Practice Tip - Standard Letters

There's been a lot of talk about "commoditisation" of accountancy services on this site, and others, of late. Like it or not, the realisation is increasing that a lot of what accountants do is really quite standard, quite a lot of the time. And the accountant who does not have a cost structure that reflects that fact is going to lose out in the long term (which in this case might not be that far away).

I will admit I realised this a long time ago.

Continued...

» Register now

The full article is available to registered AccountingWEB members only. To read the rest of this article you’ll need to login or register.

Registration is FREE and allows you to view all content, ask questions, comment and much more.

Comments
richard.murphy's picture

Paul's right - elegance isn;t everything

richard.murphy | | Permalink

I always recall that when I trained in tax at what was then Peat Marwick in London we always sent in hand written tax comps. Now I know this is 20+ years ago - but it was still unusual at the time. I admired it though - because it worked, reduced risk in typing (high at the time) and saved cost.

So what's wrong with a tick the box letter in some cases? Nothing. You just have to chose the right case, of course.

listerramjet's picture

go for it

listerramjet | | Permalink

you can take systematisation too far, but standard letters is not too far, and I have seen it work effectively in a number of practices.

Of course there are problems with any system as a firm grows and changes. New people often bring new ideas, and sometimes interpretation of existing ideas change with time. Not to mention that requirement also change with time.

The overhead of systematisation is that you have to have documented procedures, and you have to monitor their use - which is an overhead and can stifle innovation. BUT review the use of the process as part of regular quality control reviews, and introduce periodic internal training sessions where use of the procedures can be demonstrated, reviewed, and challenged.

I love the comments about tick lists and hand written tax returns. One of the problems with automation is that of content over format. I am sure that handwritten accounts would be impractical under the modern reporting requirements, but clients are surely more interested in the answer than the format in which it is provided, and in this automated world I think this is often overlooked.

Agree

AnonymousUser | | Permalink

When I first started out as a sole practitioner I took this approach and it worked. I even went a stage further with a photocopied tick-the-box letter for sending things to IR/Companies House etc - it had a list of 10 or 12 typical things you may say in a letter, eg "heres the accounts + computations" (this was before SA/CTSA), "heres a cheque want a receipt", etc, etc - and they just got the letter, the clients name written in by hand and a tick box. Not elegant but efficient.

As my practice has grown I've found the efficiencies have slipped, and with 20 staff its easy to become "flabby" on such things - at that stage you need to go back to roots - how did you do it when it was just you - and teach others the lessons.