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Client asking help to prepare his own accounts

Client asking help to prepare his own accounts

Recently a client approached me that instead of me preparing his accounts he would rather like to prepare himself. He also needs my help in doing so. He is doing this to save my fees. I told him this is not the kind of service I provide. Still he is after me to help him. Has anyone been in this kind of situation before?


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28th Nov 2012 09:11


Like you, I said I wasn't interested.

It sounded very much like more hassle for half the fee.

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By murphy1
28th Nov 2012 09:24

Same here...someone approached me...!


My reply was 'would you call a lawyer and ask them how to draw up a lease agreement?, to which the person replied 'No'. I replied, 'then why would you expect me to show you something that I have spent the last 20 years learning and practicing?'

On another note, if someone is wanting to know how to do good bookkeeping to hand over to us, then this is not a problem.

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28th Nov 2012 09:29

I have a Chartered Accountant as a client ...

who works in another finance sector. Each year he prepares draft accounts for me in statutory format. Each year I send him a letter back with all of the errors and omissions and revised accounts. The bill is the same regardless and I think we both enjoy the game!

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30th Nov 2012 12:37

FAO: Steve Holloway

Brilliant - your accountant is fulfilling your need for 'enjoyment' in what some regard as boring.  

Well done to you both for seeing beyond the numbers and connecting on the right level - person-to-person !



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28th Nov 2012 09:37

short answer

No.  Usually more work than doing it yourself.

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28th Nov 2012 14:50

Wrong i'm afraid Mark - not "usually" actually ALWAYS !!!!!!!

Mark Three wrote:

No.  Usually more work than doing it yourself.

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28th Nov 2012 09:43

How about ...

Tell the client that it will cost him more this way as the time involved with assisting & teaching them what to do is always longer than when you are able to get on with it yourself. They may then change their mind and stick with you doing the work for them in the first place.

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28th Nov 2012 10:12


He gets it wrong and blames you .... Guaranteed!!

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28th Nov 2012 10:19

Ditto all the above

Similar experiences with tax returns. I remember one self-employed case where it cost client twice his normal fee for me to sort out the mess - though HMRC did repay the £25k that he'd over self-assessed :¬)

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28th Nov 2012 10:21

Just say NO.

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28th Nov 2012 10:23

On the other hand

It depends if you value the client or not.  I've faced this several times in both accounts & tax return prep and if I enjoy working with the client and see a future for extra work when their business grows or in gaining recommendation then it seems daft to throw away all that investment in that client just for a few £s.

I have certainly always warned them that in transferring X years of experience to them, involving hand holding, they are likely to pay more in say year one than they would otherwise have done, in order to gain the benefit in future years.

Also, as happened with one of mine last year, where they bought PTP to prepare stat accs & the CT return, after 2 years, it became obvious they were way in over their heads and they were delighted when I offerred to take it back, at higher fees (one bene of iXBRL!).

If you think about it most of us now do far less in terms of compliance work for clients than we used to, for example none of my clients now present me with a bag of papers and only one keeps their books on paper, also, with online accounting I've actually been able to teach clients "on the job" to do practically everything leaving only minor adjusrments at the year end.

I don't agree that basic numbers & books and year end numbers are that specialised that a lay person, who is reasonably numerate, can't do most of it for themselves and if they make mistakes each year you show them where they went wrong and if they keep doing it you charge them more.

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By Flash Gordon
28th Nov 2012 10:57

Say yes

And that your fee for helping him is £x.

x being your original fee multiplied by any number higher than 1. The higher the better.

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28th Nov 2012 13:45

Is this something HMRC do?

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28th Nov 2012 13:52

as usual PS is on the button

it depends on the fee and how greedy or otherwise you are. why cant people be SLIGHTLY more sympathetic to clients who want to save a little - anyway usually half an apple is better than no pips at all

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By Reena
28th Nov 2012 22:09

Its not about greed

If one client asks this other client would as well. We cant teach a client everything that we have learned in years. Who would be responsible if he makes a mistake. Obviously this kind of service was not even included in the engagement letter. It is against the contract.


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28th Nov 2012 15:09

I guess

If you need the work that badly you will do it. The starting point is that the bookkeeping needs to be sound. In the small OMB sector it seldom is.

If you decide to go ahead it surely won't be for the big money. 

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28th Nov 2012 14:22


is spot on

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By Flash Gordon
28th Nov 2012 14:54


I don't do sympathy because the type who want to pay less aren't accepting that if they pay less they get less, nope they want just as much but without paying for it. Half the time they actually want even more. I'm in business to make money (which I can then give to charities that I support rather than to the charity called PITA Client). Don't get me wrong, I'm not averse to doing freebies on occasion for the right recipient but not for someone who's tight and unappreciative. The clients I have who say thank you, respond to queries quickly and are thoroughly decent individuals can expect (but wouldn't) to get the odd extra bit of work done for free. The ones who mess me around and do my head in can pay for the privilege!

(Please note that I don't feel the need to do joy to all mankind until I start on the advent calendar! And even then I'm restricting my joy to a small part of mankind. Maybe even just the animal kingdom this year....)


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29th Nov 2012 09:22

I have been asked similar

If anyone has taught clients how to prepare their own accounts/tax, do you keep them up to date with changes in legislation, or do you tell them that they need to do the research themselves?

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29th Nov 2012 09:41

my experience

I had a client who decided to do his own limited company accounts himself after I'd been doing them for a few years. He came in for some help and I spent an excruciating time trying to quickly teach him how double entry worked. I ended up suggesting that maybe he should go over it himself and then come back. He said he had already spent the whole weekend on it!

Anyway, it does take longer than doing the accounts yourself. You spend time teaching. The client is better off going on a bookkeeping course.

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29th Nov 2012 11:12

Make the most of it

In a couple of years most micro companies will probably be able to fill out an HMRC template of their P&L based on cash accounting and won't have to submit to Companies House.  We may then be only to happy to charge £50 to check it over.

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30th Nov 2012 11:01

if you think hiring a pofessional...

is expensive, try an amateur!

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30th Nov 2012 11:26

good morning curmudgeons

quite right Paul , we are in a small minority - everybody is looking for a reason not to help rather than a reason to help - sign of the times and peoples attitude

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30th Nov 2012 11:36

Asked a few times

I have been asked a couple of times.  I keep a copy of the local

College AAT courses and give them that.  I also tell them I am not qualified

to teach and so would not be able to help them.

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30th Nov 2012 11:55

would you ask a plumber or car mechanic to teach you how to carry out repairs?

Of course not.


Its ridiculous !


Wheres Jeremy Clarkson?

Try playing this sketch and substitute accountant for hi fi seller

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30th Nov 2012 11:51

pain in the Butt

The future is in offering training courses? I think the going rate is £1500 for the afternoon.

Can you imagine asking a bricklayer to train you to build your own wall?

Why doesn't the client go on a training course?

Alternatively he could just decide how much tax he would like to pay and make some numbers up himself, seems to work quite well and it's where we are heading in the future.

I fact if he is a ltd co and doesn't prepare any accounts he gets to pay no tax at all, just form a new company each seen on rogue traders....all endorsed by HMRC and companies house.

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30th Nov 2012 12:15

More trouble than it's worth. He's bound to get it wrong then blame you and expect you to sort his mess for nothing.


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30th Nov 2012 12:19

Ticking time bomb

"carnmores" I think you are wrong, it is not about not wanting to help but in trying to help an accountant would not be doing his or her job properly. You cannot replace years of training with a short tutorial and let the client think they are doing the job correctly. We may not use all the knowledge we have on every set of accounts we prepare, but it is there waiting to be used as soon as we spot the situation in the clients accounts where it is applicable. You cannot impart all this training to the client so inevitably with out the training they will miss things and either prepare the accounts wrongly or end up paying more tax than they should.

Even if you could brief them well enough to prepare this years accounts, what happens next year, the client thinks they now know what to do and prepares the accounts again, totaly oblivious to any rate or leglislation changes and mistakes will be made.

As they say, a little knowledge is dangerous, and helping the client now could do more harm than good in the future.

My answer would be if you want to prepare accounts yourself, train to be an accountant.

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By enanen
30th Nov 2012 12:45


We would never do it as if you miss something or tell him something and he does not do it correctly he will blame you, especially if it raises in an inspection. 

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By DMGbus
30th Nov 2012 14:00

In approved cases yes

I currently have two cases of clients sufferring financially and on the basis that they take responsibility for the total figures that they supply then I complete their SA103 and SA return.   The annual fees for this arrangement are a lot less than £100 per client - I do NOT balance figures to bank statements, I instead accept figures provided (which I do query if they look "wrong").   The same clients would previously have paid over £250 each a year in fees.  They are long established clients (over 20 years dealt with them) so feel happy to provide this slimmed down bare-bones service.  Not so sure that I'd offer the same to new previously unknown clients, though. 

I appreciate that this is not quite teaching them how to do deal with the tax / SA return as well (I am not so confident on this further move as rather annoyingly Capital Allowances rules seem to change each year, so they'd need re-teaching at least this annually).



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30th Nov 2012 15:07

Do you want a capital redemption reserve account or a corporation tax equalisation account or a bag over your head ?

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30th Nov 2012 16:10

Capital added value

What an excellent idea....while we do your accounts for a premium you can have fun with a bag over your head......Immoral? only if you use a paper bag avoidance scheme!


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30th Nov 2012 19:24

How about a DIY chip shop. Supply the pan, fat and potatoes and leave the customers to cook their own.

I'd wonder whether someone wanting to do their own accounts should really be in business.


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By paddy55
01st Dec 2012 02:11

Accounts Preparation

Surely, most small business clients prepare their own financial statements on their computer software packages these days? They send the file to the accountant and he then corrects any mistakes and cleans it up.

The days are long gone when an accountant drafted a P & L A/c and a Balance Sheet using the extended trial balance method.

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01st Dec 2012 12:36

Most of mine don't!

paddy55 wrote:

Surely, most small business clients prepare their own financial statements on their computer software packages these days? They send the file to the accountant and he then corrects any mistakes and cleans it up..

Yes, I have some but they are in the minority and they are the ones I have trained to use VT Cashbook. 

The worst ones are those that think that just because they have used a "software package", it is virtually all complete............ until I explain to them that cash payments do not belong in the bank account and that they have to actually reconcile the bank.

After then, they either knuckle down after some tuition from myself and do it right or revert to the Carrier Bag Job.

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By paddy55
01st Dec 2012 02:22

Accounts Preparation

Sometimes clients bring  me completed Financial Statements (already prepared) with a request to lodge them with the tax people. I always tell them that I do not lodge financial statements prepared by other unless I have checked (audited) them. I explain that my fee would be much the same as if I had prepared the financial statements from the ground up. The only exception I make to this is if the financial statements have been prepared by a qualified accountant and the financial statements are supplied on his letter-head.

I am aware that some accountants will lodge financial statements prepared by others without asking any questions.

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By frauke
01st Dec 2012 08:43

Save fees?

I finally increased my fees earlier this year (after not doing so for the last 5+ years) and only one client decided she could no longer afford them, so sent me an polite e-mail saying this would be the last year and she would do everything herself. So I changed her company registered address so I no longer received her company correspondence (should have done this years ago!) and sent her the Company House login password. I told her that I would "hand over" all the work I did during the period while I finalised the company year end, so there would not be additional fees for the extra work I would normally do after the company year end. Then at year end, I produced payroll print outs and sent them to her, then started on finalised her year end accounts, personal tax return and sent her my final invoice.

Recently I received an e-mail asking me to continue for one more year, it seems the annual return is now late and she did not like the letters from Company house threatening to strike the company off, and she is too busy running the business to deal with these matters and the fees may not be as high as she thought.

I have a lot of clients who I introduced to a "cloud" based accounting system in an attempt to "not increase fees".  The idea was they would input their "accounts".  But I have found they don't input the figures correctly, often duplicating transactions or posting them completely wrong, and never reconcile any of the bank accounts.  Many now, just send the paperwork to my office and I still have to arrange for a professional book-keeping to input the transactions and reconcile the bank accounts for them. Client only login into the online accounts to answer queries!  Some will even provide spreadsheets "to help me".  But I often find they duplicate income at year end, and also in beginning of the trading year. They will include outstanding invoices at year with their other income and then include it again the following trading year when it gets paid in the next period!  Or they will reissue invoices.  So income is duplicated, and also on occassions expenses too. It is only when I (or the book-keeper) reconciles the bank, debtors & creditors (which of course clients never do), that all the duplications are discovered.



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01st Dec 2012 13:11


I agree with most of the above.There does seem to be a consensus.

There only one thing more arrogant than a client who thinks they can be an accountant with minimal guidance and that is an accountant who thinks they can be an effective teacher without any training.

Takes cover!

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01st Dec 2012 13:19

The answer NO! NO! NO! 

The answer NO! NO! NO! 

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03rd Dec 2012 11:45

Clients asking for help to do it themselves

I am a lawyer (formerly in private practice) now working in the accountancy sector.

Similar requests were made to me as a lawyer, sometimes from clients who had a genuine interest in doing the work but more often from those who felt lawyers were over-rated and over-paid and wanted to save money.

With the former I usually tried to work with them, whilst pointing out that I would be charging for my time spent in marking and correcting their work and also that where the client does some of the work, the professional usually has to spend yet more time in checking that nothing has been overlooked.

With the latter, generally it wasn 't difficult to show them that there was a good deal more to it than picking up the last draft and changing the details. Faliing that, I trotted out one of my favourite stories about the carpenter called to cure a creaking garden shed. Having walked round the shed, the carpenter knocked in a nail and the creaking stopped. The carpenter presented his invoice for £100 and the irate client demanded a breakdown of how knocking in one nail could result in this fee. The carpenter complied as follows:

To knocking in one nail   £1

To knowing where to knock it in £99

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03rd Dec 2012 12:05

The carpenter's story

I used to quote a variant of that to any client that complained about my fee for a few entries on a tax return:

Fee for completing tax return £5

Fee for knowing what figures to enter in the return £245

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By chetan
03rd Dec 2012 12:23


There's beena lively thread going since last Thursday that chimes so well with the sentiments in this one.

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03rd Dec 2012 16:52

Variety is the spice but some spice is so bland

Given that my experience and certainly my clients don't tend to match with many of the comments above, I'm drawn to think that perhaps the problem has as much to do with the accountant as it does with the client.

I can do basic plumbing and used to do all my own car repairs, until it moved to an area I'm completely blind about, electronics.  To be honest though, basic bookwork, especially into one of the online accounts systems is not rocket science and most of my clients make a good job of it, with little need for correction by me.

But that is down to me having educated them to do what they are capable of leaving me (if I chose to) to do what they can't or don't want to do, this, surely, is the optimum in service provision but comes from letting the clients have an informed choice.  It seems however that many accountants still love & protect "the mystery" of the numbers.

As I say above, make the most of it whilst it lasts.

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04th Dec 2012 09:04

It will last from a long time

A day or two ago I asked a client if he could confirm his companies details so I could submit his company annual return. He replied and told me there was no change.

This morning I got an email from him panicking that Companies House are saying that his "annual return" has not been submitted!

I phoned him up. It would appear that he'd only read the "URGENT REMINDER" heading. He said it made it look like something had not been done.

He didn't seem to understand the difference between "annual return" and "annual accounts". This is something that I explain to him once or twice a year. His conversation effortlessly switched between Companies House and HMRC without him appearing to know the difference and without him knowing what he was talking about.

He complained that HMRC hadn't been chasing him to pay his tax. I pointed out that it was because he was due a refund and he'd been paid it! He was confused about the tax credit despite me explaining that to him at least once a year.

I'm sure there are clients out there who know what they are doing but there's plenty who do not.

I disagree that there are many accountants out there who are trying to protect any "mystery" and I don't think that the above indicates that accountants are to blame.

I needed to get an agent authorisation code from one such successful businessman. It had taken three months to find out what address HMRC would have on file. When HMRC said the agent authorisation code was going to expire I contacted the client and he admitted he hadn't read the letter from HMRC properly. I don't think anybody else can be blamed for the incompetence on show there - certainly not the accountant! I think it's due to people trying to blunder their way through life because they think it's easier than to make a small amount of effort!

I prepare accounts and tax returns for chartered accountants and many other people who are very successful in business but the majority of them seem incapable of doing the simplest things no matter how much you explain things - very adequately, I would suggest.


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04th Dec 2012 09:39

Remember Taylor and division of labour e.g.more pins can be produced by each employee being concerned in ONE process involved in pin making and NOT every employee being engaged in ALL processes invloved in pin making (Remember that from studies an awful long time ago)

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04th Dec 2012 09:51

Clients and clients

Yes there are clients like Paul has and yes there are clients like Peter has.

Life is short and I've invested far too much time in the past on what I believed were Paul clients only to finally admit they are Peter clients.

It is frustrating for both parties and so why put yourself and the client through it?

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04th Dec 2012 12:02

So that's where they went

Now I know who ended up with all the clients I got fed up being a mother to.

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By Jimess
04th Dec 2012 14:10

Client letting relative do their accounts as training excercise

One of my (now ex) clients rang me last week and said that a (teenage) relative was doing an accounts course at a local college and he was "doing her accounts and tax return" as a "training module".  She went on to assure me that it would be alright because the trainers were checking everything he was doing and surely it must be OK if the college was checking it.  Once I picked my jaw up off the floor I managed to explain the various pitfalls this might involve.  She then asked me to explain what the accruals were as her relative was not sure where to find these in her books.  I know that it is hard for students to get practical experience these days, but I would not want to be in the shoes of the college principal if it all goes pear shaped. Not to mention data protection, anti money laundering, PI, CPD requirements etc etc.

It is bad enough that most of the work experience students we have had thought they knew it all and wanted to take over the firm in a day, but this really takes the biscuit.

Am I the only one that thinks that a lot of people do not take their accounting and tax responsibilities seriously these days - probably because they are encouraged to "do it online" by the government without a thought for the complexities that are involved for the average small business - or am I just an old grumpy boots.  

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04th Dec 2012 14:24

You found somebody to take over Paul's business when he retires!

Who needs anything more than a few hours "education" in accounts after all? Accruals aren't exactly central to acccounting, after all. In fact, what is? It's either Dr or Cr so if you just guess you've got a 50% chance of getting it right.

After all, it's only numbers and how difficult is that? Paul's clients can do it all blindfolded and it seems like they do!



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