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Do you offer collect and drop facility?


This is a basic question, do not read/respond  if you do not like basic questions. If you do respond please be courteous or move on. Do not waste your time and mine by clogging up this thread.

Apart from one client taken on in my early days, I do not offer to collect client documents and then dropping them once the work is done. It would be too time intensive.

I had a potential client meeting and he said that another accountant offers this. I did explain to him this would add to the cost since more time would be taken up on him.

I informed  the client I would like to think about this and I would let him know on Monday.  It was obvious that this point would be a deal breaker for the client. In terms of time it would take about an hour every quarter to do this.This adds up when this are many clients.

I remember TaxAssist accountants offering this.

How do you get  records from your clients?

NB I am not asking for advice what I should do. I am asking what the practice is


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09th Sep 2011 14:19

Part of the deal

I would agree to do it but charge them for the time.

My clients deliver documents to me usually.

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09th Sep 2011 14:24

I usually collect

It's more personal, I get a better feel for their business and it puts me in control as too many of them don't turn up when they say they will or bring the wrong stuff!

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09th Sep 2011 14:33

I collect & deliver

Its when I meet them each year!

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By Old Greying Accountant
09th Sep 2011 14:47

It depends what is appropriate ...

... that is the main benefit of a small practice, flexibility. If the client wanted to be part of a number crunching sausage machine they may as well go to a franchised accountant with tick boxes and process sheets. I remember a thread from you a while ago about USP's, this is one area that can contribute to yours. Just to touch briefly on that, you thought there is no such thing, I think you are correct if you refer to a single issue, but we are all unique in how we blend all these things together, that is the USP - how we mix our cocktails if you like!

Back to the point now, some clients drop a weekly/monthly/quarterly/annual package off, some send their stuff by post, some I collect. It is not all about billable hours, the value gained from a couple of "free" hours can often be immeasurable. As memyself-eye says, you can talk to them about their business, they can show you their business working and if makes them feel valued and (here's the important bit) more likely to recommend you to colleagues and acqaintances.

Indeed, there is merit in the ethos that all the partners/proprietor should do is review work and go out and about visiting clients and that is may be something to strive for. Whilst you are sitting in your office crunching numbers you cannot be out and about marketing your practice and generating goodwill (sorry Flash, you look white as a sheet at the thought, better sit down and have a stiff drink!). There are I believe practices where the partners time is not built in to the costing system as their time is deemed too valuable to be wasted doing accountant stuff!


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09th Sep 2011 14:57

Your missing out on LIFE

Some deliver, some email, and some are collected.

In fact I'm just back after collecting one. Why wouldn't I want to collect?  A cafe in a marina, today they had an Italian market there too - yes I spent a small fortune on pastas, bread, cheeses and olive oil :)

In short I've had a pleasant drive through the countryside, put my feet up in the sun with a hot drink whilst discussing their accounts and watching the boats bobbing up and down, then bought some great food, and tootled back through the country lanes. Give me one good reason why anyone in their right mnd would object to spending a couple of hours doing that. And NO I wont be charging them extra either.

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09th Sep 2011 14:59

ridiculous query

In many cases, to understand a client's business properly, you need to visit their premises etc.

I apologise for being so abrupt, but there isn't a lot more to say on this one.

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09th Sep 2011 15:17

It depends

I think a lot of it depends on both the size of the accounting practice and the size of the client business.

As people like Owain, OGA and Tony say, there's more to it than simple job profitability but sometimes it is relevant.

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09th Sep 2011 16:01

Definitely visit

It is an added value service that can be incorporated into the fees. I use fixed fees so it isn't a problem.

I nearly always go to my clients to collect information and have meetings. Yes it does take some time but there is always the opportunities available. I will try and combine it with seeing another client, or go to a network meeting/ breakfast to make best use of time.

Think about what the client gets out of this, they don't always have time to spare and you going to them can be a dealbreaker.

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09th Sep 2011 16:43

Try and compromise

Why not offer to do one trip and they do the other. Or a hand over each year of last years papers when you collect the next.

Another trick I use is to combine more than one client in the day so that it is more cost affective.

As has been commented client contact builds trust which reduces the risk of client losses. You are happy to go out to see prospective clients but as soon as they are on the books they have to do the hard work.

Yes it means an hour meeting loses you say three hours but that would be the situation the client would be in if they came to you. 

Remember you are trying to offer an enhanced service compared to the big boy firms or the low fee churn out practices.


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09th Sep 2011 18:02

I don't understand

You need to have a relationship with a client to build loyalty and trust, so you should visit every year to collect the books if the client isn't too distant. It is useful to have a chat through on issues to better understand the client's business which may help you in dealing with the accounts and tax return. In a conversation you may find the client will ask for add-on services. If he /she never sees you and gets just a process they will only think about price and not value. Therefore you are more likely to lose them if what seems like a better offer comes along.


If you cannot manage to drop off the records there are good reliable couriers who will do this at modest cost. However, when visiting one client in a area it may not be a huge diversion to drop records back at another nearby.



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By DMGbus
09th Sep 2011 19:55

Tildesley Tonks in Wolverhampton

I don't work for (and never have worked) for Tildesley Tonks in Wolverhampton (they're competitors for me and my employer) but they promoted a free collection and delivery service by having a Smart car signwritten to promote this "extra" that they were positively providing.  I and my colleagues were quite impressed at the time, I recall.   Good to see a small / medium sized accountancy practice having a unique selling point of practical value to many clients / potential clients.

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11th Sep 2011 08:37

Just do it and don't worry about the time!!
Getting, and keeping, clients is the sole purpose of any business (Peter drucker) - and I agree totally! If you have to spend a bit of time with this client, but otherwise the fee is good, do it.

You could, as someone said, take it in turns. Or you could train them to keep electronic records and copies of documents, and get them emailed to you.

To be honest FT, I don't really understand what you want from a business. You want to sack one client, have just lost another worth 25% of your fees, want to send a reminder about deadlines every 5 years, won't help with advanced tax planning and god knows what else.

Do you actually want to be in practice or not? Because I don't think you will have much of a business if you carry on this way.

My suggestion to you is to spend more time working and trying to give an amazing service to clients, and Join AVN and you will get access to your own CAT who can tell you what other successful members are doing. Then you won't get the abuse you get.

If you work with a client, but only recover 90% of your time because of collectig records etc,is that such a bad thing? If you called an electrician or plumber would you expect them to charge you for travel?

Edit: sorry FT this email was a bit harsh, and I didn't respond well to your question.

My opinion is similar to those below, in that you should do what works for you but take into consideration the fee - if someone is going to pay you a good fee for the accounts, tax and other matters, maybe it's worth absorbing a bit of collection and delivery time into this, and generate a lot of goodwill in the process. As Peter said, you wouldn't want to be doing this for a very low fee client.

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By blok
09th Sep 2011 20:58


Why does it matter what others do?

Why don't you do what you think is right?

If others were charging £100 for a set of accounts and tax return would you follow suit?

You are running your business so you should be able to make basic decisions on your own.

Imgine your client asks you such a basic question?  What would you think of him?

C'mon, get a grip of yourself man.




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09th Sep 2011 22:10

Not asked for advice but what is the practice

Thanks for the response.

Please note I have not asked for advice - ie what I should do. I want to see what the practice in general is. I have my own ideas that I will implement. I will decide which way to go after some thought.

dbowleracca and blok:

Basic question to you it is research to me. I know what I want from business, thankfully it is going to plan. I have gained the income I lost.

I operate in a different way, I will contiue to ask basic questions you and others have the options to respond or ignore. All ask don't be holier than thou or a know it all.

So blok I have a great grip man. I suggest you get a grip on the way you communicate man.

The handling of the abuse is making me a far stronger person.

What is interesting  why the click rate 432 (at the time I looked) is high for such a basic question. Why do people click read and respond to such a low level a basic question? Surely they must be more people who think the question is helpful. Why is the click rate far lower for high level technical questions?

The best way people can tell me to go away is not to click and respond. I rather this than how dare you comments.



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By Old Greying Accountant
09th Sep 2011 23:37

I think FirstTab ...

... the click rate is high because people enjoy your posts.

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09th Sep 2011 23:45

Comment moderated

[Removed. Attack on OP.]

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09th Sep 2011 23:53

Moderated comment

[In response to above.]

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09th Sep 2011 23:58

Moderated comment

[In response to above.]

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10th Sep 2011 00:09

Moderated comment

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10th Sep 2011 00:10

Moderated comment

[In relation to the above.]

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10th Sep 2011 06:37

AWebs own soap opera


I think the click rate on your posts is high because you have documented the development of your practice in your blogs, and with your questions in Any Answers.

Many of us have contributed so much of our time to help you and your practice, that we almost feel a part of it.

We remember when you decided between home & office, and then when a shopfront was found and rejected. We remember the ponderings regarding which qualifications you should have, and which mentor/advisor (for tax, and later AVN). We remember the problems with your intern, and the very personal nature of your questions, which were unusual at the very least, and therefore quite memorable. We have helped with every single question posted by you, from how to file your invoices through to which type of client is best for you.

So reading your posts and blogs is much the same as watching a soap opera on TV ... we have to tune in to see what happens next.

ps. I am so chuffed with my typing ......not an exclamation mark or smilie in sight!  :)

... oops   :(

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10th Sep 2011 08:18


It always surprises me when people staring using we. What gives you such power and authority  I do not think you have been appointed to speak for AW community. You mean you are speaking for yourself.  We is I.

You know the only way to get off the soap opera is stop reading now.

I had promised myself to read AW once a day only. I just could not resist responding to this.


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By Old Greying Accountant
10th Sep 2011 23:31

Comment moderated

[Removed - off topic argument.]

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10th Sep 2011 08:43

Who says I want to stop reading?
FirstTab PM | Sat, 10/09/2011 - 08:18 | Permalink

It always surprises me when people staring using we. What gives you such power and authority  I do not think you have been appointed to speak for AW community. You mean you are speaking for yourself.  We is I.

You confuse me FT .... so it is not ok for me to say 'we' ... but it seems it is ok for you to say it is not 'we' .... and it also seems you believe you know what I mean better than I do.

You have received a massive amount of help from people on here, yet you are extremely rude to the very same people who try to help. Maybe this is further proof that anything given for free is rarely appreciated. Would you prefer to pay for professional advice? It is your choice to post on here and receive free advice and nobody is trying to take that away from you.

I will quote to you what someone else said to me recently .... "our comments may not just help the original poster" ...  in other words ... our comments may help you, and also help someone else with a similar query.

Are you so selfish that you want total ownership of any thread you start and to dictate what comments are made by others?

EDIT: please forget the last question. The opening post gives me my answer!

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10th Sep 2011 09:06

Apologies Shirley

Shirley I am sorry for the comments made earlier.

Thanks for all your help.

Have a good weekend

Thank you to all those who have commented and helped in the past.

Have a good weekend all. I have promised myself only to login AW only once a day. I need to do this now.

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10th Sep 2011 09:14

Comment moderated

[Removed - off topic argument.]

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10th Sep 2011 09:18

Me, too, FirstTab

Have a good weekend :)

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10th Sep 2011 11:11

Back on topic

I prefer clients to visit my office. If a client wants me to collect/deliver records, or visit them, then I charge extra. I am very reluctant to visit someone's home, but less reluctant to visit their business premises.

I don't do evening or weekends. I did when I started my practice, but I was never really comfortable with this, especially when the nights were dark. I wasted lots of time, and experienced a lot of frustration, staying open late, and opening up on Saturdays for clients/potential clients that didn't bother turning up. I experienced pretty much the same frustrations when visiting clients at home on evenings/weekends.

This all changed once I started charging for visits, or out-of-hours meetings. People decided they didn't really need out-of-hours, or weekends, and eventually the requests stopped.

This is my own personal choice, as I believe my safety, lifestyle, and happiness is as important as my business. Any clients that really need this service will either pay for the privilege, or choose an accountant that works from home and may actually prefer meeting clients at their homes.

Note: our offices are wheelchair accessible, but I would visit any client who was unable to come to the office because of illness or disability.

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By Monsoon
10th Sep 2011 11:56

In my office.

I used to work from home and travel to clients, but once I moved into premises, everyone started coming here. Like Shirley says, I prefer this due to safety, lifestyle and happiness.

I was never fully comfortable with meeting a new client at their house. As a young woman on my own, it wasn't ideal.

At the moment, I just don't have time to go out and visit people. As an introvert with depression, I also like the comfort zone of my office, especially for first meeting with potential new clients :)

This thread has made me realise that no-one has asked me in years to go visit them. I think having a high street office means people assume they come here. I would go visit existing clients if they asked, under the right circumstances.

Shirely, thanks for the bit about disability. Being upstairs, we sadly aren't wheelchair friendly. I must put a note on the website to say I'm happy to make alternative arrangements where needed.

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By Flash Gordon
10th Sep 2011 12:02

Build it in to the price

That way you're getting paid for the time. Or tell them you use couriers to pick up & return and build the cost of that in automatically. Either way they get their stuff picked up and you're not out of pocket. Admittedly with a courier you're not building goodwill (I've just about recovered OGA!) but it depends what sort of practice you're building and the type of service you're offering. If you're going for high value clients then they expect more....

ps Have given Shirley my proxy vote so she can speak on my behalf at any point :) And there was me thinking that FT & Shirley were going to live happily ever after with her wrinkled stockings.... I'll just have to hope that Peter & FT kiss and make up instead.

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10th Sep 2011 12:42

Face time

Over the years I've from a very small practice to one which isn't so small.

In the early days face time with clients was important, and a drop off or pickup was a easy way of getting that.

Times change, things move on.  So much comes in by email now anyway.  My feelings are around pragmatism and flexibility.  Rather than ring a client to collect their records, or post them back, when its quiet I'd rather have someone go around and deliver them - and put in a appearance.


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10th Sep 2011 12:50


Thanks for your comments.

It is reassuring to know I am not the only one who feels uncomfortable with a total stranger in their own home .... alone.

@Flash & Peter ... thanks for your proxy votes. I wasn't intending to speak on behalf of everyone, but people have often asked FT about his decisions on earlier posts, so I know peoples interest in the posts do continue.

As OGA said earlier, people enjoy FT's posts & blogs, and the responses he gets.

... and sorry Flash for your disappointment, but I'm married, so I'll leave FT to be woo'ed by someone else. Sorry, FT ... you will have to learn to live without my wrinkled stockings   :)

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10th Sep 2011 13:47

Men v Women

I can understand how a woman may be less comfortable than a man in visiting a client's home. However, I do think that it is important to have face to face contact with clients (whatever their size), and make a point of seeing clients as often as possible.

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10th Sep 2011 14:29


We actually agree on something :) I do agree agree that face to face meetings are important, but I wouldn't agree with the 'as often as possible' part though.

My clients get a minimum of two meetings each year, even our lowest fee clients. We meet when the records come in, and we talk through the year just past. We usually meet to discuss draft accounts, but some clients would rather do this via email/post/telephone. We meet to sign off the final accounts/tax and then we go through our recommendations and discuss plans for the year ahead.

We never refuse a client who requests an additional meeting but we don't push them into having regular meetings either. We make sure our clients know what is available and how we could help them further, but we let them decide on the level of support they need.

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10th Sep 2011 15:34

well i like to collect

a - it gets me out of my office

b- it gives a chance to see that they are all there

c- i have a mosey around to see what else if anything is going down

d- i may be offered a small glass of sweet sherry



thats it...

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10th Sep 2011 17:03


My two biggest clients requested face to face meetings regarding accounts and tax and I was quite happy to visit them. Another client requested I visited her to do some corrections to her QuickBooks data. Next week I'm going to visit a new client who's a three partner LLP. Except for the new client I will be charging these clients for my time.

One of my new clients requested a visit and when I arrived she guided me upstairs but it was only because she had converted a bedroom into an office.

All of my remaining clients are charged under £2,000 per year and they drop off any paperwork and the remaining data is sent via email.

I am lucky in that my wife and myself own a very small owner/driver minicab business and she is willing to pick up/drop off paperwork in passing.

Although I have clients in Australia, USA, Zimbabwe, Derby, Gloucester, Oxford, Peterborough  and Sheffield, the rest of my clients are in South East England and it would be possible to meet them if necessary. I've exported my clients from my Contact software into a csv file and then imported it into Autoroute and it is quite fascinating looking at their locations on a map - I would say the vast majority are in South West London.

I think the key is flexibility. I take each case as it comes. If I am charging somebody £200 for their accounts it isn't worth my time to travel but if I am charging £2,000 it may be. If somebody was disabled or old I would not consider the fees and would travel to them. Luckily, most of my clients drop off their paperwork - maybe they do that because they consider me old!?

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10th Sep 2011 21:00

Great varied respons

Thank you it was really interesting to read various practices.

The safety factor of  women did not even occur time till I read the response. It is an important point.

Monsoon - introvert? You just do not come across that way. You sound like a really outgoing person. I am sure you are.

The way I will go:

Most of my clients do their own bookkeeping. Those who do not send me the information electronically or through the post. A large number do not have the time to see me.

I understand the importance of client communication. Having read the response and giving it some thought, collection of records from them is not the way I intend or want to go. Clients email me or come to see when they want to discuss something in person. Further I have started to have quarterly lunch meetings with key clients. These are a help since these are away from the day to day distractions and I have clients' full attention.

With current potential client, I will ask him to mail or motor cycle courier the information to me.I would pay the costs for this. The ball would be in his court to make sure the information is sent. He will get my 3 years deadline list. I did discuss and showed him the list, he was happy with this aspect.  

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By Old Greying Accountant
10th Sep 2011 23:36

Another thought ...

... if you don't visit the client, how do you know they are running a proper business and that you are not complicit, albeit innocently, in money laundering?

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10th Sep 2011 23:56

apology made/illness

[Content removed for clarity - reference to removed off topic argument.]

I hope you feel better soon OGA.




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11th Sep 2011 09:28

Why bother?

As I'm now very close to being entirely "online", I barely even see the client's records, let alone worry about how they'll get to me.  It's very rare that I ever meet the clients either.  Over the years, I've educated new clients to do it all online and they're happy with email communications.  Existing clients have been moved away from analysed cash books and spreadsheets onto online systems, and again, over time, most have adopted email.  It's been very easy to move onto online systems as most people seem to have moved over to online shopping, online banking, etc.  Certainly in the last 2-3 years, I've found even the most ardent traditionalists have embraced the internet.  There was some resistance a few years earlier, but these days, clients just accept it and embrace it, especially when they see the benefits in terms of better systems, easier comms, lower prices, etc.

I certainly wouldn't break sweat worrying about a potential client claiming to have no time to drop off his records - he'll have plenty of time for other things.  It gives the wrong impression that he doesn't regard accountancy is important.  I wouldn't want a client like that.  If it were me, I'd be saying, yes, we can take you on a client, but we'd want to modernise your systems online and move forward on the basis of doing things differently/better in future, rather than just doing the same as previous accountants.  If the client didn't want to change their ways, then they'd be waved goodbye.

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11th Sep 2011 10:57

Online is the way I am going

Thanks Ken a very helpful response once again.

Online is the way I am going. A large number of my clients are now online. The remaining I have not had a chance to convince them to move . I will do this.

As regards to the potentail client, I did ask him to go online and mentioned that it would be so much easier. He response was just for the first year, he would prefer not to do this. He said it was enough of a change for him to move accountants.

I am even thinking about not taking on clients who do not want to go online. I would pay  for them to use Xero. Of course I would really sell  the benefits for them to go online.


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By Monsoon
11th Sep 2011 11:47

Being all things to all people
If you want to keep things wholly online, then by all means reject those clients who don't fit your criteria. The pro of this is you get the 'perfect' client base, or at least, in general the client base you want, who fit a certain mould. The con to this is that it may well take longer to grow your practice.

The opposite end of the scale is to be all things to all people, basically the accountant clients want you to be. I can't see this working for anyone, accountant or clients,

Personally I try and take the middle way. I know what I prefer, but if there is enough profit in a job and it's not a hardship to, say, work from a manual analysis book, or go visit someone once in a while, then I will be flexible. So far, this works well for me and for my clients.

Monsoon (not an outgoing person, and happy with that).

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11th Sep 2011 12:32


Thanks fair points.

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11th Sep 2011 13:49

Providing online accounting software

"I am even thinking about not taking on clients who do not want to go online. I would pay  for them to use Xero. "

If you only take on clients who have the ability to use accounting software then you will be reducing your potential client base greatly.

If they can use Xero they will maybe have software that they can already use.

With people who are willing to use Xero they may find it quite stressful. It may be useful but you may have to devote a lot of time to them.

Are the prices you charge sufficient to make up for the cost of the software and your time?

I have introduced some of my clients to online accounting software but only if it was in THEIR best interests. I am always happy to work with what my clients want providing they are willing to pay for the required service.

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11th Sep 2011 15:35


It seems that many want to work entirely online. Ridiculous.

It is impossible to advise clients properly if you have never seen their premises, and have no in depth knowledge of their particular operation. Included in this is meeting their staff, assessing their capabilities, seeing the buildings and equipment, and actually getting to know the client as a person and their capabilities, and getting to know the clients business.

None of this can be done on the internet.

Online only may b fine for knocking out standard compliance work, but anyone attempting to give advice without even seeing the business in operatation, is, in my opinion, reckless (that's the kindest description I can use).


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11th Sep 2011 15:47

Anything is possible

"The opposite end of the scale is to be all things to all people, basically the accountant clients want you to be. I can't see this working for anyone, accountant or clients"

An accountant may not be everything any client would want but I think an accountant should be able to deal with a client who has a bookkeeper/accountant and accounting software as well as a client who provides a bag of receipts - in that case I suggest they group them in envelopes and put a total on the envelope.

I fail to see why any type of provision of data cannot work for both accountant and client.

I also fail to see why an accountant can't accept any type of data and why they can't make a profit from any type.

Many clients only want compliance work. Clients who want more should be willing to pay for it.

Where is the problem?

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11th Sep 2011 15:53



Many clients only want compliance work. Clients who want more should be willing to pay for it.

Where is the problem? 




It seems that a lot of accountants are frightened to get their hands dirty, or feel that going through primary records is "below" them.

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11th Sep 2011 16:04

Above and below


I agree with you. I don't see the problem with dealing with receipts. I explain to my clients that I will charge them more if I have to do it myself but if they categorise the receipts into different types I will charge them less. Some clients don't have the skillset to use spreadsheets and most certainly are not able to use accounting software well.


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11th Sep 2011 17:57


one can use we if one chooses - we all have our idiosyncrasies not least of all you - BLIAR ! - that annoys me and i have never voted labour......;-)

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By Old Greying Accountant
11th Sep 2011 21:58

I'm sorry, it was a joke, but I was agreeing with Shirley ...

carnmores wrote:

one can use we if one chooses - we all have our idiosyncrasies not least of all you - BLIAR ! - that annoys me and i have never voted labour......;-)

... and you, just to be clear, it doesn't worry me in the slightest that Shirley used "we" so not sure why you're having a pop :o(.

As to Bliar, I stole/inherited that off WD/CD/Spartacus/OG, whoever (who can surely use "we" more accurately than any of us - lol), and listening to his (Bliar's) pathetic squirming on radio 4 yesterday just re-inforces that he is so proficient he has even fooled himself now.

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