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Are we supposed to do bookkeeping training?

Client errors and no bookkeeper

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We have a client who we do end of year accounts for. Every year the bookkeeping is a mess, no reconciliations, no loan interest payments etc. So every year we advise them to get a bookkeeper to ensure better accuracy prior to it coming to us. As part of the accounts process in the past we have obtained loan statements and inputted the interest to reconcile etc and the bank accounts and so on.

This year, the client gave us the information very late (2 weeks before the due date again with nothing reconciling) this is after I have been asking for more thann 6 months for the bookkeeping so we can make a start. Anyway the information we requested never came back to us in time, i.e. the loan interest, bank statements etc even after me mythering so the deadline has gone over.

And apparently that is my fault because I have not advised her what to do. Also the client takes deposits from customers and we have advised them how to do these, i.e. held in a deposit account and recognise only as a sale when the service is performed. the client has looked back on the previous year and realised they have done some of this wrong and some deposits were included as sales - which again is my fault even though i have email records from the year before explaining exactly how this works and what should be done - i also have copies of our emails to her saying that she needs to go through the deposits and confirm all are , but also aan email reply to say she has gone through and allocated deposits to sales where they should be. Then we also have a letter of rep to say she has gone through the bookkeeping and confirms the balances and then the actual signed accounts.

But it is still my fault because we have misadvised and because she still won't get a bookkeeper.

I am feeling very very annoyed and deflated by this and i will be disengaging once this work is complete.

Is there anything else I could have actually have done? If the client is requested to go through the figures on more than one occasion and confirms them to be correct - if there is an error is that then my fault?

;-( i actually just feel like packing this in

Replies (18)

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RLI
By lionofludesch
21st Oct 2019 10:26

Tell her to go elsewhere.

Job done.

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By Mr_awol
21st Oct 2019 10:44

Could you have done more...…………….

Well you could have discussed the year-end cut-off with her. If she gave you duff answers then fair enough. It was a little bit slack if you didn't even consider it because you'd 'previously told her about putting them to a deposits account' (presumably you mean a control acc on the bookkeeping software rather than physical bank account)

I have hardly any clients that post loan interest and whilst I do ask for statements I also (particularly if disclosing a a year split) normally plug them into a spreadsheet at the outset and can predict the interest charges to within a small margin. You seem to see the client's failure to account for the interest and reconcile that account as a major failing. I see it as normal. I wouldn't have held up accounts for that because I would probably have known the interest/balance - or near enough at least.

Despite the above, if you've been nagging for six months and only got the records two weeks beforehand I wouldn't say you're liable. Also if it's more than the loan issue - for example if the main bank account(s) didn't reconcile - then the client cant have any complaints.

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Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
21st Oct 2019 10:51

Lion is likely correct.

I do not know if attempted but actually sitting down with clients going through record keeping with the actual either books or accounting system can sometimes improve matters as against abstract explanations in say letters/e mails, however it is not surefire as some clients are incapable of taking on what to do and even with those that are capable it can be very time consuming often needing multiple visits to the client before it clicks.

When I worked full time in practice I would do a fair bit of this with the larger clients who did not have trained inhouse accounts departments, and some of it bore fruit but other times it was a brick wall re it penetrating and you just had to accept the fact that either year end was a mess, in which case likely vat returns would also be wrong ,or got client to pay for you to go in regularly and sort as the year progressed- catch being your cost so only really suitable for the larger clients.

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Replying to DJKL:
RLI
By lionofludesch
21st Oct 2019 11:06

I don't expect clients to post loan interest. Nor, to some extent, to reconcile the bank if they're clearly not up to the job.

However, the more work they leave me to do, the earlier I expect them to bring in the records.

Which is, ultimately, why I'd be dumping this client.

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Replying to lionofludesch:
Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
21st Oct 2019 11:23

I would accept getting awful books for smaller clients or those not within vat, but for vat registered I wanted decent books or we tended to tidy them throughout the year.

What I really did not like was not only squaring the bank but also having to square out/correct multiple vat errors as well and once you got into sales and purchase ledgers we really had to be involved.

For example I had one client, a travel agent turning over gross £4.5m ,with nothing re record keeping except a cashbook. Until I finally forced them onto a ledger system and went in monthly to review/check/ensure reconcilled the year end was terrible re trying to calculate both debtors and creditors- I could be seen in the office surrounded by paper doing a terrible imitation of Munch's famous work.

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By vmartin1984
21st Oct 2019 10:56

Have you offered to do the Bookkeeping (obviously increasing the fee accordingly) , if you are a sole practioner, you could always then outsource it to a bookkeeping firm who you know to be good?

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By SXGuy
21st Oct 2019 13:10

I have the same situation. Tried a meeting. Always too busy. Explained their understanding of book keeping is way off and needs a book keeper, ignored. Explained if it isn't corrected I'd have to charge more. Ignored again. 12 months late with last accounts. This year 5 months late and counting. I'm waiting for the email to say need accounts done ASAP before I politely disengaged. The fee just isn't worth the hassle anymore.

Last year book keeping was a mess. Massive loss yet somehow managed to pay two directors wages all year? Doesn't add up. Clearly missing something. Asked and asked why their year end figures are grossly mistated, ignored. Ended up sending draft accounts which I hoped would prompt them to query the figures so we could discuss it, ignored. I've had enough now. Not worth the hassle anymore.

All because they don't want to pay for book keeping.

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Replying to SXGuy:
By Red Leader
22nd Oct 2019 11:52

Crikey, don't wait for their email, disengage now!

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
21st Oct 2019 15:05

In order to complain about your horse not drinking, I would suggest you have to at least have shown the horse where the water is.

We do spend a lot of time with new clients and their record keeping, and always give feedback after each VAT return/year end. Sometimes its pays of..........and sometimes it doesn't.

if it doesn't (and we don't do larger scale bookkeeping, anything over 2-3 hours for the year and we dont touch it, within that I build it into the fee) then another solution is needed.

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By sarah douglas
21st Oct 2019 17:38

Interesting topic. I am just putting a viewpoint that quite a few people businesses have said to me.

I think the attitude of your client all comes from advertising, accountants and the software companies. In Glasgow, there is a massive shortage of good bookkeepers the good ones are heavily oversubscribed and turning down business. For years Accountants and software companies have severely downplayed the need for qualified bookkeepers and have convinced customers bookkeepers are no longer needed. A data monkey could do it type of attitude. I see this attitude posted all the time on Linkedin, for example from some accountants not all but quite a few.

Perhaps if this attitude were not portrayed by various parties in the industry, customers would see the value of paying for an excellent bookkeeper. The customer would realise they would be better spending their time on the actual business.

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Replying to sarah douglas:
RLI
By lionofludesch
21st Oct 2019 17:46

Well, I'm amazed at that.

Surely, one just takes a photo of the invoice on one's smartphone amd uploads it using the free app.

Look no further than Jo Swinson if you're looking for someone who claims there's no need for accountants.

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Replying to lionofludesch:
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By sarah douglas
21st Oct 2019 21:02

Jo Swinson is my MP for East Dunbartonshire never mind accounts she has disappeared in action and nowhere to be found in East Dunbartonshire. ( Last seen in England) Her accounts are very questionable which the local paper has written about as is the work she has done for East Dunbartonshire.

I better not start as I campaign against the Liberals over schools I could be here all night.

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Replying to sarah douglas:
RLI
By lionofludesch
21st Oct 2019 22:27

Quote:
Her accounts are very questionable ...

What do you expect ?

She doesn't value accountancy expertise. Or even recognise it if it hits her in the face, apparently.

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Replying to lionofludesch:
Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
22nd Oct 2019 15:03

What has she said, I have somehow missed it, though do know her husband is/was an accountant?

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By atleastisoundknowledgable...
21st Oct 2019 18:04

Sometimes clients just won’t do what they’re told and aren’t worth the hassle.

It sounds like this is one of those that you need to double (eg) the fee so is worth the pain, or lose them as a stress you don’t want.

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By tracey2412
22nd Oct 2019 10:29

I'm a bookkeeper & disengaged clients for less. Some people just will never change - and I spent years trying to help them at my own cost - time, money & mental health! - no more. You cannot help those who will not help themselves. Harsh but true if you value your sanity. Good luck

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By indomitable
22nd Oct 2019 11:47

Yes alot of small clients are like this, but I learned very early on it's about educating them at the engagement stage. So now I clearly define the bookkeeping tasks the client needs to perform and the ones we do (such as depreciation, accruals etc).

If they don't understand the tasks (which is often the case) we can provide some training at a cost or learn themselves (if they are on Xero etc, they can use the help section)

Invariably they come back to us to ask us to do some of the bookkeeping. We now don't have any clients that expect the bookkeeping to be done as part of the price of accounts production.

I think in most cases it really is down to educating the client at the beginning. Of course some will say that my previous accountant did it for free. Nowadays I do not engage these clients unless they are prepared to pay our fees for bookkeeping

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By KH
22nd Oct 2019 14:37

Charge separately for bookkeeping and accounts-repair work, and charge very highly for this ... then sit back and enjoy the timelessly old single malts provided by these generous clients ... and if they don't like your huge bookkeeping fee, they can simply go elsewhere since there are always sufficiently large numbers of bookkeeping-incompetent clients to keep your own personal stock of already well-aged single malts growing larger, and ever older, for years. Simples!

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