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Employer not taking professional advice

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Got a bit of an annoying scenario - my employer keeps passing stuff to me to look over, but refusing my pleas for professional advice when I consider it necessary.

This often relates to aspects of employment law and employee contracts - clearly not my area of expertise as a qualified accountant - but also extends to areas within my remit, such as VAT grey areas where a second opinion really would be valued. I'm so sick of this DIY approach that I've decided to leave in the new year. 

In the meantime, anybody got any advice for pushing him back? Part of my code ethics involves knowing the extent of my professional competence, and I worry that somehow down the line something will go wrong and he'll try to put the blame on me.

Replies (27)

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By 356B
20th Dec 2021 20:09

He's your employer. If he thinks you're incompetent he has options.
Can't see there's any come back on you.

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By Paul Crowley
20th Dec 2021 20:36

Keep a record of issues, such that you can find it later (not on work computer or server)
Find a better employer
No real benefit to be got from pushing back, even after you have left.

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Replying to Paul Crowley:
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By Missing in action
20th Dec 2021 21:16

Cheers. I'm thinking that to the extent that I respond to anything with my thoughts, I need to qualify them where I'm not sure - making my uncertainty clear so that my responses really ought not be relied upon for decision making when I'm out of my comfort zone.

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Replying to Missing in action:
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By Paul Crowley
20th Dec 2021 22:26

Nobody knows everything. Accounts and most tax can be fixed later
HR and VAT are the risk areas.

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Replying to Paul Crowley:
RLI
By lionofludesch
21st Dec 2021 10:38

Paul Crowley wrote:

Nobody knows everything.

Hence the old joke ...

"Encyclopaedias for sale. No longer required as wife knows everything."

Reputedly a genuine advert placed by an exasperated husband in the 1950s.

Thanks (4)
Replying to lionofludesch:
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By Hugo Fair
21st Dec 2021 13:55

There was a big craze for collecting these 'genuine adverts' in the mid-60s ... with "Funny Ha Ha and Funny Peculiar" becoming a massive selling paperback.
Under a fiver (second-hand) from Amazon, if you've got too many elderly relatives in store for you over Christmas!

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ghm
By TaxTeddy
21st Dec 2021 08:38

Email is your friend.

After each discussion, confirm your opinion / view to your boss in an email (for clarity). If possible bcc the email to your boss and a bcc copy to your personal email because if you are ever fired you will find that you'll lose access to your work emails whereas copies in your personal email will be still available to you.

Believe me, anyone with that attitude will readily throw you under the bus when it all goes pear-shaped so you need to be prepared.

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Replying to TaxTeddy:
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
21st Dec 2021 10:06

This. State what you know, and what you don't know, and what you might be able to find out if they will fund you to seek third party advice.

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Replying to TaxTeddy:
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By Mr_awol
21st Dec 2021 11:46

I understand the will to ensure that 'proof' of having made the employer aware of limitations in the OPs knowledge is maintained, off the company's servers, etc but would strongly discourage BCCing all emails in this way. It is likely to fall foul of the most basic employer IT policy, could well leave the OP open to disciplinary action if it is discovered and may (depending on the other contents of the emails) be argued as unprofessional.

I would, instead, advise the OP to write an email to his employer, either from his own personal email account or copying THIS email in to his personal account (BCC if necessary) stating that they have been asked to advise on various matters outside the scope of their knowledge and that they are concerned that they do not have the skills to answer these sorts of questions. The OP can reference 'HR issues ref sickness, etc' or 'VAT advice on land transactions overseas' or whatever general theme they feel exceeds their remit and recommend either the employer pay for additional training or buy in consultancy advice for these matters.

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By paul.benny
21st Dec 2021 08:42

As a practical expedient, acas website and phone helpline are pretty good for employment matters.

And on VAT issues you can often get a second opinion here - I would suggest that alongside the facts you set out your conclusion and reasoning.

For managing the risk, document each request and your response. Where possible, provide responses to your boss in writing, setting out your uncertainties.

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paddle steamer
By DJKL
21st Dec 2021 09:07

To be contrarian, size of entity, risk, reward all need considered.

I do vast amounts of things outwith my trained role, from reviewing leases, HR , planning, safety etc, if a smaller business it is just not cost effective to run to a professional if the amount at stake is limited/risk very small, sometimes with lesser matters with limited sums involved you just have to go for it, step out of your comfort zone.

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Replying to DJKL:
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By Missing in action
21st Dec 2021 09:35

Great point!

I do try to be as proactive and helpful as possible, and do consider myself a decent all-rounder. I just get frustrated in those instances where I simply can't reach the answer, and could benefit from the viewpoint of someone who has maybe come across the issue many more times than I have and has experience of making the judgement call.

Perhaps, as suggested, that's where the likes of AnyAnswers can help steer me in the right direction.

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Replying to Missing in action:
RLI
By lionofludesch
21st Dec 2021 10:43

How often do these doubtful points crop up ?

Once a month ? Once a week? Once a day ? More often ?

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Replying to lionofludesch:
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By Missing in action
21st Dec 2021 12:06

Once a quarter, maybe more? It was relentless during the CJRS period, where every change to the scheme came with numerous attempts to willfully push the boundaries, often into territory that I'd consider abusive - but as we all know, there were so many grey areas it was difficult to produce a specific line in the legislation saying 'You must not do X'.

Whenever I suggested getting an outside opinion, it was always rebuked.

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By tom123
21st Dec 2021 11:31

Part of development over one's career involves this 'branching out'.

Because we all 'took exams' in accountancy, we therefore feel 'trained'.

However, if we look at our more general management peers it is unlikely they have taken specific exams in any areas that they work in.

So, (and I totally get the issue) be a bit pragmatic. Like DJKL said, how much money is at stake?

I have worked in small and medium private sector firms, and am now in education.

As a trained professional, one is expected to get stuck in to all these sorts of admin related things.

Is anyone trained in 'Brexit'.

I mean, I hate HR and Health & Safety as much as the next person - but, for my sins, I am expected to be roughly across both these briefs.

However - I am in a supportive environment where I can push back if needed.

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Caroline
By accountantccole
21st Dec 2021 14:01

Are there no external accountants who you can bounce things off? They are more likely to have access to helplines and already know the business.

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Replying to accountantccole:
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By Mr_awol
21st Dec 2021 16:56

Perhaps, but it can cause friction. I tend to find that where a client has an internal accountant they tend to object to me charging them for advice, unless they have been in the loop from the start or we can agree that all queries will be answered (and billed accordingly). The Op may find the external accountants becoming less and less helpful. Unless they are happy being a free unofficial helpline that is. Again depends on frequency i suppose (although the OP was about his boss refusing to take professional (presumably = 'paid for' advice so i don't imagine this method would work)

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Replying to Mr_awol:
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By Missing in action
21st Dec 2021 21:26

Exactly this. The external accountants try to be helpful, but I don't have a separate budget with them for ad-hoc advice and I get grief if bills come in with additional work listed. I've been told to refrain from picking up the phone to them for general stuff.

The really annoying thing is that the business can more than afford it.

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Replying to Missing in action:
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By Mr_awol
21st Dec 2021 22:18

As per my previous post you need to be honest it’s your employer about the boundaries of your knowledge (I was gonna write ‘limitations’ but that suggests you ‘should’ know, which may well net be the case if this is outside your expected skill set). If they want to blah it and get your opinion on stuff you don’t actually know, then fine, but cover yourself by explaining your reasons and if you feel uncomfortable then look for a new job in due course.

The good thing is that as an employee you don’t face the same implications from cocking it up as those of us with practicing certificates do. As long as you have made clear that your opinion is that of the layman, of course

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By tom123
22nd Dec 2021 09:22

In a previous life, our overseas parent had omitted to charge VAT to a UK customer, on the basis of the end user being overseas.

This fitted with how 'sales taxes' worked in their country, but not for VAT. Sales invoices were raised outside UK.

Amount of VAT potentially uncharged was many hundred K.

Our parent would not believe me - but I knew things would hit fans. So, in that case, I got Deloitte to write a letter ( at a cost of £1500), and then customer got invoiced. I had already paid HMRC, as the parent chose to issue a credit note for just the VAT.

Of course I was forever known as the VAT guru after that point.

So - OP - in some cases you need to insist on external advice.

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By tom123
22nd Dec 2021 09:23

And another thing - I am CIMA qualified, but was finding I was getting lots of tax questions.

I actually completed ATT so that I felt some confidence in challenging all the barrack room lawyers and accountants that are usually on boards.

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By petestar1969
22nd Dec 2021 10:54

Well, you've already decided to leave in the New Year so why not just leave earlier, as soon as you get your December pay?

There isn't much else you can do. If your employer is a pillock who won't listen then the only option is to leave and dob him in to his institute if you think its worthwhile.

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Replying to petestar1969:
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By Mr_awol
22nd Dec 2021 11:48

petestar1969 wrote:

Well, you've already decided to leave in the New Year so why not just leave earlier, as soon as you get your December pay?

One would assume there is a world of difference between 'deciding to leave in the new year' (i.e. looking for a job after Christmas which may in fact mean 'laving' in March or so) vs jacking in without notice in December - especially in the current climate.

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By ColA
22nd Dec 2021 11:47

I had a raging MD employ limited epithets beginning with ‘f’ repeatedly, having advised the legal course of action on a Group Corporation tax matter in a Board meeting.
I merely calmly and carefully answered him and his fellow family Board members that I would continue only to uphold the best interests of the Group professionally and legally.
Result, silence, then an apology from the now former MD - some years ago, it must be added.
Professional integrity in commerce is critical!

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By Ian McTernan CTA
22nd Dec 2021 13:41

Getting outside advice doesn't have to cost the earth.

The Vat People can help with most VAT queries and their charges are very reasonable- just avoid approaching the bigger firms who will charge you £1500 just to look in your direction!

Best way to deal with things you don't know about is to find professionals who can help, find out how much the advice will be, and then say to the boss 'I think the answer is XYZ but my advice is we have this verified by consulting Joe Bloggs at a cost of £'. And make sure it is in writing/email and make sure you have a copy somewhere. Just resend the email you send to your own personal email (don't cc on the one to the boss).

I don't know everything and will frequently obtain advice from third party professionals which my clients will happily pay for the added certainty.

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By cacatchpole
26th Dec 2021 16:12

I would make sure that all “advice” is followed up by email making sure you state where you are not certain and that it might be better to pay for advice (and what the risks are of getting it wrong - as some things are fixable).
A bigger problem would be where you are certain of the correct advice and then your employer refused to follow the rules despite your advice. This would leave you in an untenable situation … at the moment I think you can caveat away and maintain your integrity.

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taxinvestigations tax HMRC HMRCenquiries
By rbusfield1
12th Jan 2022 20:09

For VAT issues if errors are made on VAT returns then HMRC can charge a penalty if the taxpayer has not taken reasonable care - ie asked a qualified, specialist for a second opinion or tax advice. Some banks, accountants and lawyers have helplines for employment law, HR etc. Rebecca Busfield (Watt Busfield)

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