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FL memo, CCH, Bloomsbury or Tolleys?

What are sole practitioners using?

I’m a sole practitioner and have been using CCH tax standard online for a year. I’m exploring other suitable products as I’ve not really liked CCH. I’ve had a look at Tolley guidance which appears to have some good summary of technical info split into the various taxes, e.g. CT, VAT etc. 

I had a demo with FL memo and the content looked like it was more practical offering real life scenarios with tax calculators being made available to. However as they don’t offer trials I can’t confirm for certain how good their product is. I’ve also scheduled a demo with Bloomsbury this week to see their offering.

Can other sole practitioners or small partner firms share their experiences of CCH, Tolleys guidance, FL memo and Bloomsbury? And who based on their personal experiences they would recommend. Your help is much appreciated!

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13th Feb 2018 23:09

I use FL memo, they did give me a trial in Nov time. I’ve been a subscriber to their paper notices & updates for a while, maybe that’s why they gave me a trial?

I’d recommend them. As you say, ‘real world’ scenarios.

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By anjui1
to atleastisoundknowledgable...
14th Feb 2018 08:49

Thanks for your feedback. FL memo told me they’ve stopped doing trials as they’ve been stung before by people downloading lots of commentary and then not proceeding after the trial is up. I suspect that they gave you a free trial as you already subscribe to other products. Which product do you subscribe to and how much do you pay if you don’t mind me asking? Also what do you think of their tax calculators, have you used them much? He told me you get 8 as standard and for more there is an extra add on product available.

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14th Feb 2018 20:56

I use books rather than online, as a surprising number of books are not available online.

Other publishers are
Claritax - good quality and recently did a 30% discount on Black something day.
Spiramus
Tax cafe
Directory of Social Change (eg The Charity Trustee's Handbook)
Sweet & Maxwell

What I tend to do is to buy the books when they are around a year old, on Amazon or Ebay. This provides for substantial discounts. This accounting year I have 16 books for a total of £550.

I prefer books on topics eg Property Taxation, Small Business Taxation as they are often more useful than a book on plain income tax, and are easier to read.

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By anjui1
to Jane Evans
15th Feb 2018 17:05

Hi Jane many thanks for your feedback. I think you have a good point here. Today I was going through Tolley's and FL Memo and I felt like I was reading up on theory which sometimes is nice to refer to if you are rusty on a topic, but I have enough tax experience (I hope!) of the difference taxes and their interaction etc. What I really want is some practical guidance on specific topics, you for example mention property taxation or small business taxation both of which are relevant to me as a small practitioner. I will have a look at the other publishers you mention, but if there are authors you recommend for purchasing actual books please do share.

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By anjui1
to Jane Evans
15th Feb 2018 22:08

Just looked at Claritax looks really good! might order one book and try it out...thanks for the advice you are a god send!

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15th Feb 2018 16:33

i switched to CCH last year after using Tolleys Guidance. Have to say I may well go back to Tolleys Guidance when my contract runs out, but watch out for their shark like disgraceful auto-renewing contracts.

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By anjui1
to snickersinatwix
15th Feb 2018 17:12

Switching to CCH was definitely a mistake. I have been with CCH for a 11 months and my last payment goes out end of this month. I avoid using their site, I recently had to do a lot of work on EMI options and needed to brush up on things but I just found it hard to navigate around their site. I ended up using the HMRC manuals to get the information I needed. It was painful and I was rather annoyed that despite paying over £2.2k for the year I couldn't easily find the information I needed. Emphasis on 'ease' here, I'm not saying the information isn't there its just so hard to find.

Stupidly, my own fault of course I missed the auto renewal 45 days notice clause in my contract and only ended up giving 30 days notice and Croner I (they have now bought out CCH tax research) are refusing to cancel my subscription. They want a full year's of additional payment as I only gave 30 days notice. I have refused on the basis that my account manager hasn't been in touch for 9 months and the product is poor. For now they have gone silent but they were pretty aggressive a few weeks ago. Who knows I may receive a legal letter in the post!

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By DJKL
15th Feb 2018 23:35

Re property I like Maas best, however Spencer has some flowcharts that can be useful.

The Tolley's property book I have bought in the past, but these days, when my allowance at work re book budget is tight, I would tend to pick up Maas over Tolleys.

I do not buy every year, it used to be every second year but as we are not doing a great deal re projects these days have less need for them .

https://www.bloomsburyprofessional.com/uk/property-taxes-201718-97815265...

https://www.bloomsburyprofessional.com/uk/property-tax-planning-97817845...

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tolleys-Property-Taxation-2017-18-Beckett/dp/07...

Another niche book I had until someone "borrowed " it from my office was Simmons and Simmons on Joint Ventures and Shareholder Agreements which was certainly worth having and reading, as more and more property projects were moving into such arrangements rather than us acting solely ourselves.

I also used to rather like the Tolley's tax planning books, but they were really expensive (my previous employers subscribed)

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18th Feb 2018 14:12

I know FL Memo is popular with many sole practitioners - easy to read and not expensive.

My concern about it though was always that the authors' names were not provided so you don't know if the latest updates were written by a suitably experienced expert or a newcomer to the team.

When i was in practice I wanted to know the credibility of the authors putting their name to the explanations and advice I followed - even if only as editors of the reference books I used.

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By anjui1
to bookmarklee
18th Feb 2018 15:21

I don’t think FL memo is actually that cheap...and not feeling their product anymore although I think i need to document what I like and don’t like abour each of the providers before simply saying ‘I’m not feeling it’. One thing I’m liking about Bloomsbury is that their books are online so you can easily email clients useful information. Bloomsbury also have a Product called TPI which is an extra add on for £300. TPI is an electronic workflow so for example inregards to IHT you could tick a few boxes and it will come up with some planning initiatives for your client which you can then email to clients as it generates a useful letter, and although I could easily write a letter time is of essence. The question is how robust and technical TPI is I’m planning to test it next week.

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to bookmarklee
19th Feb 2018 10:39

Very good point Mark!
There is a lot of value attached to the name of a good writer.

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By craigt
19th Feb 2018 10:59

Have look at www.rossmartin.co.uk. I have used this for 4 out of the last 5 years. Went to Tollley Guidance for one year and didn't find it that easy to use.

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19th Feb 2018 13:37

Related to this discussion. Being a small practitioner we can not afford to have all these books so would like to ask, is there any private library or space where we can have an access to all these material at very reasonable rate. Thanks.

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to cjsanghavi
19th Feb 2018 13:58

cjsanghavi wrote:

Related to this discussion. Being a small practitioner we can not afford to have all these books so would like to ask, is there any private library or space where we can have an access to all these material at very reasonable rate. Thanks.

Can't afford them?

How would you feel if you turned up to the dentist and found that you had to sit on a box while he poked around inside your mouth using a pair of tweezers and a spoon because they couldn't afford the correct equipment?

If you are going to do the job and charge clients you need to have the tools for the job, and cost it out accordingly. IMO if you can't afford basic materials then you don't have a viable business model.

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to Tim Vane
19th Feb 2018 14:08

Thanks Tim Vane. I appreciate your comments.

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By anjui1
to cjsanghavi
19th Feb 2018 16:20

Have you thought about ICPA membership? Alongside other benefits you get access to Bloomsbury's 17 tax books online which from what I can see are pretty good content and cover all the taxes. ICPA membership is £48 or £58 a month depending on whether you take out your own PI insurance. I do agree with Tim that investment in material for a practice is essential, but that doesn't mean you get ripped off, shop around and of course look at the content. In my opinion decent content is more important than just a cheap price.

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By chatman
19th Feb 2018 17:32

I paid £147.90 this year for FL Memo. I have been using it for years but recently it has got much harder to find things as they have dumped their tree-style navigation window. Also, I have spotted one error and (what I consider to be) a significant omission and I am very weak on tax.

For me, the best thing about it was the ease of navigation, so I am on the lookout for something else now but haven't had time to evaluate other products.

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