Life is tough on the front line of accountancy. For more than five years, our intrepid correspondent has been bringing us news and views from a typical West Country practice.
Practitioner's Diary: The temperature's rising!
The temperature is rising down in the West Country - and it's not just the weather that's getting to our general practitioner.
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30 June - Second week at the big audit so I had to put in an appearance to check up on progress. The MD's wife seems to have guessed I was due today and dressed down accordingly. Having sneaked into the spare office, I was quietly reviewing the files when she appeared with coffee wearing the smallest, tightest black dress I have ever seen! To make matters worse there was a low table between my desk and the door, thus enabling her to take her time and bend over to put the cup down while quite deliberately revealing everything that wasn't already visible when she came in! Not that I was exactly staringing you understand, but it was pretty hard to avoid.
The dress was clearly 'arranged' for my benefit as, when I met with the MD later this morning she showed me into his office and I noticed the neckline was a good six inches higher and the hemline much lower than it had been at coffee time.
I decided to get away before lunchtime in case further refreshments were on offer later! Unfortunately it looks like I need to go back a couple more times this week if we're to finish the audit on time, so it's not over yet. And it's getting hotter down here this week!
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27 June - Looks like summer is here. The roads are getting clogged up with clapped out camper vans heading for Glastonbury, the tax team continue the thankless task of finishing off the 2008 P11Ds and I'm still trying to track down two sets of 31 August 2007 company accounts that need to be filed by Monday.
Online filing at Companies House has saved our bacon a few times now. Nevertheless, I hate leaving it till the last minute as Companies House has a habit of getting overloaded at peak times. The trouble is I still want to have the signed accounts in my hand before I file them, and at the moment the two clients in question are nowhere to be found. If they're at Glastonbury there's no hope of getting them to sign and return the things this month!
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25 June - Sorry to disappoint, but I have managed to avoid the company secretary so far this week. Meanwhile, what's all this nonsense about P11Ds over on the Tax Zone?
Well we seem to be in a minority in the P11d or not debate. Our diligent tax team spend dozens – I hesitate to say hundreds, but I fear that may be nearer the mark – of hours from April to July each year contacting every company client, and every unincorporated client with employees, with detailed P11D questionnaires and fact sheets. We collate expense reimbursement details and claim forms and produce minutely detailed schedules of expenses claimed, reimbursed and company credit card payments. We then prepare P11Ds and also the s 336 claims which, in most cases, cancel out what’s on the P11D.
Does any body care (apart from us)? I doubt it. Do clients appreciate what we do? I don’t think so. Do we recover all that chargeable time in extra fees? You must be joking! The trouble is, it’s hardly a value added service, especially when both clients and most accountants can’t see the point of the whole, exercise.
Nonetheless, despite the theme of many postings on Nichola’s article, it remains a legal requirement to declare expense payments and reimbursements on P11Ds and we feel we have no option but to do so or face a possible claim of negligence. Failure to do so means the declaration on the P35 was incorrect too, so you leave the door wide open for HMR&C to take you to the cleaners.
After all, if we were the sole arbiters of what should and shouldn’t be declared to HMR&C we might well go the whole hog and decide to not report small profits below the personal allowance, loss-making trades and property letting – or indeed income already taxed at source in the hands of basic rate taxpayers. Is anyone suggesting we can do so and still ask the client to sign the declaration on the tax return? We may think it’s illogical or stupid, but as professional advisers that doesn’t give us the right to ignore the current law as it stands. It looks like the thin end of the wedge to me.
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23 June - The local Chamber of Commerce garden party was the expected annual bore on Saturday. Mrs P has threatened to divorce me if I drag her along again. Mind you, her threat might be brought forward if I don’t keep my wits about me. One of my largest clients was there on Saturday with his young and very attractive wife, and on several occasions during the evening she managed to corner me and make what I can only refer to as pretty explicit and improper suggestions to me. And she didn’t seem that drunk either! I managed to extricate myself but it’s going to be awkward this week as we are working on the client’s accounts and audit this week - and she’s the company secretary, so our paths will inevitably cross.
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20 June - Here’s one I’ve never come across before. I was hosting an Inspector of Taxes in our office today for a tax enquiry meeting with a client. I like to meet on neutral ground if I can. The Inspector didn’t endear herself to us by arriving over an hour late – she reckoned it was traffic, we suspect she simply didn’t leave on time. In the course of the meeting she suddenly asked my client whether he still had a NatWest account (no such account was included in the records produced). When he hesitated, she explained that he had paid a tax bill a few years ago from a NatWest account number xxx held at branch sort code xxx. In fact I could see that one of the printouts on her file listed every self assessment payment he has made with the cheque details against each payment.
In this case there was an easy explanation – the account was closed some years ago – but be aware that clients will be found out if they pay their tax from an undeclared source and then get picked for enquiry.
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16 June - Our local council has at last decided to offer us special clear plastic sacks (at a price) for a new separate plastic and cardboard collection - although only to businesses, not to domestic properties. So far so good. I fear that the next step will be to penalise us for excessive use of the general waste bags.
And just to show how well though out the new service is, when we put a stack of flattened cardboard boxes out for collection we have to tie one of these new plastic sacks to the bundle!! Why not sell us simple, bio-degradable prepaid labels?
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10 June - I am reminded today why I dislike CPD courses more and more. It takes about 90 minutes to get to the hotels used by CCH, etc, so that's one and a half hourse just travelling. In this heat it's no fun. Then we have to sit in a room with almost no ventilation so we're all dozing off. And to cap it all the essential tax/audit update material is as boring as ever!
I must have another go at some of the online e-CPD stuff - nil travelling time, and if it's boring you can just turn it off with a click of the mouse! Isn't it about time AccountingWEB with all it's online technology had a go at online training?
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9 June - Too hot today. Am I the only one who dreams of getting an air conditioning unit every summer, just after all the shops sell out, and then blindly walks past them when shops have them stacked in heaps during the winter? Maybe what i need to do is either just order one and accept it might take three months to arrive, or at least put the purchase price in petty cash so we're ready to buy one as soon as they reappear on the shelves.
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5 June - Of course I am assuming all accountants still read the Telegraph. I remember as a trainee walking into the office with a copy of the Guardian under my arm and being taken aside by the senior partner for a stern telling off. Surely I realised that all chartered accountants read the Telegraph and voted Conservative? Well, no actually.
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4 June - A session of idle web surfing has brought to my attention the published scale rates of allowances which HMRC staff can claim. The allowance that stands out is:
"£7.60 to £10.90 a night for night working or sleeping in offices."
What does that last bit mean? Are "night working" and "sleeping in offices" alternatives here or are they part of the same claim. And why is there a range of figures - do you get paid more for sleeping longer in the office? The mind boggles!
What's worse is that these were published in the Daily Telegraph, so I bet everyone in the office here knows about them. How long will it be before I catch an audit junior dozing off over a file and then get a "sleeping in the office " claim from him?
These sorts of payments remind me of the incentive payments Royal Mail has to pay postmen to encourage them to turn up for work. Isn't that what wages are meant to be?
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2-6 June - Sorry the diary is a bit slow this week. I returned from a few days off on Saturday to be told by my daughter that our Internet had been on the blink. I phoned our broadband supplier, who can't send an engineer out until Friday, so I am just having to update the diary as and when my modem lights up - which seems to be for about 15 minutes a couple of times a day.
I suspect this isn't just a rural issue, it affects many domestic and business users, although maybe urban and business subscribers get a better service response. Nonetheless, if I had been using an online accounting or other SaaS service this week my business would have ground to a halt!
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Last month our West Country general practitioner discussed pricing and value, and gave his tips for the best business books for you and your clients - take a look at his May 2008 diary.