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Who gets helpful answers?

how to get one's questions answered

Life is tough on AW. Non-accountants are told to ask their accountants or to engage an accountant if they don’t already have one and accountants are sent away with a flea in their ear, being told to pass the client to an accountant who knows more about the topic than they do.

When questions are asked by an accountant or tax adviser, what factors decide legitimate questions that are deserving of proper replies from the questions that get  “go forth and multiply” type answers?

Here are some suggestions:

  1. The question is not too basic
  2. The questioner is not anonymous
  3. The answer cannot be found in two minutes of googling
  4. The answer has not been given umpteen times before on AW
  5. The questioner shows that has thought about the issue
  6. There is not a dearth of facts
  7. The question is more or less in standard English (exceptions made for people who do not have English as their first language and me)

I’m talking about members’ de facto rules not AW’s rules.



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By tom123
29th Nov 2017 18:33

I am generally happy with the answers I get.

If I have made a stupid mistake it will get pointed out.

I am, however, in an AWeb minority, being in 'industry' rather than practice - notwithstanding the small handful of practice clients I have - mostly friends.

Mind you, I also post on a very well known parenting forum (beginning with "mum") and that is brutal.

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29th Nov 2017 20:19

UK Business Forums is aimed at business owners rather than accountants.

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By tom123
to scalloway
29th Nov 2017 21:33

But I am one :)

(accountant, that is)

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29th Nov 2017 22:03

Quid pro quo.
If the questioner is an habitual answerer they tend to get a good hearing. The serial questioners who give nothing back can be tiresome.

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By Matrix
29th Nov 2017 23:56

I am all for supporting other accountants and this is the purpose of the forum. I found this site indispensable when I set up and have suffered my fair share of vitriol in the process, hopefully my experience is of some use now.

Re 3., I admit we all google but we are professionals so should also be looking up the legislation/Tolleys/Manuals etc.

I was helpful to another accountant the other day and the thread was randomly closed and I am still waiting for an apology for a defamatory remark. Probably have to toughen up a bit (and Sift should tighten the rules too).

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30th Nov 2017 08:57

It's very easy to tell, from the question asked, the difference between those who have thought about the issue and either because of some misunderstanding or some gap in their knowledge are struggling to wrap their head around it, and those who see this as tax google but staffed by humans so they need to put even less effort into their queries.

The former will invariably give back, the latter will only take. It's a community, there are not 'askers' and 'answerers', if you have nothing to offer anyone other than demands, petulance and bad grammar then why should anyone bother being polite?

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30th Nov 2017 08:59

I think you need to pass the bar of basic competence and ask something that is genuinely engaging

So if its a (a) current topic others are thinking about, you will get a good result
(b) general business question that has no right answer, good result
(c) technical question where you have shown your thinking, but are unsure
(d) grey area generally

What gets a poor response is
(a) something you could have googled
(b) a question you have not even attempted to look up and half answer
(c) A question so basic it brings into question your competence to act, ie from someone who probably ought not be acting in the first place
(d) anying clearly not from a accountant full stop

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By mrme89
30th Nov 2017 09:15

I do not see why those responding should put far more effort into their answer than the questioner has put into their question.

With Google you can do research in minutes. If you are still unsure, there is no reason why you can't put together a half decent question. With a lot of the dumba$$ questions, it's difficult to tell what the question actually is.

I presume the list in the OP is supposed to be a dig at some members. However, none of them are onerous or need to be completed by a wizard, and if everyone tried to stick to them, the quality of the site would improve drastically - dare I say return to the site it once was?

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30th Nov 2017 09:39

Personally I'm very happy with the assistance I've received from Aweb members.

As for others, the objection to (1) is that, if the question is too basic, you can deduce that the querist won't understand the answer or will have made other errors that they don't recognise. These people need an accountant and that's the best advice you can give them.

(2) Anonymous questions are just bad manners imho. And pointless anyway, unless they give a very full account of the problem, as providing supplementary information will reveal their identity.

(6) and (7) I'm constantly surprised by what people think isn't relevant. How can one advise on half the facts ? Poor English ? You're asking for a favour, if your query is too hard to understand, respondents will misinterpret what you say or won't bother trying to dicipher your query.

Haven't really got any major thoughts on the other points. I've no objection to a repeat performance occasionally, best software threads, for instance, will change as new stuff comes on the market. On the other hand, the forum just gets cluttered if two or three threads suddenly appear saying the HMRC site is down again.

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30th Nov 2017 11:35

These are my rules:

Nothing annoys me more than people asking the wrong question, because they've already made (possibly incorrect) assumptions about the solution to their problem.

Edit: Might I also just add the word [***], because I can.

Edit 2: [***]! They've added [***] to the swear filter.

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to Portia Nina Levin
30th Nov 2017 13:39


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to Portia Nina Levin
12th Jan 2018 00:09

Thanks PNL - some extra light reading ...

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to Portia Nina Levin
12th Jan 2018 01:21

They've added the word Soviet to the swear filter?!

What will I do now?

I blame the Soviets.

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30th Nov 2017 10:30

To run through the points in order

1 - If a question is basic, then the person in question should not be doing accounts. If you screw up the basice, then you're going to REALLY screw up the more complicated stuff.
2 - I have yet to see a question that justifies anonymity. I have seen the option repeatedly abused.
3 - If you can't be bothered to put in any effort finding an answer, why should we.
4 - Depends on the subject and when it was asked before. Rules change and resurrecting a question asked under old rules is usually less helpful
5 - See 3. No effort from you. No effort from me.
6. - See 3 and 5. If you want an answer, provide all the facts up front.
7 -The question needs to be understandable, and use technical terms correctly. Beyond that, unless it appears lazily written, I can live with some English errors.

The big missing rule from this list for me.

Don't cop an attitude over the answers you get. Get an accountant is often the right answer. Giving a non-accountant an answer to a single problem they've identified does them more harm than good. (because they'll be tripped up by all the problem they haven't spotted). If something cannot be done, don't keep insisting that it can if people would just understand you properly. Above all, if you've made a mistake (perhaps even asked a stupid question) admit that mistake.

People getting answers here are getting them for free. It's not much to ask that they show some respect to those they are seeking help from, is it?

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By Ruddles
to stepurhan
30th Nov 2017 11:34

stepurhan wrote:

2 - I have yet to see a question that justifies anonymity.

Speaking from personal experience, I suspect that it is often the case that it is the individual's behaviour on this site, and not the question, that justifies anonymity ;¬)
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to Ruddles
30th Nov 2017 11:45

Ruddles wrote:

Speaking from personal experience, I suspect that it is often the case that it is the individual's behaviour on this site, and not the question, that justifies anonymity ;¬)
Using that "justification" I can actually think of loads of questions that "justify" anonymity. :-)
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30th Nov 2017 10:52

Mine (for what it is worth)
- stop adding to posts which are years old and well out of date
- anything starting with ~"so" should be ignored
- homework questions should be stated up front
- ditto everyone else

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30th Nov 2017 11:06

None of the points really bother me that much.

I do get a tad annoyed with the "I've just formed a company" ones where," whether a company is appropriate" has not really been decided by the OP by logic but merely arrived upon by fad and fashion, "my friend Bert has a company" etc

It is akin to someone saying I want to go on a trip, I don't know where I am going or for how long or why, but irrespective of this lack of basic understanding I have decided that running there rather than taking the train is the way to travel.

I suspect my responses are more often a reflection of my own mood rather than a reflection of the question asked, sometimes sweetness and light and sometimes slightly more tart; so if anyone gets a 10 p.m answer going for the jugular you likely have timed your question just after my charming daughter has stung me for yet more money for something.

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30th Nov 2017 11:23

Just ask "Any Question" but be prepared for hubris, prejudice and discourtesy.

How's Mrs T, what does she think?

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30th Nov 2017 11:36

Hiya guys, this is my first post on this site and I'm really really excited about it. Hope you guys are feeling good. OK, here goes, I've just started a new company and I haven't got an acccountant cos the business can't afford one of course so I'm hoping you guys can help me out for free haha.

So do you guys think I can? My mate says he does it all the time and his accountant doesn't say he can't and HMRC have never queried it, so it must be right, right? Thanks for reading. Love to hear all your opinions, especially the ones that say it's OK.

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to andy.partridge
30th Nov 2017 11:49

Dear Andy.Partridge

Your question is important to us but currently all our operatives are busy, please hold for the next available operative.

Automated Response South Edinburgh

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to andy.partridge
12th Jan 2018 01:27

A friend of my wife set up a company because she was basically 'advised' to (by a bloke down the pub).

When I told her it cost £13 a year to just KEEP the company alive she nearly fell out of her chair. £13! she shrieked! What for? Daylight robbery.....

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30th Nov 2017 13:08

Just a reflection of the industry as a whole. Far to many claiming to be practicing accountants when they have not got a clue about very basic stuff.
I occasionally ask a question and almost without exception get the answer or pointed in the right direction.
The benefit of 30 years experience is that you get a good handle on the stuff you know you do not know.

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30th Nov 2017 13:53

surely a practicing accountant is one who has not got it right yet.

I find It get a reasonable response to my questions without too much hammer, apart my bad spelling and poor punctuation. My questions tend be around "this has just happened to me, has anyone come across the same " as i find the experience/advice of others on the same boat of great use to me.

I don't often feel the need to hammer of ridicule those who post daft question, or sniffing for free info as I get enough of those in my day to day so just don't answer them and leave others to police them.

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