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.
Clients! Who'd have them?
I dare say many of us wonder if life wouldn't be a lot simpler without the clients.
Not that I don't love them all dearly, you understand, but sometimes they seem to combine to try my patience.
One of the things I have strived for over the years is to get clients to work to a timetable. That way we can plan our work and our staffing requirements. In the old days it was OK to just let the work drift in and to deal with it when we got round to it. After all, many farmers and small rural businesses only brought their accounts in every three years or so (unless they were listed for the General Commissioners) so there was never any great urgency.
These days it's all about job turnaround times and meeting the many and varied company deadlines we have all been lumbered with as a result of tax-driven incorporations.
Which is all fine and good provided clients keep their end of the bargain. The trouble is that more often than not clients seem to think it's perfectly in order to let their side of the agreed timetable slip by a week or two, then they get all uppity when they find we can't just catch up several weeks in one to meet the original deadline.
One such client is really pushing their luck at the moment. The audit was booked, staffing scheduled around holidays and exams, hotel booked and a date agreed to sign off the accounts. It now looks like they expect us to arrive on site without having received the draft accounts and audit file to enable us to complete the audit planning. Do we go anyway and risk spending a day of wasted time, or do we cancel the hotel and tell them the job's off until we can be sure that they are ready for us? If we do, will they be able to delay the sign off, given that they have external parties waiting for the audited accounts?
At any other time of year I'd be trying to negotiate some extra accounts preparation work for staff from one of our other offices to help get them back on track, while maintaining adequate auditor independence, but of course we're all flat out at the moment and about to lose a lot of people over the school holiday period!
I am sure we'll get it sorted one way or another, but it makes me wonder if all the advance planning is worth the effort. Clients seem determined just to do their own thing whatever we have agreed, so maybe I should just let them.