders. In terms of activities, his clients cover a wide range of business sectors and include solicitors, charities, pension schemes and an academy school.

Steve Hornshaw - Partner

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Steve joined Brown Butler in 1996, qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 2001 and was appointed a partner in 2006. While having a wide ranging client base, he specialises in the printing and construction industries.

Robert Solyom - Partner

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Robert’s clients are in a wide range of sectors including food manufacturing and energy. One of his specialist areas is advising companies on managing waste, including batteries and electrical products, a service which embraces conducting audits to assess compliance with the Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) and Battery Regulations.

Robert advises large corporates on their strategies and also works with privately-owned companies with turnovers of up to £30m, including family businesses.

He is one of a comparatively rare breed...a chartered accountant who is also a qualified chartered tax adviser. As such, he works extensively with Craig Hughes on tax matters.

Enterprise Investment Schemes (EIS), Inheritance Tax (IHT) planning, Research & Development (R&D) tax credits, the Tour Operators Margin Scheme (TOMS) and the Patent Box regime are all areas in which Robert can justly claim significant expertise.The last of these involves a preferential tax regime being offered for profits arising from patented products or processes.

Robert also has a reputation for providing strategic advice and introducing new business opportunities to clients, many of whom have developed their organisations as a result of his initiatives.

After joining Brown Butler in 1980, Robert qualified four years later and became a partner in 1987.

Keith Lee - Director

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Vastly experienced, Keith specialises in tax, auditing and VAT issues, as well as advising businesses on their financial structures.

He works with, and solves problems for, organisations with annual revenues of up to £15m and asset totals up to £100m.

Keith’s clients, from sole proprietors to LLPs and limited companies, come from a multitude of sectors, including construction, engineering and property investment.

He joined Brown Butler as an accounts clerk in the mid-1970s and has built up his own loyal client base in the intervening period.

Jeremy Sampson - Director

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All-rounder Jeremy is especially accomplished in corporate finance and has particular expertise in the medical device sector.

An expert in international matters, he has solid bases of clients located overseas and among UK businesses which have won contracts abroad, in countries such as the US and Italy.

Jeremy has a significant background in transactions of all sizes, including at the larger end, and is vastly experienced in matters such as sale and purchase contracts.

Like Keith, Jeremy is well versed in the ways of Brown Butler, having joined the firm in the early 1980s.

James White - Partner

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Print and manufacturing businesses feature strongly in the client base of James, who also works with a range of rural clients, including landowners and forestry businesses. He has significant additional expertise in property, professional services, transport and IT, among other sectors.

James is an accomplished lead adviser on corporate deals, including international transactions, trade acquisitions and disposals (such as of non-core businesses), management-buy-outs and finance-raising. He is also expert in deals involving private equity providers and helps clients with tasks such as valuations, business planning, financial projections and raising funding or restructuring financial arrangements.

A feature of James’s work is the number of clients for which he provides financial mentoring and consultancy on a continuing basis. This helps organisations such as those which have recently completed transactions, undergone other significant types of change or are looking to undertake deals in the future.

James joined Brown Butler in 2001, qualified three years later and became a partner in 2006.

Geoff Thomas - Corporate Finance Director

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Advising organisations of various shapes and sizes, Geoff is particularly accomplished in working with businesses undertaking transactions predominantly in the £1m to £15m bracket though has also undertaken smaller transactions, predominantly stressed or distressed situations and, on occasion, significantly larger transactions. He has extensive experience in deals such as management buyouts (MBOs); management buy-ins (MBIs); trade acquisitions and disposals; vendor-initiated management buyouts (VIMBOs); and vendor-initiated assisted management buyouts (VIAMBOs).

Geoff’s experience includes four years with a leading multinational accountancy practice and a spell acting as financial accountant and tax manager for leading home furnishing product retailer IKEA UK. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

Information Technology

Brian Canner - IT Director

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Brian is a seasoned adviser on office-based IT systems, whether traditional or cloud-based, from planning to implementation. An expert in assessing system costs and benefits, he recommends solutions that fulfil clients’ information needs exactly, at the most reasonable cost.

His input often enables clients to install highly appropriate systems costing considerably less than they had been quoted for unnecessarily complex equipment elsewhere.

Brian recommends solutions also providing excellent recovery rates on initial investments for a wide range of clients, including professional service and medical practices.

His services are often particularly in-demand when organisations are undertaking significant change programmes and his brief regularly includes training staff to use new systems.

A chartered information technology professional, Brian initially trained as an accountant but now has more than 20 years’ experience in his current role.


Craig Hughes - Tax Director

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Craig is both a qualified certified chartered accountant and chartered tax adviser. His specialist area is owner-managed companies and small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), and he is particularly expert in advising clients in the property and real estate sectors.

He has a wealth of experience in advising companies and shareholders on deals including company restructurings, management buy-outs, mergers, disposals and acquisitions.

Particular areas of expertise for Craig include international tax matters, research and development (R&D) tax credits, Enterprise Investment Schemes (EIS), share option and other incentive schemes, capital allowances, profit extraction and Patent Box.

His standing in the profession is demonstrated by the fact that he is frequently called on by other firms of accountants, when they need specialist advice for their clients.

Craig qualified as a certified chartered accountant in 1994 and a chartered tax adviser three years later. He joined Brown Butler in August 2012 after working for Big Four and other top 10 practices.

Vicky Hughes - Director of Private Client Services

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Our Private Client services are delivered by Vicky. Prior to joining Brown Butler, Vicky worked for 14 years at a “big 4” firm and has specialised in private client taxation since 2002.

Areas where Vicky can help include ensuring wills are drafted tax efficiently, general IHT planning, tax planning with the family home and using trusts.

She has considerable experience in advising on tax residence and domicile when clients are either coming to, or leaving, the UK. She has links with firms in the DFK International network so that we can advise on the overseas taxation aspects also.

Paul Clarke - Director of Tax Dispute Resolution

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Paul minimises tax risk and exposure for corporate and individual clients on a myriad of contentious matters which are, or could be, the subject of HM Revenue & Customs investigations.

A chartered accountant and chartered tax adviser, Paul has previously headed up the national tax dispute resolution team for a Top 10 firm. He has extensive investigations and compliance experience, plus all the technical and procedural knowledge to provide highly effective enquiry management services, client support and representation. Cases are often referred to him by other accountancy practices lacking his expertise.

The range of issues Paul covers includes anything where there is an unresolved issue with HMRC such as tax enquiries, tax investigations, tax disclosures (prompted and unprompted) and increasingly what is becoming known as tax dispute resolution.

Much of Paul's work focuses on challenging HM Revenue & Customs decisions, an area in which he has an excellent success rate, often not only ensuring initial verdicts are reversed but obtaining costs for clients too.

Shirley Brumpton - Director of VAT

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Shirley, a former VAT Inspector with HM Revenue and Customs, has been a VAT specialist since 1990 with a number of large accountancy firms. Shirley joined Brown Butler in January 2017 to head up our VAT advisory services.

Shirley provides detailed VAT advice covering every aspect of VAT including land & property, international trade (including EC sales lists and intrastat supplementary declarations) and VAT dispute resolution. These are often complex areas from a VAT perspective.

She also has vast experience helping with VAT visits and enquiries from HMRC, which are becoming more common.

Steve Mannion - Payroll and Employee Taxes Manager

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Steve leads a team to which an increasing number of employers are contracting out their payroll work. This is occurring partly because of factors such as real time PAYE reporting to HM Revenue & Customs, benefits and Council Tax, which are making this an ever more complex and costly area of a business’ activity.

Now responsible for over 200 payrolls a month, Steve and his team administer payments for organisations with workforces from one person to 300, which also want benefits such as the enhanced security, eliminated software and maintenance costs, expert input and additional manpower that delegating this work to Brown Butler brings.

As a BACS-authorised bureau, the firm also removes for clients the worries of paying salaries into internet bank accounts or by cheque.

A former personnel and payroll manager with Vickers plc, Steve offers a full service, including comprehensive advice on all statutory requirements relating to PAYE, National Insurance and payroll matters. His team have never missed a deadline or failed to pay anyone since he set up the function in the mid-1990s.

Additional payroll functions which Steve and the team deliver include problem solving and audits, plus advice on appropriate IT systems.