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Expensive present from client

I've just finished opening our client Christmas cards to find a £200 "experience voucher" tucked into the card. Don't get me wrong, it's nice to be appreciated and I don't have a problem with the odd home made cake, box of chocolates, piece of child art or bunch of flowers arriving in the office.

However, I feel that a £200 voucher is just too expensive and even if I wanted to keep it, there is no sensible way to share the voucher over a service team of three .

Any ideas about a tactful way to return this to the customer? And would it be appropriate to make a small appreciative gesture to the other service team members myself ?

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A prize in a charity raffle?

You can't tactfully send it back, but could put it to good use (with the donor's permission of course).

As for rewarding the service team, that's why god invented bottled spirits.  

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I disagree

I think you can tactfully send it back.  I would phone the client (although it could be done via letter/email) and thank them very much, say it's very thoughtful, and you're very grateful but unfortunately you're unable to accept it due to company/firm policy.  I am sure they will understand. 

Is there any guidance on this topic from your professional body?  If so, you could also refer to that.

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Good God

someone with a moral financial compass!

treat as politicans are meant to............

merry christmas

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What's wrong in accepting it?

Why not accept the present and say thank you. To your client it may be his/her way to show their appreciation of your good work.

If you are a woman and the present is from a man who you think has other motoives than I am not sure. I never know how to handle these situations!

 

 

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There may be trouble ahead

Rude to give it back, but potentially a problem if you don't.

A modest bottle of plonk is one thing, but this is too much. Sometimes we have to have difficult conversations with clients about the state of their books, the treatment of an expense item, etc. If you are in receipt of a generous gift it makes such a conversation more difficult or maybe you choose not to have that conversation at all.

On reflection, I like the idea of donating it to a local charity. Sounds like a win-win, which is more than you could have expected.

-- Kind regards Andy

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Take it

Dont insult your client - accept it graciously.

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Expensive Gift

I agree - I wouldn't think twice about taking it, being appreciative and glad that the client values the service enough to make such a gesture.  It certainly wouldn't influence any future discussion about contentious issues - i'd just take it for what it was. 

Is it just me or have clients been much more generous this year?  Had more gifts than any previous year and they keep on coming. 

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Snow, snow and more dam snow

Is it just me or have clients been much more generous this year?  Had more gifts than any previous year and they keep on coming. 

 

Posted by Jason Dormer on Wed, 22/12/2010 - 18:41

 

I wouldnt know - we havent seen a client or a postman, or indeed the staff, for a week now.  I wonder if any of my clients would like to buy me some skis ? 

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CD

Your picture (and name) suggests you are a dragon - can't you just melt the ice ?

Ha Ha

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Question for First Tab

Why not accept the present and say thank you. To your client it may be his/her way to show their appreciation of your good work.

With no offence intended, did your training not cover this area? The rules strictly apply to audit engagements but the principle is the same.

The problem is what you see as a freely given gift, other parties may see differently. It is really best not to get yourself into any situation.

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Gut feelings were put there for a reason

I had something similar a couple of months ago when a client took me for lunch and brought along a cheque for "all your extra effort".  I felt uncomfortable as I had billed well for the work and also anticipated potential problems ahead where I need to keep them at arms length, ie I need to keep my independence and objectivity, which is exactly the guidance given by the regulatory bodies.

Having said that this is a judgement thing, ie what's an insignificant gesture to one person is OTT to another and so I would always go with my gut feel (it's cleverer and more intuitive than I'll ever be).

So I agree with others it's perfecly OK to say that you are not allowed to accept gifts.  The donation to charity or another good cause is a nice touch.

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Paul

i always thought that gut feeling was intuition - now you got me thinking

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I would accept gifts

I do not work in audit, I do not give an opinion on the accounts.

I would accept and say thank you. It would not affect the way I would deal with the client being open and honest in order to be fair to the client.

This would be my gut feel.

 

 

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Redundant redundancies

Intuitive gut feeling

Round circle

Empty hole

Baby calf

oh and... free gift ;)

 

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Gut feeling & independence

Carnmores - you haven't seen my gut!

FirstTab - For Audits I have to demonstrate independence & objectivity, for other work I just do it.  I see little difference other than the ACCA sees the former as a worse offence than the latter.

I have experienced too many instances where my professional judgment was put at risk of being compromised by emotional or other "forces".  When you are dealing with clients' tax affairs it is wise to keep some independence and to be able to operate objectively and with a degree of scepticism.

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Doesn't matter what area you work in, ethics are the same

 I do not work in audit, I do not give an opinion on the accounts.

I would accept and say thank you. It would not affect the way I would deal with the client being open and honest in order to be fair to the client.

This would be my gut feel.

No but you still prepare accounts and tax returns and I assume you maintain some degree of control over this (you certainly ask on here often enough) that means you don't just sign whatever your client brings you.

It is not how you see the gift that matters but how it looks to other parties - in your case we could consider HMRC, minority shareholders, providers of finance etc.

You say it will not affect your view but how do you know? If your client wants to run something dodgy through their accounts can you prove you would not be influenced by the fact that they had given you this gift? You would not feel some obligation to respond in kind?

Consider also what the client means by the gift. Is it freely given as a token of appreciation or is it something more? Does the client expect a future favour? 

You don't know so it is really best not to get yourself into the situation in the first place.

 

 

 

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J.C.

I would go the charity route unless, of course, you suspect an alterior motive in which case I would send it back!

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Paul - LOL

brilliant ! too right....,

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Not bought in

I will have to agree to disagree in this on and move on.

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I would accept

I am the principal in my practice - non audit. I would accept the gift. Clients give me money to calculate their tax and prepare their accounts. I see no difference between the money they pay us and a £200 gift in influencing my decisions.

Even with audit I would say the same, there is no bigger conflict of interest than the audit client chooses and pays the auditor.

I can see otherwise for employees etc.

My boiler broke this weeks and I gave the engineer more than what he asked for because this close to christmas and in snow I valued what he had done more than he had charged me. His profession is regulated and clearly he has rules to work to. Should he have rejected my gift on the basis that next time I might ask him to rig up my boiler unsafely?

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Interesting view

I am the principal in my practice - non audit. I would accept the gift. Clients give me money to calculate their tax and prepare their accounts. I see no difference between the money they pay us and a £200 gift in influencing my decisions.

Even with audit I would say the same, there is no bigger conflict of interest than the audit client chooses and pays the auditor.

Clients give you a consideration in exchange for the service you have provided them with and is a contractual arrangement. I would hope that you can discern the difference between this and a freely given gift.

It is not how you see it that is the problem but how others do. You may like to read your institutes rules on the subject which apply to every member, not just those in audit.

 

 

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was the client Greek

;@

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Rule#1: Do not offend the customer unless you have to. (You do

IANATE......But, I think there is right and wrong with accounts and no grey areas, normally, not for you professional types who know where the line is.  And if uncertain, a quick message on here will help you to decide.   So, I cannot see how your judgement would sway because of a Christmas gift, whether it is a box of chocs or a £200 gift.   The customer is paying for a sound set of accounts, not something that will get him into trouble with HMRC when they come calling.  So you just do that.  No customer will tell you to do something illegal and not expect you to say it would leave them open to penalties.   Bending his accounts will normally wind up in loosing the customer (no gift or customer, next year!).  Maybe you do not get a £200 gift the next year but that's how these things go, sometimes.

For the giver, they might not be able to get tax relief on the item, as it is a bit more than a trivial gift to a customer, and(?) that might also become a BIK for the recipient.   I guess you know all about that side of things.

As for donating it to a charity, I think if I were the giver, I'd be a annoyed that my £200-gift was thrown away like that.  (Please keep the right and wrong of charities to one side for a minute - I'm just looking at the gift bit here).  They gave you the pressie, and you just threw it out the door like a dirty unwanted dog.  Not a good idea, that.  {Imagine giving the spouse a valentine pressie and they threw it in the bin or, straight away, gave it to a neighbour}   Quite an insult, I would say.

I guess you could give it to the charity and not say anything about it....that should be okay-ish but I'd be a bit uncomfortable concealing that action from the customer next time you meet, so I wouldn't do that.  Keep it straight and very honest.

From the customer's point of view, s/he seems to have saved a bit more on tax than expected from the last year's return etc and appreciates what you did.  Giving you a £15 bottle when you just saved their business an extra £3k in tax bills is probably what is going on on their side of the fence. 

It is a shame it is not cash/cheque, as you could just invoice it into the business kitty as extra income.

No, I think you have to stop all this "I'm not worth anything" and realise you have impressed your customer and you should just put up with all the rewards that come with that.  You need to get out more, anyway, so use the voucher yourself.  Let the customer know afterwards how much fun you had from it too - that would be good manners.

If it were me, after using up that voucher, I'd spend a bit more time on their account in the current year, looking for ideas and tips for them on how they might be able to save even more on their taxes this year too.

Happy New Year.

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Present or bribe?

I got the following brilliant advice from an old accoutant when I was training in the 1970s - he said there is a difference between a bottle of whisky at Xmas and a case of whisky just before the audit report is being signed, and that difference is more than 11 bottles!

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Trying to help

 Many years ago when I was a newbie in practice I bought a large box of chocs for the staff at HM to enjoy rather naively assuming that this equated with the box of chocs I bought for the Vet practice, the Docs, practice etc as a way of saying thank you for any help you have given my family - past tense. I had no expectation of receiving any favoured treatment from any of the organisations.

In due course However in early January I received a very friendly letter from our local HM's office saying how much they appreciated the gesture. They did however point out that it put them in a very difficult position professionally and asked that I did not repeat the gesture in future years whilst stating that they would be quite happy to accept the gift in the unconditional manner in which it was offered on that occasion. It had not crossed my mind it would cause a problem but I immediately saw their point and was not at all offended by their comments.  

In your situation maybe I would do something similar, accept the gift in the manner it was offered, but write to the client explaining the interpretation that your professional body, HM etc could place on such a gift. I do like the idea of saying you would like to offer it as a prize to a charity though as £200 is towards the higher end of "experience" vouchers and would be something I would worry about accepting.  

As far as staff go I don't think you do need to compensate them. Involve them in the decision of which charity to offer it to. I am sure they will have recognised the fact that it was offered in appreciation of your joint work and if they didn't you are seen to be proactive in recognising that it was for all of you by involving them in the decision.

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Deeply offended

If I were the client who gave you the gift, I would be deeply offended if you gave it back to me.

Did the client buy the gift for you or was it the client's company that bought the gift for you? Different matters I believe?

I'd be extremely happy if my clients bought me £200 gifts :-)

Just take it, enjoy it but don't forget it may be taxable!!

Happy New Year

Roger Neale

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A late response to your quandry
Hi I was Reading with interest the replies to your query. I could only see one person who attempted to fully answer your issue. So let me have a go.

When I worked in retail, my boss would hand out spivs (offered by companies) to clients to clinch a deal and it worked rather well. He tended to get a lot of on going business with these clients.

These tokens of appreciation should be extended to your staff for the hard work and dedication they put in day and day out and on whose services you rely on. I no longer work in practice but in industry. Keeping good relations with staff doesn't change things.

May I therefore suggest that you collect all 'spivs' in one 'box' and then use your judgement to allocate them to staff accordingly. This would be imensely appreciated by the staff.

Write to the client and thank them for their generosity. Let them know how 'spivs' are handled in your firm. I am sure you will get a very warm reception from the client and will value your firm more for the way you reward and appreciate your staff.

All the best and happy new year.

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Does the client think he can buy you for £200?

If so you have problems anyway.  View it in context and you shouldn't go far wrong

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Go with your gut feeling

I have been interested to read the replies to your question but concerned at the lack of gut feeling overall.  My view is that you obviously feel there could be a problem in accepting the gift and therefore there is a problem which needs action and is why you have made the post.

I do think that returning the gift could offend and so the previous suggestion to raffle to staff but send a letter to the client, makes the whole thing more transparent and therefore relieves you of any feeling of an ulterior motive from the gift.

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Why shouldn't he keep it?

If the client ever has ever asked you to do something you don't agree with then clearly you shouldn't accept. But assuming this is a normal working relationship why do the readers think a gift of £200 with no expectations (and it was a voucher and so may not have actually cost £200 in the first place or been an unwanted gift in itself) constitutes some sort of bribe for future wrongdoing. I assume like most of us you've made it very clear to every client from the start of your relationship that you don't do false returns and you wouldn't have him as a client in the first place if you thought he was in any way dodgy. If people really think £200 could make you jeopardise your business and career I don't think that is realistic. If in doubt get your Institutes' advice on the matter.

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What did the £200 "experience voucher" cost the client?

One thought, the value of the gift may be a lot less then it claims. However I think you should not accept it, as life is too complex already!

(Is the time you are spending on this worth more than the experience voucher to you, if not, why are you not just returning it, asking that it be given to a charity instead.)

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