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Online bookkeeping used by clients - nightmare

Online bookkeeping systems used by clients nightmare

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Once again I have another client who has been trying to do his bookkeeping himself using online bookkeeping software and got into a right mess which has taken almost 2 days to sort out.

I have come to the conclusion that for an easy life I would rather clients just put everything to me  in a ring binder once a quarter (bank statements, sales invoices, bills and receipts) and let us write things up and do the bookkeeping. 

When clients try to do it themselves then transactions get posted to wrong accounts, bank accounts get muddled up, incorrect dates are input and trying to get them to even think about bank reconciliations ....

Is this a common sentiment amongst accountants or am I just a dinosaur?

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24th May 2019 11:39

What you need to do is train them. Most clients are perfectly capable of doing their own bookkeeping if you just take the time to help them get setup and put some procedures in place.

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24th May 2019 11:43

I came to that conclusion 40 years ago. Surprised it's taken you so long.

You get the odd competent client but most of them aren't interested in getting it right and think they've been a big help in entering some of the transactions.

I'm just dealing with a client who's subscribed to Xero. Still typing (yes, typing) out his invoices once a month and then passing them to his admin staff to enter up. Mrs Lion is just clearing the backlog this week - nothing was entered on Xero since January.

His "business coach" put him on to Xero - said it would help him when he comes to retire in a few years time what with the records being so up to date, like. Fact is, I had to use the VT records to do his February VAT return as the old system was more up to date than the super-duper new one.

Wants the benefits but not prepared to put in the effort. It's doomed to failure. He won't even download the bank feeds unless I'm there holding his hand.

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24th May 2019 12:09

My bugbear is the client you put the effort into, then as quickly as they can, they delegate it to the most junior admin person to screw up.

It's doubly disappointing because apart from the wasted training effort and the mess to sweep up, you'd think they might appreciate it's not just admin.

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By PERMON
24th May 2019 12:33

I agree with lionofdulesch. Problem is though that this means offering a book-keeping service and this is difficult or not possible to do if working alone with no staff

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to PERMON
24th May 2019 12:37

You could always make an effort to get to know one or two that you could recommend to clients.

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24th May 2019 12:42

I fully expect so.

Most of our current software based clients we advised to do it as they were clearly capable. The few that took it on themselves, many are a right mess.

We are asking clients to bring everything in, yes. Its very expensive.

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By johnt27
24th May 2019 12:57

Your choices are threefold (the system used is irrelevant):
1. Hike your fees up because the client messed up
2. Do the bookkeeping yourself
3. Educate/train the client (for a fee) on the basis fees won't go up as long as records are better next year

Also worth bearing in mind are that not all cloud accounting systems are the same, in so far as, Xero/QBO have some excellent tools for advisors to help solve the mistakes that are inevitably made but others do not.

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24th May 2019 13:01

Thank goodness I am not alone on this.

I think the advertising is quite misleading on this on the TV etc..

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to soundadvice
24th May 2019 13:13

Interesting use of the word "quite"! :-)

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to soundadvice
24th May 2019 13:25

They're not likely to say their software is really hard to understand.

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to lionofludesch
24th May 2019 16:29

I thought Xero was saying their software was as hard as changing the tyre on a moving car.

Big fan of Xero but I thought this had to be said on a Friday afternoon.

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24th May 2019 13:15

Fear not, when MTD really gets going the software will do it all for them.....
QuickBooks says so - I saw it on TV!

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24th May 2019 13:16

I think this is an issue which will take some sorting out. My practical experience of implementing lots of MTD is that using spreadsheets and bridging software is not that easy for people who are not used to spreadsheets. I have not had anyone fail to submit a return, but for some people it does take quite a bit of support.

One the other hand for some people it is a complete doddle and takes substantially less time than the gateway (substantially being perhaps 2/3 or 1/2 the time).

There is no question that some people also find cloud accounting quite complex and because it is all a bit murky it is difficult for people to follow unless they are well versed in double entry accounting.

However, I do think it is possible to make all this work reasonably elegantly without necessarily using professional book keeping services of some form.

I am getting quite a bit of business from the small construction sector (sub contractors etc) which is why I have had to learn about CIS. We did the second monthly return for a housebuilder using a cloud cashbook a couple of days ago and that clearly is an option that works.

What I think is a good approach is where clients put their data in a cloud cashbook and an accountant gives it the onceover for correct analysis.

Looking at how ITSA will work I think that is in essence an extension from what people are already doing.

A lot of the smaller businesses only have under a hundred transactions in a quarter. Even a small takeaway restaurant doesn't have to have more than about 250-300 transactions in a quarter given that they only record the daily takings.

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By CJaneH
24th May 2019 13:19

And these clients are suppose to be able to cope with MTD!!!!!!

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24th May 2019 14:05

They also expect the fees to be lower because they're " doing most of the work" I'm quoting one of mine who went direct from handwritten books to SAGE despite my warnings

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By CJaneH
24th May 2019 14:19

And the government expect these small business's can cope with MTD !!!!!

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By JD
24th May 2019 15:50

One of life's certainties, if there is a way of making a mess of it, whether spreadsheet, sage or cloud a client will find it and at the same time expect their bill to be so much lower, because they have done all the work.

We tend to put what they have done to one side and prepare year end account from source docs - csv download of bank statements and so on, using what they have done purely for reference - much quicker and you know that you can be certain of what you have done.

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By SXGuy
25th May 2019 10:42

Not just you. I have one client who refuses to pay for a book keeper or let me do it. Instead they have thier family friend who does it. Each year its a complete mess.
Everytime I've raised a query, the response is, sorry I just input what I'm given, I dont know the answer.
Which isn't good enough.

This year, their books showed more cash paid out than received, there was a difference of 14k I couldn't allocate. After dozens of emails trying to get an answer and being over 12 months late (so company was about to be struck off) I had to come to a decision myself.
Because the business is mainly cash based I put it to them that perhaps they hadn't recorded all cash sales and unless they can explain the difference, I'd be adding it back to their turnover and taxed on it. OK they said, and so the accounts got sent out. A week later I get an email to ask why the tax is so high when they have made a loss this year.

Not possible I said, your books show sales of 13k but you paid two directors 12k in dividends with no reserves, how did the Company pay it's expenses? Along with various other questions, all fell on deaf ears.

Loads more wrong which I can't be bothered to go in to but needless to say, I will be speaking to them this week and saying, either I do the books moving forward, they pay for a professional book keeper or they can go elsewhere. It's just not worth my time and energy for the fee it generates and lack of responses to my queries.

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to SXGuy
25th May 2019 11:34

SXGuy wrote:

Instead they have thier family friend who does it.


I have encountered quite a few of these. It is often a family member who does this. It is not necessarily a mess, but this is something where a systems solution does matter.

I think Gordon Harrison is right about this and cloud accounting is too complicated for some people.

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