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What's your way of dealing with irritating last minute requests?

Now I'm doing more tax work, I come up regularly against clients who when presented with final accounts and tax return to sign, ask whether I can make some sort of allowance for XYZ, or did I know about some other expenses (previously not notified to me). They plaintively ask whether it's not too late.

I am deliberately not flooding myself out with tax clients at present whilst I decide how to avoid blowing a personal gasket.

How do you deal with this type of irritation? They all know perfectly well that you are going to treat the data as complete unless you find a glaring anomally when you are doing the accounts. What they don't either know or care about is the aggravation of making all those adjustments and preparing all those pdfs again.

I could present them with accounts for prior approval before getting going on the tax package. Is that the best way forward in future?

Please throw a bucket of cold water over me before I self-explode!


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16th Jan 2013 17:33

There are always some.

If it is only occasionally, I just grit my teeth and amend and resend for free.

However, if it is every year, then I just sack the client. They are invariably the worst to deal with . 

I have just had one this year and for the third year in a row, she has said "Oh, what about.................." when presented with the stuff to sign. I am looking forward to writing the "sacking" letter as soon as things calm down a bit!!

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16th Jan 2013 17:57

Charge them for the amendments

If the information was missing, rather than overlooked by you, then charge for the amendments. I charge a minimum of £25 for amendments.

Just explain that you will have to record the reason for the amendment, amend the accounts, amend the tax return and reproduce all the reports, and have another meeting or some procedure for sign off ... and make them wait!

If you just do the amendments for free they will think it isn't a problem.

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By occca
16th Jan 2013 17:59


If it's our fault then obviously we would amend for free

If the client hasn't provided the information to begin with then we charge for amendments

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16th Jan 2013 18:18

You have cheered me up!

I assumed everyone would tell me the customer is always right, etc, etc!

In the favour of the people concerned, they are all new clients and (despite driving me crazy over this issue) I am quite fond of them already.

I will make the amendments for the latest naughty boy, but just one lot, and will tell him its a cost to me. I will make it clear by email to all clients when asking for their paperwork from now on that I need a complete set of information and there will be an advance charge of £25 per amendment (plus VAT, of course!) before filing if they want to add anything later. Otherwise I can see all sorts of debt collection issues.

Thanks all for your usual very firm moral support - I couldn't do this job without you!

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Whilst I "hear" where you're coming from

Moonbeam wrote:

 I am quite fond of them already.

I think you would be well advised to keep a clear distinction between professionalism and sentiments. I speak from experience. You can throw your all, at the client's you become fond of and, still, when the chips are down, for whatever reason, the feelings are never reversed! As they say, that's life but, do be careful.

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17th Jan 2013 10:12

Just accept it

I send all accounts out draft with the idea that they can be amended after the client meeting.

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17th Jan 2013 11:50

my approach

Tax returns - for nearly all clients, I send the completed tax return out for signature without sending a draft beforehand. If I find that the client is the sort who actually review their return(!), for subsequent years I usually send a PDF draft for their review. I wait for their go ahead before sending it for signature.

Accounts - I always send a PDF draft for their review. Again, I wait for their go ahead before sending it and the CT600, etc for signature.

If an amendment is required after they've agreed the draft or have simply forgotten to give me some relevant information, I normally charge £50 + VAT for the amendment so they "get the message".

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By Old Greying Accountant
17th Jan 2013 12:38

I do this ...

zarathustra wrote:

I send all accounts out draft with the idea that they can be amended after the client meeting.

... kinda, my fees allow for one revision, if none are needed that's bunce. I think it comes over better to charge the client once what you have quoted!

Surely that is the point of fixed fees (well it is for my take on them)? It allows for all these sorts of things but gives the client prior knowledge of their financial commitment. 

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By thacca
17th Jan 2013 12:37

Tax Bill

Most clients don't care about the accounts but nearly all care about the tax bill. I almost always discuss the draft tax situation with them them prior to finalising figures. Whether that discussion be over the phone or at a meeting to discuss the accounts.


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By Old Greying Accountant
17th Jan 2013 12:42

Unless ...

thacca wrote:

Most clients don't care about the accounts but nearly all care about the tax bill. I almost always discuss the draft tax situation with them them prior to finalising figures. Whether that discussion be over the phone or at a meeting to discuss the accounts.

... they need a mortgage and suddenly regret being quite so tight with the tax man!

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17th Jan 2013 13:05

How about thoroughly discussing the accounts with your client first, face to face, and any last minute adjustments at that point and the rough tax position? Surely it's better PR and it can be nailed at that point? Process everything then for signing, accounts, tax return and invoice.

Then consider any charge for adjustments thereon.

The number of clients we have received whose prior accountant sent said documents in the post without a face to face meeting. Untrue, but beneficial for us. Thank you very much.

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17th Jan 2013 13:29

Am Changing My Mind a bit!

I think I will send draft accounts plus detailed P & L transactions (clients v small) first, for them to look through and let me know of anything they aren't happy about. That will include tax computation. I feel face to face meetings for such small clients simply aren't necessary, unless they want this. Considering the fact that I'm chained to my desk, and always answer queries promptly by email and phone, I think they get a good service. A lot of clients don't want to spend time with me when they could be doing what they consider are more profitable activities.

Once they've let me know draft accounts are OK, I will tell them I'm going to produce final accounts, CT600 etc and that they must tell me beforehand if there's anything else they want to add.

Whilst I want to be fair to them, I'm running a business here and it is important that they understand we can't keep going back over things they've agreed unless they are willing to pay extra for it.

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17th Jan 2013 13:33

I can't agree but hey ho. It's how we get more business. Good luck.

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By Jimess
17th Jan 2013 13:38

Talk client through it

I generally ring the client before I send out accounts and tax returns to them to talk through the figures and the tax liability.  This gives them the opportunity to say "Ah - yes I forgot to tell you that I paid £x for the whizzigig I bought last year and paid for it on my personal card/from my own account" etc.

Any adjustments I make after the accounts and returns have been issued are charged to them, but I discuss the likely charge with the client at the time they notify the amendment to me. 

I used to do client meetings to discuss accounts, but now only do this if I think the client really wants/needs it or if there are specific points to be discussed that cannot be done on the telephone.  Most clients are fees conscious and will not want to add meeting time to their fees costs if a phone call achieves the same result. 

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18th Jan 2013 10:44

No paper

I take it as read that clients will have amendments but rarely is there an exchange of actual paper accounts/returns.  I don't charge for amendments as it seems to me to be part and parcel of the job.  It's done with pdfs, either by email or through a client portal.  I only reluctantly get them to physically sign a piece of paper because it's so inefficient.  3rd time round is a bit irritating but it's really not a lot of hassle when done like this.

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By Gaynor
18th Jan 2013 11:05

Isn't this the point of the client meeting?

We discuss draft accounts at a client meeting, and ensure that the client is happy with the figures before we send out final accounts for signature. Often it's when we highlight changes in the figures at the meeting that the client says "Oh, I forgot to give you the receipts for such and such, that would be why that figure is lower than last year"!

Many new clients have said that it's the first time they've had their figures explained and they then go on to recommend us to others.


Some long standing clients with a good understanding of their figures are happy to receive a pdf copy of draft accounts with accompanying notes and queries which are then dealt with by email, but generally a meeting builds up better long term client relationships.



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18th Jan 2013 11:45

This is so helpful

I've been reading these postings as they've been made and it's so helpful to me.

I am now coming round to the view that my latest client with the amendments would probably like a meeting, and have just emailed him that if he would like this, he is welcome to trudge thru the snow to me!

We all have our different styles. I need to make sure I don't appear too businesslike and distant to those of my clients who need a bit more kindness and time lavished on them.

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18th Jan 2013 11:46

...........irritating last minute requests?

How about this as a strategy? Bully your clients into sending you their data at the end of every quarter so that you can:


Provide them with periodic snap-shots of their profitability and tax liability, thusPut them right at an early stage on what’s allowed for tax and what’s not, andGet some comfort that they are sufficiently solvent to settle your (quarterly) fees.


There’s nothing worse than clients who cobble together their 5th April data after lunch on New Year’s Day the following January – when they’re likely to have deliberately got hammered to give themselves courage to face the exercise anyway – then present you with a half-baked package that’s shot through with “can’t remember” caveats and the need for estimates.

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18th Jan 2013 12:00

I find that most of these issues come up when I have the accounts in draft and are conducting the client interview.  All journals are then put through and amendments made to the accounts before the tax return is produced.  There are always queries when preparing the accounts, in my experience and that is why the interview at the draft accounts stage is so important.

I see the majority of my clients, with the exception of a few that I know inside out having produced their accounts for so many years.  In those cases, I usually go through the queries over the telephone with them.

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By Eoghan2
18th Jan 2013 15:24

No matter how small the client is, they are all interviewed, draft accounts sent out with any assumptions and at the final interview the accounts and tax are finalised. Fees are only issued at this stage along with the accounts and returns for signature.

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18th Jan 2013 18:15

Tax knowledge or lack of incompetence?

I have a married couple as clients and they have a couple of rental properties. They didn't give me the mortgage interest for one of the properties last year (or any year before that as far as I can remember) without me chasing them. I chased them today for the 2011-2012 tax return mortgage interest and they said they'd found it and in passing she said it was for 2010-2011! I explained I was wanting 2011-2012 the same as everything else they had given me. They said they were getting confused about the dates. I asked the husband about bank interest received and he said there wasn't any. I prepared the tax return and emailed it to him. He emailed back saying that he had checked and there was bank interest received! I'd specifically mentioned bank interest received when I asked for his tax return information but he'd ignored it then. I revised his tax return in a few minutes and added £20 to his bill. If a client asks me five questions I answer the five questions. If a client gives me five pieces of information I use five pieces of information (if it's relevant!). I'm lucky if a client deals with 60% of what I need! Do clients use an accountant because we are knowledgeable about tax or is it because we are less incompetent than they are!?

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19th Jan 2013 12:35

Very good point!

petersaxton wrote:

 Do clients use an accountant because we are knowledgeable about tax or is it because we are less incompetent than they are!?

Some use me for both, others, especially the professional clients can be utterly useless with paperwork. :-)

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You're on to something

petersaxton wrote:

Do clients use an accountant because we are knowledgeable about tax or is it because we are less incompetent than they are!?

Maybe by using an accountant they won't need to bother even thinking about what the return contains because through psychic powers or osmosis or something the accountant will deal with it.

I've just had one where it took 9 emails to get them to release P45 information (sigh) but that is, frankly, better than the now ex-client who took 26 emails to work out when he had gone over the VAT threshold. Is this a record . . . . . .?


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Letter of engagement

It all comes back to this, doesn't it?

I encourage complete information and early filing through the use of discounts, and discourage January pressures and incomplete information through supplements.

I don't think it dramatically affects my clients' behaviour, but justifiably charging more acts as a valve and really stops me blowing that gasket in frustration.


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19th Jan 2013 13:49

Client base

I've had quite a spurt of new clients this month - 15% of my client base have signed up. I'm sure that when 31 January passes I will lose a few but I still get a few hundred pounds for a couple of hours work so I don't complain.

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