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Charging clients for Software failure?

The accounts software which I use, Absolute Accounts, has a few issues with layout problems. One in particular has meant the layout of my accounts looks poor. The advice given by support is to manually edit it as they don't plan on changing it yet. This is fine if you only do one edit; however, the client has come back on two occasions requesting minor revisions. Therefore a couple of sets of drafts adds an extra half hour on to the time as I have to make the manual adjustments.

So the question really is that is it fair that I charge the client for an extra half hour or so of time for failings within my software that I have purchased. Or should I be bugging the software company more to get the issue fixed.

I have had other clients where I have had to make some manual edits and not felt it fair to charge them. 

The issue itself relates to fixed assets being written down to nil. The Balance sheet shows a Fixed Assets caption, but no note number or dashes under the column to show it as a £nil balance. It looks awful so I have to manually edit. The actual fixed asset note is included.


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....if it is something you would want to change then I wouldn't charge...if it is merely at the client's request because they like the format in a particulary way then I would charge.

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You say that the presentation by the software looks awful, so you seem to agree that the output of the software is unacceptable.  Therefore it's a performance issue with the software and is a practice issue, not a client issue, and shouldn't be charged.  My answer would be different if the client was being particularly picky and you were happy with the presentation as it stood.

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Definitely a software issue

 It is definitely an issue with the software but not one that the provider seems willing to fix.

The client adjustments are just tweaking the numbers slightly.

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Half & half

Charge for the tweaks to the numbers (client's requests), don't charge for the fixed asset revamp (your decision). Although if you charge on an hourly basis then I guess it's possibly different as fees will go up and down each year? I work on fixed fees so while I'd record the time (so I know how long jobs take me and if I need to review the fees in future) I wouldn't charge the client if I took more time unless it was to do something they'd requested over and above the usual work. Hopefully you'll find that once you've made the change a couple of times you'll be doing it in your sleep and it won't take as long.....

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Question ?

Is this a genuine question or are you trying to push in at the front of the queue again ?   :-(

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Fixed fees anyway

 I actually charge on a fixed fee basis so won't be adding it on to the client this year; however, part of what I am wondering is if I should up my fees in general due to quite a few jobs taking that extra bit of time due to minor tweaks required because of software failings. Absolute are good, they just don't seem to see that what you give to the client is just as, if not more important than,  ixbrl tagging.

@Dave  Of course it is a genuine question; however, it is frustrating that accounts layout should be so low on the priority list for the software. It is our 'shop window' after all.

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Only so many hours in the day...

I'd agree that 'presentation is everything' as far as clients are concerned but from a software developers point of view if they only have a limited amount of time then they must surely cover the essentials (ixbrl - required by HMRC) rather than the pretty bits, which after all will vary from accountant to accountant. There may well be plenty of accountants happy with Absolute's current presentation ( I have no idea) and who would be less enthusiastic about changes that you might want. At the end of the day if you don't get the product you want this year you can always change when you're next due to renew......

I wasn't completely convinced about VT's presentation to start with as it varies slightly to PTP's which I was used to but you'll always get that when you change supplier. I wouldn't swap now! 

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If it was style then I'd agree

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If it was just the style of the accounts then I would agree. This particular issue is where the Balance Sheet isn't showing the correct information, which could be misleading to the user. Therefore it needs to be manually edited. I don't like to manually edit the accounts as this then needs doing each time I regenerate them.

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[Rant deleted]

I am sorry if it makes later posts seem odd !

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Dave, do I understand correctly that you represent Absolute Accounting?  If so, your post is a disgrace.  You should treat all your customers with respect, no matter how demanding one is over another.  I don't use your software, and I doubt I would after reading your "helpful" advice.  I recommend a more neutral tone when addressing customer's problems, even if your intention is to do nothing about it.

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While I admit Digita have had problems with their Accounts Production program, it's actually due to making too many improvements at the same time as introuducing iXBRL.

What I like about Digita is the flexibility. You can be a top 4 firm or a sole practitioner and you can relatively easily produce your accounts how you want. If it takes too long to change the odd client or you don't like the default style you can usually change things without too much effort and technical support will advise.

If you think that the issue is something that will be resolved in a matter of months I wouldn't charge the client extra. Presumably you won't have this problem every year. If they are being picky maybe they are a client who is worth the extra effort. I think I could send a blank pdf to some of my clients and they would give it the OK!


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Why should your clients pay for your (seemingly poor) judgment in choosing (apparently) duff accounting software?

Sorry - I just can't see that that is in anyway justified. Either absorb the cost, reclaim it from your software supplier or change the software.

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hmmm yep very odd response from Dave....
my original response was going to be 'buy some better software then'.....perhaps on reflection I shouldn't have deleted that line. I have not used Absolute so cannot comment on how good or not it is....but when I was making my software purchase I considered this to be the most important purchase in my business - it had to be right not just from a user point of view but also that it gave the right impriession to the client (format etc).....having to 'fudge' computations and accounts so they look right is something I would hope to avoid....

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I am sorry I got riled.



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What seemed like an innocent situation, now has the "feel" of


Funnily enough, I always thought that the client was right? Must have changed, while I wasn't looking!

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I think I might have solved the problem of being swamped with new customers ! Probably why I am meant to be a backroom boy.



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Now I have taken a valium...

You have £0 fixed assets in the current year and £0 in the comparatives on the balance sheet but you have a brought forward amount and depreciation.

I am having difficulty getting my head around this scenario.


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 Where does it say the comparatives are nil?

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If there is a balance in the current year or the comparatives (or both) there will be a line in the balance sheet. The issue here is because there are no figures in the current year or comparatives the line is removed from the balance sheet - which is the normal behaviour of the software.

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I did explain to the customer by email last week that it would be a few weeks before we could address this issue.

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So the NBV for both years is nil but there's cost and accumulated depreciation balances? If that is the case then there should be a note.

If there's no amounts for anything then there's no need for a note.

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Note is there


The note is there.

Would you still put a          £nil      £nil    line in the balance sheet ?


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Fully depreciated asset

 The assets were fully depreciated on a straight line basis last year and no new ones purchased in either year.

The Balance Sheet shows the heading for Fixed Assets and it would be misleading to exclude it. As you say the note is there but no reference to it is on the balance sheet. 

It should definitely show - and - so that readers of the accounts know that there are fixed assets.

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So you are happy apart from .....

You want the number say '5' to appear in the note column on the balance sheet. You can type this in, but I appreciate you would like it to appear automatically but it does not in this slightly unusual situation where the NBV of all fixed assets is £nil in both years.

As I have said this is not as simple as it might seem to change from our perspective and it will be a few weeks before we can address it  - almost certainly after the P11D filing deadline. Until then I am afraid you will have to type it in.


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Not unusual

This is definitely not an unusual scenario where straight line depreciation is used. I usually use 3 years for computer equipment as it has limited resale value after that time.



@Dave - I wasn't really expecting any kind of rapid response.

My query stems from the fact that every third client or so I have some kind of issue, most commonly layout problems; therefore, should I factor this in to my overall costing structure for clients. I understand that I paid less for a slightly inferior package so it is taking additional time in regularly contacting support. I know it is not the clients fault but they wouldn't necessarily know the reason why I had increased my fees.

Incidentally, at the moment the chargeable time value lost is more than the cost saving made by purchasing the software.

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Charging for Software Layout changes


Was looking to buy Absolute Accounting, purely on the basis of cost and the modules they offer.  I have only just read this question when I did a search for this package.  I thought I would mention to you that:

Although I tend to work on a fixed fee basis for clients.  All my clients where told at the start of the financial year, that I will be adding a £50 charge on top of their normal fee, to cover the cost of everything now having to be 'tagged' and submitted using a new program.  I mentioned that this is something HMRC have brought out, and we are now required to process their accounts in this way.

They've all taken it as read, and understand.  I don't see why I should cover the cost of saving HMRC time at their end.

Can anyone tell me, if they also now use Absolute Accounting and if they find anything else bad about it, before I part with my money?

Many Thanks.

Kind Regards


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Search tags

I like the search tags that have been put  on an this question about fees. Thorough !

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“Note is there


The note is there.

Would you still put a          £nil      £nil    line in the balance sheet ?”

If there is a note for fixed assets because there are some numbers in the note I would think the best thing to do would be to put a line on the balance sheet with a note number even though both year’s NBVs are nil.

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Couldn't sleep properly worrying about our "slightly inferior so

... and then  I woke at the crack of dawn knowing how to address the problem of retaining £nil balances on the BS (without putting them in when you don't want them and without breaking anything including the ixbrl tagging) and the real beauty is that it should not be more than a couple of hours work (for someone else because I am taking the day off!).

p.s. @petersaxton - thanks

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Think again

@Phil - you have a third of your clients unhappy about something you are doing which you admit is wrong and you want to charge them to put it right. That is like me booking a hotel room and finding the bathroom towels are used and being charged for new ones.

The other way to approach it is to say that the accounts meet legal requirements and if they want tweaks to their own personal standard that you give them a new price.

However, I recommend you re-think how you approach pricing as you are using fixed fees with a time billing mentality; you want to increase fees because it takes you longer. What about that value?

Bob Harper

Websites Design for Accountants

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Time, price and value

"However, I recommend you re-think how you approach pricing as you are using fixed fees with a time billing mentality; you want to increase fees because it takes you longer. What about that value?"

OK. Phil wants to increase fees because the note has a value to the client.

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added value

The note is already there. It is the extra value of "£nil     £nil" line on the BS.

Difficult to charge extra for that.

With a bit of latteral thinking, the client could solve the problem by buying a new kettle, which would probably be less than the proposed fee increase.

Anyway the software failure will be fixed today.

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Good idea, not.

@Peter - dry towels in a hotel room would have value to me and I would pay for them but I wouldn’t go back and I’d probably slag the hotel off to everyone I know and maybe post a review online for everyone I don't know.

The issue here is that Phil is producing a substandard product and thinking of charging extra to correct it. I’d suggest this is not a good pricing strategy but one that fits perfectly with time based billing. 

Bob Harper

Websites for Accountants

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Telling the client

We moved to Absolute from Iris.   It is definitely a different beast.   We moved solely to save money, but we find Absolute magnificent.   iXBRL has involved us in NO extra work at all.   Every submission goes like a dream.

However, the appearance of the accounts is disappointing.   I explain it to each client thus:

"From 1 April 2011 company accounts and tax computations can no longer be submitted to HMRC in PDF format.   They now have to be in iXBRL.

Changing to iXBRL has been a massive task for the software companies that supply accountants.   Some of them missed the deadline.   My supplier, Absolute Tax, has been iXBRL compliant for months.

One of the changes that you will notice in the attached accounts is that in many ways the visible format has also changed.  I apologise if it seems unfamiliar to you.    At the moment it is not possible for the user (me) to change the visible format.   It is possible that when we have grown more used to iXBRL that the software will become more malleable and we will be able to make changes."

No one has been unhappy, yet.

But, the big question in my mind is: if I move from expensive software to less expensive software (we saved £4300 pa) and the work then takes longer, should my fee remain unchanged?

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I guess the question is....

having saved money moving to the new software was your immediate thought to pass the 'benefit' to the clients....I guess not so why would you pass the extra time cost, which you have incurred by choice rather than using the quicker software....

Bob has a point in regard to his 'towel' example - but i draw the line at trying to 'repackage' the issue to somehow reflect added value which can be charged for........(...I certainly wouldn't be willing to pay for clean towels...i would walk out of the door and look for another i suspect most people would do)


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Fees earners and clients

Although £4,300 pa sounds a lot how much is it per fee earner and per company accounts client?

I would prefer better software than cheaper software - within reason of course!

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work taking longer

Part of that could be lack of familiarity with the new software.

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Lack of familiarity

Dave has got a point - new software takes a while (short or long) to get used to. I found that changing from PTP to VT. I was used to PTP's ways and VT does things differently. I had to learn what bits went where. Luckily it only took a couple of times to remember and now I'm producing accounts quicker than I was with PTP!

If I'd made a saving on the cost of the new software I wouldn't charge clients more if it took me longer (especially as you'll hopefully find you get quicker)

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Some great opinions

 Sorry I have not been around today to join in the debate. There really are some valuable opinions on it.

@Bob - I like your way of thinking on fees and think you have some great points. I like to think that my fee valuation is reasonably good and I don't necessarily stick to the standard cost based approach; however, I do think time taken on a job should be considered as part of your fee quote. I would also say that I do as much as I can to reduce time taken.

@Bob - In addition your comment regarding clients being unhappy, that is not what I have said. I said that I have been unhappy with the output that I have to present to the client. 

@macdougall - I like that approach of telling clients; again, I don't mind using a different layout as long as it is consistent and correct. Where commas are in the wrong place, no note references on the balance sheet, manual amendment to show trading name and address etc. that is where I get slightly annoyed. The general attitude then of support is that it will not rectify the issue as it doesn't affect ixbrl.

@justsotax - that is actually a fantastic and very fair point. I didn't pass on cost savings made when purchasing the software.

@flash @Dave - Lack of familiarity is not really a fair reason. I feel reasonably adept at taking on a any new system. The queries mentioned tend to be mainly on a layout issue. In addition, surely familiarity would be made easier with better usability!

Some examples of usability issues I have had are:

When I purchased the software I was informed it was fully integrated and the modules synced with each other which is not quite true. I generally have to input the address on a couple of different places.The clientbase data which was one of the big selling features is actually quite poor. In particular the dates section - two things, if I sync companies house data I would expect it populate the annual return and accounts due dates. At the very least entering the year end should automatically populate filing dates (perhaps with a manual override option). Also on this issue if I file the accounts or return I would expect it to automatically populate when the next lot are due.There is then the issue with Directors Loan. I would expect that if there was an overdrawn balance it would immediately flag up the CT600A section in the tax computations - even if it is telling you this is something to deal with.Another annoyance is where if you don't put the matching case for directors signing etc. it flags up an error. Why not have a drop down menu so that you can choose the relevant director.The company secretarial, tax and company formation menus are all based around filling the forms in rather than a 'wizard' style function. The form should really be the final output that you have to check the information on.Pressing the update buttons don't do anything apart from close the system down. Perhaps it would be better to send an email to clients when an update is made.

@Dave - the above said, the true value with Absolute is the iXbrl filing which I have not had to think about - I had not calculated any time trade off that may be incurred within the manual tagging on other systems.  This has probably saved me a fair bit of time.



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learning time

My point about learning how to use the system was general not aimed at you - but a couple of the faults you point out --

There is then the issue with Directors Loan. I would expect that if there was an overdrawn balance it would immediately flag up the CT600A section in the tax computations - even if it is telling you this is something to deal with.         client data / edit limted company data / directors - when you enter the names of the directors there is also a directors loan for each director box that triggers the CT600A. Another annoyance is where if you don't put the matching case for directors signing etc. it flags up an error. Why not have a drop down menu so that you can choose the relevant directorit is not us that requires directors names consistent - it is xbrl. leave the name blank and it will fill it in with the 1st director.

As I have said before your suggestions, are all logged. Many of them are already on the system as requests by other users. Why do you bring them up on accountingweb ?

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accounting web
This turned in to a general discussion about the software. Absolute don't want us to use the customer forum to discuss so here is as good a place as any. It is also a good way that you can show how you are developing software.

Re directors loan, Sleigh mentioned this but again it is duplication of effort. It would be good to automate the process.

Re directors names I know it is Ixbrl required but an automated drop down option would massively increase productivity. Or auto a tickvox on directors info, I.e. check if Bs or Dr signatory.

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"Or auto a tickvox on directors info, I.e. check if Bs or Dr signatory."

This is what Digita do.

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Unfortunately doing it here diverts development resources and costs ££K in lost orders.  It also upsets other of our customers who may not share your priorities. I appreciate that is not your intention.  

For the many companies have a sole director, or if you put the director signing the accounts at the top of the list,  "leave it blank and it will pick the first one" works well.

The picking from a list option will get into the main soiftware in due course (it is currently in our manual tagging software). I will add to enhancement list the digita style "tick if signing" which would work well when there are multiple signatories too.

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Re absolute

I agree with McDougall, we have no problems with Absolute and no negative feedback from clients. However we do have a few clients who like the layout changed. Quite simply we print them in PDF format and use a PDF to word converter and edit them in word, it takes minutes and is more than compensated for by the time saving in filing electronically as opposed to paper filing, coupled with the saving on the purchase price of the software we have more than halved our production costs. With regard to support i have always found them prompt and very professional no matter what I have asked, but then again I believe in working with my software providers instead of criticising them on a public forum, where the vast majority of the subscribers have no input.

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Thanks for the feedback. You might save a couple of mouse clicks by choosing the yellow client folder on the tool bar, right click on "final_xxxxxxx" and choose "Open with word".

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Re @ gerawson

Thanks for that, much appreciated

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The power of a forum

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When they know the answer they are great, however, I have actually found them to be less receptive to queries when they can't be bothered to resolve an important issue.

The reason for engaging on the internet is to get an opinion as to what I should be expecting from my supplier. It is no different to people coming on here saying 'HMRC have not done this or that'. I have also seen other posts where people slate their software providers. I am not slandering or being dishonest I am asking public opinion. It shows that people do have an opinion by the amount of responses to threads.

The key difference is that Absolute respond, react and amend their software accordingly, which puts a positive spin on it. Other software providers often choose to ignore it. I have also been quick to praise Absolute when they have done good things and indeed recommended the software elsewhere. Another company that are very good at reacting are KashFlow, although I have never had any need to complain about them!

I have said on several occasions that the support forum should be used so that a community of Absolute users can get together and discuss issues and problems.

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Support forums

I have wondered why accountancy practice software suppliers don't use support forums more.

They only have to answer a question once and have a good search engine and it would cut down on technical support costs.

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I'm a little confused, are you saying they can't be bothered to solve important issues, or they respond, react and amend their accounts accordingly? not quite sure the two statements go together. I can honestly say that absolute have never not been bothered with any queries I have, we worked closely with them to migrate our systems from CCH, and they worked tirelessly to resolve the issues, as stated before I have used IRIS, Sage and CCH and absolute's support staff are the best I have dealt with by far.

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When on the internet

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They react, respond and deal with issues when they are published on aweb - a fact Dave admitted to on another thread.

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