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How much should I charge?

How much should I charge?

I work from an office attached to my house, so overheads are low. I am based in Yorkshire. I have had a customer for 15 years who has recently closed his account with my firm. He has not given a reason why but, as I am not aware of any friction or catastrophic errors, I am assuming it is because of the amount charged. Needless to say communication has been severed, which means I can't determine the reason nor thank him/her for their business in the past.

His is a small company with 2 directors (one his wife), 2 shareholders - turnover £90,000.

The bookkeeping is done by the wife/secretary/director to a reasonable standard (though not perfect) using proprietary software.

She is capable of carrying out accurate bank reconciliations. She does all the necessary banking and filing.

She completes vat returns and looks after payroll (which is just the annual return).

The service I provide is to produce final accounts (applying appropriate verification and amendment where necessary and adding necessary accountants data); produce Ctax computation, Ctax Return and Financial Statements; produce 2 x self assessment returns; maintain company secretarial, including dividend preparation and annual return; include 2 personal visits/reviews per annum; provide a support/advisory service re tax and accounting issues (admittedly, rarely used by my client)

I charge £700 plus VAT (which has always been the rate after adjusting for inflation).

Does this seem excessive?

  

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By Glennzy
03rd Jan 2013 16:24

Seems Fine to Me

For that price i think you provide great value for money and certainly not over the top.

Although you say you run at low cost by the time you add up cost of your software, compliance cost, AML,  PI cover etc you probably incur £150 fixed costs per Ltd Co client before you have even picked up your pen. You would be mad to do a set of ltd Co accounts for less than £500 regardless of how simple or good the books are, by the time you tag the SA returns etc its certainly at the bottom end of the scale. If he has moved on for price he must be getting a mate, or family member to do it as a favour. Have you not had a clearence letter in from another accountant. After 15 years you deserved a call to say what the issue is, if there was one. I suspect he was too embarassed to contact you, as he has opted for a cheap job of his pal and you had done nothing wrong and served him well over the years. 

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03rd Jan 2013 16:24

No

Even with regional variations I can't see £700 as being out of bounds for the services & attention you offer.

To be honest, if a long standing client like that just quit without any hint or the courtesy of letting me know why, I'd be inclined to think it was their problem rather than mine.  I'm also of the opinion that, whilst important, the fee level is only one of several factors involved in a good client/advisor relationship and once the fee becomes the be all and end all in a client's mind, I'd rather them look elsewhere.

All in all see it as an opportunity to do more/better for your other clients.

 

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03rd Jan 2013 16:27

Thanks for your comments - it has made me feel more at ease.

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03rd Jan 2013 16:36

Ask them !

RichHall wrote:

Thanks for your comments - it has made me feel more at ease.

 

If this is causing you so much concern, then why not just contact the ex-client and ask them !

After 15 years surely you are able to give them a call (not e-mail or letter).

 

Based on the other comments, if the reason for leaving was cost then explain the service level you offer and don't be tempted to lower your fees (unless you need to, depending on the rest of your business) as this type of client will only leave you next year for somebody who charges even less !

 

 

 

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03rd Jan 2013 17:24

Interesting one this for me

I've been running my Software Development "Personal Service Type" Ltd Company for 20 years now. For my first two sets of accounts in 93 & 94 I HAD to use an accountant as back then we couldn't take advantage of the small companies audit exemption, but since then I've always done everything myself. Book keeping, payroll, VAT, CT, tax planning, Company House, SA, etc. I figure doing the "main" job I do if I can't handle the "knowledge requirements" to get my affairs completed I shouldn't being taking on and interpreting software requirements specs for businesses, etc. I also worked on the Line50 software codebase for a couple of years so feel comfortable with accounting. This is NOT a belittlement of accountants, simply that I both enjoy doing it and can do it and find AccountingWeb a great resource.

Anyway, I'm in the position now where I want to expand my business interests slightly and want to work "to a degree" with a local accountant for a sanity/financial health check. With that head on as a comment to the original question I'd find £700+ way too high for a "healthcheck session". What would I be expecting from that interaction? Hmm, I guess a look at my process of how I prepared my final accounts, how I file/categorise transactions, decide on dividend amounts, as well as thoughts of potential future structuring (the sort of questions I guess would be part of "the package" where an accountant was doing the usual work).

If it was a "thorough" check that gave me cause to be confident that I was doing things right (or updated on how to do so) and a good understanding of my future restructuring, as a "punter" I'd find £400-£450 to be my happy spot.

I'd welcome any comments and hope this may also contribute something.

Regards,

Will

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03rd Jan 2013 17:50

Very reasonable

I think the OP's charges are very reasonable, there must be more to it than that.  Probably poor communications is my guess on the basis of the thread so far.  My client satisfaction survey asks for marks on 4 areas - price, quality, delivery and communication.  The business I win off accountants who have been doing a decent job is almost always due to poor - or even near zero - communication.

In terms of "health check" pricing to me much depends on whether this also involves becoming the formal tax agent and submitting stuff, or not.  If it excludes that you can offer more checking, would need to agree a pretty tight specification.  For example, VAT might say:

1.  Sense checking of high level input and output %s by quarter.

2. Identifying any cut-off or timing issues.

3.  Checking that any high risk areas such as entertaining, reverse charge sales were being dealt with properly.

On a tightly written specification you could do quite a bit, and add genuine value, for £400.

 

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By KTS
03rd Jan 2013 18:12

I'd say that £700 for

I'd say that £700 for corporate accounts preparation, CT Returns and 2 personal Tax Returns was very far from excessive.  I understand what you are saying about your overheads being relatively low but your clients aren't paying for your location they are paying for your expertise and this has a certain value irrespective of where you work from.  They wouldn't expect to pay a significantly higher fee if you moved to a flash office while providing the same service so likewise shouldn't expect to pay any less because you operate your business more cost effectively.

I understand the comment above that this would be expensive for a healthcheck session but this isn't what you are offering.  The requirements for submitting CT Returns online and iXbrl accountancy tagging make the base cost to you far more expensive than has previously been the case although these costs are unfortunately not seen by the client who will have no idea how much more complicated corporate accountancy work has become in the last few years, only to be made worse by RTI under the PAYE system.

I would give the client a call.  After 15 years working with him you should be able to have a friendly conversation over the phone, even if you tell him that you always like to ask the reason for clients leaving to see if you can improve your customer service in future.  If its based on cost then I would let him go - dropping to around the £500 mark would make the job incredibly unappealing in my eyes when you bear in mind the increased compliance and the professional indemnity risk and insurance that you are taking on let alone anything else.

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03rd Jan 2013 18:19

@whopkinscom

It's really refreshing to hear from one of the huge number of businesses that don't use the services of an accountant to do all the mundane compliance stuff.  From various threads (not this) on this site the impression sometimes given is that we either have an unassailable right to do this stuff or that clients, as an amorphous mass, are too daft to be trusted to have a go.

From my point of view, and for my own sanity, (compliance can be soul destroying) it's common sense to match the process to the client's abilities and so, on one extreme, I have clients who haven't a clue and rely on me for 90% of it and at the other clients who do the 90% leaving me in a monitoring/checking role.

Having said all that, the mechanics of compliance is one thing but making the most of tax/financial planning and business administration is where I think we still have a valuable role to play, there's no such thing as a perfect business model and, with the ability to tap into tens or hundreds of different business clients, most accountants will have experience they can bring to play.

As far as a health check is concerned I agree that, based on what you say, £400-£450 would be a reasonable level to expect to pay and should include a review of say the past 2 year's submissions.

If the exercise went well, and it was found that you were on all the right paths, then, considering your plans, I'd recommend either an annual check (perhaps £250 ish) or, preferably, an annual support fee to include the annual check and any contact you might need during the year.

These days I'm not sure locality is that much of an issue, I and many on here, have clients all over the place and by the use of Skype etc can go 2-3 years without a face to face meeting.

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By Tosie
03rd Jan 2013 19:06

problem is

everywhere accountants are working for less and less .my clients receive regular marketing calls from a clown up the road who guarantees

 to half my fees although he has no idea what i charge.he also claims to be a certified accountant when he is no such thing.If your exclient does an Internet search he will conclude that he should only be paying 25 quid.a year or maybe you should pay him to be your client .Stay on good  terms he will be back.Have a nose around to see if anybody is moving into your area and cutting costs.

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04th Jan 2013 09:22

Fees
I agree with many of the comments, that it seems to be a problem with the client, not you. After 15 years, it's a disgrace that the client doesn't have the manners to pick up the phone and at least speak to you, so if I was you I'd bite the bullet and just call them. You may not necessarily ever find out the real reason for the move, but you may glean what has happened, and it may make you feel a little better. I have also struggled with pricing, and it is one of those areas where you can only ever be in the ball park, as we all know each clients needs are very different, from the client who never seems to be off the phone, and drops off a bin liner of receipts, to the client who does a good job of all the bookkeeping and more or less does the accounts themselves!
I agree though that whether you work from home or office, this should make no difference to your prices, the client would not expect to be charged more for a flashy office, so why should you discount because you work from home?
I hope you do call them, but good luck anyway

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04th Jan 2013 09:31

No, quite the opposite

£700 for accounts, CT, 2 SATR's,

company payroll too?

I think that's too cheap.

Personally I'd be looking to charge around £1,250 which would include unlimited e-mail and telephone support for straight forward queries.

Yes, I'm down south but using these rates I'm winning plenty of work from other accountants.

If this client chooses on price its not the type of client I'd want. Provide a good service with regular contact and charge a decent fee.

 

 

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04th Jan 2013 09:35

Scope of work

Health checks - need to be very careful here to ensure that the client isn't expecting you to check and sign off accounts and tax returns prior to submission. If he/she is then you really need to do just as much work as though you were preparing the accounts and tax returns from scratch.

If its a review of submitted accounts and tax returns then I'd say £400 is reasonable.

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By Glennzy
04th Jan 2013 10:37

Its all about your hourly rate you expect to earn.

I paid a £110 to guy who could barely write his name for 20 minutes work to unblock my drain.

The guy who services my car charges £70 per hour labour (I think he uses Barristers to do the work).

An IT consultant charges £100 to attend site and fix IT problems.

If you assume £150 fixed costs per job, and include all the time spent over a 12 month period (including phone calls, emails , picking up books etc ) on dealing with this guys affairs what does your hourly rate come back to? I would suspect significantly less then the examples above.

The example my old boss used to use for people quibbling over fees "Would you want a cheap heart operation" "no, well why would you want a cheap job done on your financial health"

That line had a 100% strike rate and always worked. As accountants I think you need to communicate everything that you do back to your client, identifying how much tax has been saved etc which takes the sting out of the bill.

If he has gone for a cheap job elsewhere there is a good chance he will come back to you if he gets poor service or incurs filing penalities etc.

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04th Jan 2013 11:15

odd

£700 is cheap especially including two meetings per year. Given you've been meeting face-to-face with him fairly frequently, is there nothing you picked upon that could be the cause of the split? You must know the client very well, and it's interesting that you think it is fees without speaking to him - your instinct is probably right.

In response to the DIY poster, in my experience people with a software background tend to have the sort of mind that can turn to tax and accounting successfully. Logic, analysis, detail are part of both jobs.

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04th Jan 2013 13:12

''Needless to say communication has been severed''

Just one question why?

Clients come and go just a fact of life for those in practice. Always good idea to keep in contact with old clients, many do get sucked in with the promise of very low fees only to discover that the level of service is terrible. I have many clients who have left and then returned to us over the years.

If after 15 years you are unable to speak to the client then perhaps it says more about you than the client.

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06th Jan 2013 11:24

Like everyone I believe I give clients terrific Value For Money and the questioner's fees do not seem unreasonable to me.

I work from home and I am astonished to hear so many people say that clients, in the main, don't expect a cheaper fee from me as a home worker over a plush city centre office. That is another myth as it was not as I remember it. I have experience of 3 CA offices and two of them were total dumps and so if people were happy to pay a bit more for being a client of a town centre office accountant then clearly those same clients would expect to pay less coming to me despite my arguing I have a nicer setting than most of those ofiices in town.

On the other hand clients of these town centre accountants take some peace of mind if they pay reasonable money for the job then it must be done right and to a higher std than the likes of me working from an office at home. More nonsesne. It's a constant battle with prospective client perceptions. I can't wait to take on clients from these places giving the new client a much better Value For Money deal whether its much more for similar money or, less likely, a much cheaper service. This second option rarely happens though as I usually have so much to correct and so much to improve on in terms of service and I cannot seem to cut the corners that a lot of the town centre offices do in its "compliance only" service that at the same time seems to blind a lot of clients into a false happiness and fulfilment.

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By pedant
06th Jan 2013 21:39

Is this the competition?

 

They're bold enough to put it on line.

 

http://yorkshireaccountancy.co.uk/fixed-fee-structure-all-fees-exclude-vat/ 

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By Old Greying Accountant
06th Jan 2013 21:54

Well ...

pedant wrote:

They're bold enough to put it on line.

http://yorkshireaccountancy.co.uk/fixed-fee-structure-all-fees-exclude-vat/ 

... If you add that up, Accounts CT600 (t/o £90k) £695, 2 x Personal Tax £180 (2 x £95), Secretarial £50, Annual Return £50 = £975

Sounds like you are too cheap!

 

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By Glennzy
06th Jan 2013 21:54

What about these
These guys operate near me I don't know how they do it they are Both ACA as well

http://www.applauseaccountancy.co.uk/services/

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07th Jan 2013 12:21

Soon you will be the competition, not them

In other words the traditional way of billing and operating is fast vanishing with the packaged or shopping list firms becoming the norm.

Personally the "yorkshireaccountancy" page of numbers leaves me cold, whereas the "applauseaccountancy" packaged method is neat & tidy and very attractive, in fact their whole website is very impressive. 

I don't actually consider the Applause fees to be too low and the Ltd Company packages are not way out from my own, in South London.

Glennzy and others who "don't know how they do it" there is a huge range of efficiencies that can be brought to bear to reduce wasted cost and effort, including client education, and just because the site offers this level of fees doesn't mean they take on everyone who jumps at it.

Ultimately however, the elephant in the room is you, how much do you "need" or "want" to earn.  In my own case, I grew by practice to generate take home pay of say £55K - £60K pa but didn't actually need it (or the grief) so have been able to dramatically reduce, fees & costs to reach a point where I now take home £35K pa which is ample for my needs.  Although it won't suit everyone the fee reduction was achieved by reducing client numbers as well as fee rates.

As I say, the fees quoted by Applause and an increasing number of firms will soon be the norm for the run of the mill compliance + general support work and, bear in mind, what you don't see on the sites is the fees they make from other work they do for clients.  Packaging a competitive rate for the routine work is a great way to get clients and a proportion of those will then generate extra, more specialist work, for which you can charge higher rates.

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By derek44
07th Jan 2013 12:29

Customer Service

I would drop the client a line to thank him for his custom. He probably feels awkward about the change after all this time. It is possible he may may be back in contact if the new arrangements do not work out, and you can probably up your charges a little too.

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07th Jan 2013 15:18

how much should I charge

Thanks Derek44. I have done exactly that. I am currently awaiting to see if I get a reply.

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By Old Greying Accountant
07th Jan 2013 12:42

As Paul says...

... the Applause site is good, but prices do say "from" and I would imagine they are in line with Yorkshireaccountany in terms of price banding.

The Yorkshireaccountancy site will however likely appeal to those straight talking Yorkshire men and women who want to know what it says on the tin.

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By Glennzy
07th Jan 2013 14:30

@Paul

For me it must be about the scale of the Business they do. If they have hundreds of these £30 per month jobs and just conveyor belt them through i could see it working. I am looking to get my income up to £50-£60k to match my employment income, but is the answer having 30 jobs paying £2k or 120 paying £500.

I Reality I expect i will end up with [email protected] 15 @£1000 etc etc.

I could see a website like applause generating a lot of clients who Google Search for services and price is the main driver, as being very simple in the process, tax planning/saving opportunities are minimal so price is key. (Taxi Drivers, White Van Men etc).

I am offering a 3 year fixed fee arrangement to established buisnesses which has been well received.

The reason I am leaving employment is that as a salaried worker I currently work 60 hours per week sometimes more, and whilst I get a reasonable salary for 40 hours it is not as attractive when the extra 20 hours unpaid is taken into account. I am confident I could earn £35 per hour and get my hours to 40 per week. by going paperless and using software to its max there are a lot a efficiencies to be made.

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07th Jan 2013 14:47

These fees and approach are becoming the norm ....

and it certainly can be done and provide a decent income. My 'take home' will be about £50k on £65k t/o and my fees for the original post would have been £673 & no VAT (VAT is an issue as most clients are using the FRS). I provide a similar offering to Applause but I confess their's is better presented than mine ... note for post Jan lull!

Key for me is the following:

Nice clean clients i.e. very few trades or cash businesses.

Good tools and eradicate as much paper as possible.

Simple admin and billing (i.e. these fixed bands save lots of time).

Stick to compliance (no payroll, VAT, or Bookkeeping)

I find all of this maximises the amount of time I spend earning £400 per day rather than chasing around being 'busy'.

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07th Jan 2013 15:07

It comes down to expectation

It does not matter how efficient you are, someone wanting to earn £100K will need to charge more than someone happy to earn £50K.

They could well be producing very similar outputs for the client.

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By Glennzy
07th Jan 2013 15:21

@Zara

Not sure I agree with your comments around efficency. If you have quoted £1000 for a job and it takes you 15 hours you have earned £66 per hour. If you manage to get the job down to say 10 hours by recomending improvements to the clients system or by better internal systems you have earned £100 per hour. So same fee but just done more efficiently, allowing you to charge more elsewhere. Working smarter not longer.

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07th Jan 2013 15:30

@glennzy
But I am supposing that both accountant A and accountant B are both equally knowledgeable and experience, and both have therefore reccomended the same things to the client.

One wants to make 2 grand a week the other one doesn't. Somewhere their charges must reflect that.

I suppose what I am saying is that in accountancy as in many things you don't necessarily get what you pay for.

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07th Jan 2013 15:34

Fees

As some users have already seen we have our fees online now - www.yorkshireaccountancy.co.uk.

This has been well received but current and new clients.

Paul.  I am not sure that I agree that we have a "page full of numbers".  A simple fee structure would be a better way to put this I think - LOL!  

But ultimately my clients understand this perfectly which is the main thing.  And I got a new client this morning who had reviewed the fee structure so I did not even need to quote him which was great!

Your fee seems about right I would think for a home based accountant.  We have other costs obviously as we have an office and 7 staff.  

It is strange for a client just to leave and sever all contact.  Are you sure there is no other reason?

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By Glennzy
07th Jan 2013 16:16

@Yorkshire Accoumtants

Do you know if publishing your fees up front has put anyone off, as I always like a face to face meeting for the first contact and I am confident I could sign up 8 out of 10 referrals, if there is an issue around fee levels, you have a chance to negotiate. By being so upfront I am concerned that people make a decision without actually contacting you, but I guess you wont know that.

I am always concerned of using the tactic "fees from" as I always feel cheated when you try and book a cheap flight for £19.99 and it costs you £200 for the date you want. Do you find most jobs you quote fall into the standard prices on the website or is that the bottom end of the work you do only and is just a good way of getting your foot in the door.

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07th Jan 2013 16:25

.

I would say that 9 out of 10 new clients fall into the fixed fee category.

To be honest I'd had enough of quoting clients and then never hearing back.  I assume that they wanted something for nothing.  So I decided to just put the fees up there.

As you say I will never know if it has put people off.  But I aren't worried about that as are those the clients I want anyway?

The new client who signed up today said he reviewed the fees, read the testimonials and called. He spoke to me and we had a good chat and he signed up.  Great!

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07th Jan 2013 16:28

Yorkshire Accountancy

Was it Fred Trueman who said:

 

"Accountants - thems wots good enough dont need 'em, and them wots not dont b****y well deserve 'em!"

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08th Jan 2013 11:38

Damn!

zarathustra wrote:

Was it Fred Trueman who said:

 

"Accountants - thems wots good enough dont need 'em, and them wots not dont b****y well deserve 'em!"

Got split coffee to clean up now.

Brilliant!!!

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By Glennzy
07th Jan 2013 17:11

Although getting away from Original post this

leads onto website design. I am currently getting a site built after doing quite a bit of research.

For me the Web Designer lads have took a lot of money of accountants and give them little more than an on line "Yellow Pages" Advert for their cash.

90% of all accountancy sites are pretty much the same, basically they are 5 pages in total, giving the history of the firm, the services offered, client page, associated links and and a news feed.

For me non of this is of any use to a client. Anybody searching for an accountant has a good idea of what services they provide so listing them is of little value unless you do something no one else does. For me the whole point of the website is to get a meeting or a call from the potential client. Many accountant sites dont even mention this.

the other 10% of sites are "sites that sell" like the 2 mentioned above which are great to sign up what I would call "your bread and butter client".

I am about to commission a site for my new business and think a combination of the 2 may work better for me. I am after a "site that sells" to get me some base work in to bridge the gap between employment and self employment and a page on business sectors I specialise in where I expect fewer clients but paying larger fees.

I wonder who did that applause site. LOL

 

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09th Jan 2013 12:01

What a man S H is...

What an amazing man Steve Holloway must be, if we believe him and I'm sure his chums will.

Let's assume he did miraculously manage to "take home" £50k from a t/o of £65k. How did he do it?

Just what costs and tax is he paying on that t/o to take down from £65k to £50k take home pay?

I would have thought t/o would have to be a good £75k for a net £50k after very small exps then tax.

 

Also, how can he avoid cash and trade clients when operating a small practice? Just what clients does he have? Are they all Dentists and Architects?

 

I agree that sort of thing is attainable at the moment for myself too but in stages because at the moment it is difficult to avoid those categories of clients who are time consuming, even for those giving the quickest of service, which I certainly am not, and £400 per day, sustained, that is dream land for me. I maybe earn that for about 2 days a year if I'm lucky and only after aggressively pricing and doing something compliance style and probably for someone I did not like and thought I might as well take him and give him the service and price others will. Chances of me doing both are slim, hence unfortunately my busy fool current but hard working position which I hope to fade out this year by being more clever with the less deserving clients and without compromising too much on service which I know to be OTT and way too generous for the money I do charge.

 

Accountants charge out rates shouldn't be a function of their needs. It should be a function of their talent and generosity. They should be less greedy and generally provide a much better service than they do.

 

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09th Jan 2013 22:06

Possible

rhangus. wrote:

Let's assume he did miraculously manage to "take home" £50k from a t/o of £65k. How did he do it?

Working from home with very low overheads - software, insurance, stationery, telephone, CPD.

Also lets assume sole practitioner in a similar position:

1. Charges business 'rent' for the use of his home - received by SP from the business tax free.

2. Recovers business mileage at 45p a mile.

3. SP and Mrs receive small salary and majority of 'pay' as dividends.

Yes I can see how £50k 'net pay' could be achieved from £65k turnover.

£400 a day, again achievable.

All boils down to working smarter not harder.

Well done Steve

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By Tosie
09th Jan 2013 17:12

rhangus

Interesting post maybe Steve meant taxable pay. I am interested in your last paragraph as somebody who runs their practice as a life style choice I do a lot of work for low fees because the client simply cannot afford average fees. e.g I have self employed tradesmen who have only had bits of work throughout the last year so I am only charging them £30 to £40 for their tax return. I am sure that many others on this site take a similar line.The client  will get back on track and I will go back to charging market rates.

The generosity displayed by the contributors on this site by helping others with queries contradicts your contention that accountants are greedy.Most want to earn a reasonable living that reflects the responsibilty and years of study and experience.

My solicitor clients think their hard done by if they don't clear £230 an hour. 

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By Old Greying Accountant
09th Jan 2013 22:16

Sorry ...

... but it is they're or they are , not their!

Tosie wrote:

My solicitor clients think their hard done by if they don't clear £230 an hour. 

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10th Jan 2013 10:48

My old boss used to reply to the question "how much will it cost" with ....., "how long is a piece of string"!!!

I think those days have gone! Lol

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