Share this content
23

The Any Answers Advice Line

May I Ask A Question?

Didn't find your answer?

I've just noticed that the in-house discussion that John Stokdyk restarted on one thread (https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/any-answers/do-you-charge-vat-on-sales-t...) has spread to another (https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/any-answers/advice-on-car-finance-lease-...) [and is rumbling on across multiple threads].

It's getting hard to keep up with, so... here's a bespoke thread that I would ask the participants to move onto, so the rest of us :-) can follow you, should we so wish, and ignore you if we prefer (by reducing the incidence of trolling on other threads).

It also gives me the chance to expand on my own thought about advice v (technical) discussion. A superb example of what I mean by this distinction is given by two more threads (see below). If you intend to plan a course of action based on what you read in here, you should (instead) be taking advice. That's my view, simply put.

https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/any-answers/transfer-of-fixed-assets-to-...

https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/any-answers/transfersale-of-business-ass...

Replies (23)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

Psycho
By Wilson Philips
06th Aug 2020 15:58

What's your question? ;¬)

Thanks (1)
Replying to Wilson Philips:
avatar
By Tax Dragon
06th Aug 2020 16:18

Good point! :-)

1. Why when I post a reply, do I get squiggly red lines telling me my typos, but when I post an OP I don't?

2. How was my 'tone'?

Thanks (0)
Replying to Wilson Philips:
avatar
By Tax Dragon
06th Aug 2020 17:48

Wilson Philips wrote:

What's your question?

What is covered by/who is included in "all those involved in the world of accountancy"?

Thanks (1)
avatar
By lesley.barnes
06th Aug 2020 16:24

Personally I was disappointed with the stance taken that we shouldn't ask the OP's for any additional information other than what is in the question. I was always taught to ask questions - very often the question asked isn't the right question or is half a story. Once you start to dig its like layers of an onion until you finally get to the real problem and in most cases someone on here comes up with the answer.
When you are dealing with a client you have to have a two way dialogue to come up with the best solution and this isn't any different except its online.

I wouldn't be offended if someone asked me for further info - it shows people are interested and want to help. It also makes me stop and think and if necessary go back for further clarification. It is possible to miss things especially when faced with shutting the stable door after the client has let the horse bolt.

I don't know what further to say - I don't think I would be confident answering a question that may or may not contain the complete picture. It will also stifle interesting discussion on complex questions, sharing ideas and in turn stop accountants learning from each other.

Thanks (3)
avatar
By Tax Dragon
06th Aug 2020 17:09

An actual question if I may... but first some thoughts.

My background is tax (clue's in the name). Tax is tough enough for me. I'm not a lawyer, I'm not an accountant, I am not a financial advisor. I salute those people that seem to be able to excel in more than one discipline.

If I look at that Steve Kesby thread that the OP mentioned, the querist there was not interrogated. Steve stated one simple assumption, and then away he went with a masterclass in how to respond to tax questions in an open forum. He didn't (for example) try to decide whether the transfer would be taxable as employment income or as a shareholder distribution; he did though bring the OP's attention to the fact that there was more than one set of charging provisions to consider. [It possibly went over the OP's head, but that's not the point!]

I wonder whether some of the allegedly intimidating, "forensic" questioning is because people are misguidedly trying to work out (in my example) which set of charging provisions would apply. Surely that's not the job of this forum?! Shouldn't we just set out the rules and let the OP apply them? Are folk instead trying to advise the OP? How silly! (And no OP with half a brain would take such advice anyway, as I have said too many times now.)

The OPs that ask "what's the best thing to do?"... your actual freeloaders (haven't used/seen that term in a while) - well, I'm [mostly] staying off those threads now. They (the threads :-)) are pointless. And que sera sera for anyone that takes any "advice" that may be proposed.

So to my actual question... I am viewing all this from a tax advisor perspective, because, well, a tax advisor is what I am. Is it different for accountancy questions?

Thanks (0)
Replying to Tax Dragon:
avatar
By Paul Crowley
06th Aug 2020 17:28

Accountancy without dealing with tax does not exist as a viable trade.
I have some jobs that would exist, Charities and Service charge companies but company accounts MUST disclose tax.
Tax is the driving force and if tax did not exist no self employed person would waste money paying to get accounts when the bank balance tells him what he really needs to know.
Clients never ask about accounts disclosure, just how tax relief or tax chargeability operates.
Most mortgage applications now do not bother asking about accounts, they want proof of income declared to HMRC

Any civilian expects every qualified accountant to be a tax expert.
Similar problem with use of title 'Doctor' expected to mean medical person

Thanks (0)
Replying to Paul Crowley:
avatar
By Tax Dragon
06th Aug 2020 17:33

Yes, but accountancy questions exist in here without any tax relevance. There was one about a CIC and FRS105 v FRS102 reporting today - although you wouldn't have known that that was what it was about from the OP.

But maybe my question is moot. [As I noted with Justin, different training produces different outlooks and different use of language. (John's outlook clearly differs from most in here! :-)) I was just wondering aloud. Ignore me if it's stupid.]

Thanks (0)
Replying to Tax Dragon:
John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
06th Aug 2020 18:30

Not everything in accountancy is based around tax.

In addition to queries about accounting treatments and standards, we also get questions about which accounting software people would recommend, how they deal with troublesome clients, what fees they charge, how difficult it is to find skilled help these days and what other people are watching/reading/doing at the weekend.

There's plenty of room on a site like this for all sorts of conversations - and the broader the variety of issues that crop up, the more likely someone else dealing with a similar issue will be to get some practical help.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Paul Crowley:
avatar
By Tax Dragon
06th Aug 2020 17:42

I also think you downplay the importance of accounts as indicators of performance. A potential buyer or investor would show them a bit more regard than that, I'd venture.

Meanwhile, tax is determined by tax law. It's only because accounts rules have been tightened up that tax has, to some extent, started to fall into line behind the accounts.

Thanks (0)
John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
06th Aug 2020 18:24

Thank you Tax Dragon for providing a focal point for some of our previous conversations about tax-related questions and conversations on Any Answers.

And for the point: "If you intend to plan a course of action based on what you read in here, you should (instead) be taking advice."

That is quite an important principle that is written (in more legal language) in our community terms and conditions: "We will not be liable to any user for any loss or damage, whether in contract, tort (including negligence), breach of statutory duty, or otherwise, even if foreseeable, arising under or in connection with... use of or reliance on any content displayed on our site." The underlying message might be 'freeloaders beware!', but they way you put it is a lot more constructive than comments along the lines of, "Get an accountant... this is a site for professionals."

You've also made an effort to steer clear of some of the less satisfying questions we've seen in the past week or two and your discretion has been really appreciated.

On the finance lease/balloon payments thread that triggered this one, CS777 said this forum used to be good at putting people on the right path. The 2012 example you provide in the link above is a good one. That is the spirit I am trying to work back towards. But just to dispel memories of previous golden ages, I'm certain there were threads that got out of hand back then too and contributors who could turn nasty.

The quality of original questions is something we don't currently police and would raise all sorts of practical and technical issues, so we need to rely on members using their discretion and judgement on whether and how to reply. To repeat myself from the other thread, I always try to make the point that each businessperson posting a question here could be viewed as a potential client.

If they aren't the type of client you'd like to have, then don't waste your time with their query. To me a bit of collective indifference is preferable to maintain the on-site atmosphere than a string of hostile comments.

@lesley.barnes - I take your point and am sorry if I overstated my case in previous comments. But I really want to get across that people are much more liable to take offence or be hurt by things they read on screen, so how you pose those questions to our online potential client does make a difference to how they react. And quoting details from a Companies House search, or making a comment on their posting history doesn't help.

Worth also picking up Tax Dragon's comment on the Transfer of fixed assets thread about the nature of questions shifting from "Am I correct that...?" to "What's the best way of doing this?"

Again, I think that's a big factor that will take some divine intervention to fix. It's a bit much to expect people to take the time to dispense advice following Steve Kesby's example of drawing out the initial premise and leaving the OP to come back with clarifications.

But would anyone here be interested in experimenting with an answer style that was based along the lines of: "Assuming you want to... this approach would take you into areas that... " So giving away a little precautionary information helps to put them back on the right track. And as far as I remember, there's no ban on including a line inviting them to PM you if they'd like a more detailed explanation.

Happy to listen to why that approach would/wouldn't work.

Thanks (2)
Replying to John Stokdyk:
My photo
By Matrix
06th Aug 2020 19:27

I still need to catch up on all these posts but I had no idea that Sift considers posters as potential clients for professional members. I don’t know about others but I do not view them as such and I really don’t want them to PM me.

I come on here to interact with other accountants and this site was indispensable for MTD, CJRS etc. If I reply to civilians it is to put them back on track, not to gain their business.

Thanks (3)
Replying to John Stokdyk:
By mrme89
06th Aug 2020 19:37

Personally, I just think some of the regular members are a bit fed up.

Whilst I appreciate the tone has changed over the years, so has the site. Very little has been done to stop the abuse of the anonymous feature. Very little is done when business owners throw their toys out of the pram when they are told they are getting it wrong (again, I appreciate there’s differing levels to how this said). Very little is done to those who delete their question after receiving helpful answers.

Perhaps there needs to be some give and take between the moderation team and regular contributors to work towards a more harmonious platform?

Thanks (1)
Replying to John Stokdyk:
avatar
By Tax Dragon
06th Aug 2020 22:40

John Stokdyk wrote:

You've also made an effort to steer clear of some of the less satisfying questions we've seen in the past week or two and your discretion has been really appreciated.

I did? Could just be I was working (I know, it's hard to believe) and missed the questions! :-)

I think you said in one of your comments that the written word can easily offend, even if no offence was meant. That's certainly true. I can hear my words in my head when I write; I hear an emphasis here, or there, a stress on this or that word; maybe there's even a mental gesticulation to accompany the sentence. Of course, all of that is lost in translation to the written word. I can read something back a week later and think "that's not what I meant, surely!" - or at least see an unintentional ambiguity. And when I read someone else's words, I will do so with my emphases, not theirs.

Moreover, to my mind, there can be a predisposition towards taking offence, or seeing snidery. (It's what I meant by "you've lost me, what's toxic about..."; it's what I meant by the beholder/reader comments.) Sorry to use you as an example, but this is the first thread I've seen that you personally have been able to comment without being immediately jumped on. (Vitriol? Diatribe? I mean... really?) There may still be a gulf between people's opinions, but maybe this is progress?

Thanks (0)
avatar
By whitevanman
07th Aug 2020 09:06

I have to confess to not having read all the various threads on this but I have seen some.
I would be concerned (would I?) by the suggestion one should not ask questions.
I said in a previous post (to JS I think) that it is not what you know, but what you don't know you don't know.
Example the Steve K thread. The post mentioned transfer of a residential property to the director. No-one asked how it had been used by the company prior to transfer. If it had been used to provide a benefit to the director that would have opened up a whole different set of answers. Of course it is the responsibility of the OP to give all the facts but as I say, you don't know what you don't know.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Tax Dragon
07th Aug 2020 09:07

@John S - may I ask a question?

Here's a thread I've commented on: https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/any-answers/directors-training-costs-0

The answer to the question in the OP takes very few words: "HMRC guidance starts around EIM01200" would do it. But the thread has (currently) 23 replies. That's partly people (me included) saying - "this is the guidance and this is how we think it applies to your client". That's probably misguided, at least in my case. It's also that contributors (me included) are using the thread to explore/debate/discuss the issues in general. (Debates can sometimes become hostile in 'tone' - no particular sign of that in this case, but some replies are, naturally, more curt than others.)

What's your view? Is that all unhelpful trolling (the OP's question having been answered), or legitimate use of the forum as a debating chamber? What do you want to see, on threads like that?

Thanks (0)
Replying to Tax Dragon:
John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
07th Aug 2020 18:11

Thanks for putting up that example. Once the OP says "I get it...", it's quite a useful excursion beyond the topic.

Some of the debate gets quite esoteric, but that's perfectly acceptable and is part of the formula where Any Answers does fulfil its intended mission. The OP has received some practical help, but the nature of their query has opened the door to a deeper debate to entertain and enlighten the participating experts. Everyone's happy - including me. So much so that I chose the question as one of the links in Monday's tax newsletter.

Questions = allowed
Browbeating civilians or making snide comments at other people in thread = not so good.

Obviously some of that is in the eye of the beholder, but most sensible members should be able to identify where the boundary lies. And if they don't, our moderating team will try to remind them.

PS: For the OP's benefit and anyone else who's wrestling with a similar dilemma, I'll repeat Tax Dragon's advice from yesterday: "I you intend to plan a course of action based on what you read in here, you should (instead) be taking advice."

Thanks (0)
Replying to John Stokdyk:
ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
08th Aug 2020 08:21

John Stokdyk wrote:

... making snide comments at other people in thread = not so good.

To clarify, does that include Justin?

John Stokdyk wrote:

... I'll repeat Tax Dragon's advice from yesterday: "I you intend to plan a course of action based on what you read in here, you should (instead) be taking advice."

Does that include your posts? Who can I ask for advice on whether-or-not to follow those?(I’m ignoring the typo when you quote TD).

*serious tone of voice* Obviously I’m being facetious and my above comments should in no way be construed as offensive.

Thanks (1)
By SteveHa
08th Aug 2020 10:24

I can't comment, since I'm QBE and therefore an unprincipled cowboy.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Tax Dragon
10th Aug 2020 10:09

Thanks John for responding to my last "may I ask...?" addressed to you.

Here's one for everyone. If a prospect walked through the door with a question like this: https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/any-answers/best-tax-options-selling-a-b..., none of us (the professionals amongst us anyway) would begin to advise without going through AML procedures. So why we would we even think it is OK to advise in an open forum? Do we think that?

(Wondering aloud... not a question... how have we reached a stage where people think it is OK to ask that sort of question, unless this forum has a reputation for answering them?)

Discussion point: without wanting to point any fingers (except at myself), where would a thread like this https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/any-answers/insurance-payout-on-vat appear on the advice-needing-AML v providing-info/discussing-issues scale? [The question asked in that thread is not one I would accept payment for, given the subject matter, even though I think I could help, so I am hoping that using it as an example is not controversial.]

Thanks (0)
Share this content

Related posts