Partner An unnamed firm
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What is the most frustrating aspect of your job?

A problem shared is supposed to be a problem halved. AccountingWEB's anonymous partner asks readers for the worst aspects of their own professional lives (and comes up with a few of their own).

9th Sep 2019
Partner An unnamed firm
Columnist
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Angry and exasperated employee
istock_jossdim_aw

The writer of this column is frequently criticised for being judgmental and opinionated. On this occasion, my intention is to ask questions rather than answering them.

I have spent decades working in the accountancy field and, for the most part, thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Making clients happy and helping them to negotiate good but fair tax outcomes, while helping younger members of staff to develop their skill sets, should be enough to put a smile on anybody’s face.

However, all of us are obliged to put up with occasional irritations, some of which are enough to drive you round the bend, while others can be accepted as nothing more than an undesired part of life’s rich pageant will go away soon enough.

The funny thing is that what drives me to distraction might actually be fun for somebody else, for example, auditing.

I thought that it might be worthwhile to discover the facets of our professional lives that make days in the office more difficult than they should be.

At worst, discovering that we're not alone in our irritation at certain aspect of the job might help put things in perspective.

But even better, we might be introduced to fresh workarounds or solutions which can help to take away those occasional moments of pain in the future.

To set the ball rolling, here are some of the issues that I would much rather see wished away forever:

  1. Clients who argue interminably over tiny fees or elements of fees, whether they be £5, £50 or £500 (depending on scale).
  2. Clients who refuse to pay fees until they receive a legal letter.
  3. Members of staff who struggle to complete even the most basic of tasks.
  4. The HMRC telephone system.
  5. Complex and unintelligible legislation.
  6. Inspectors of taxes who think that they are above the law.
  7. Computers that misbehave at the most inopportune moments.
  8. Big Four firms (and others) that lowball to steal our clients.
  9. Clients that seem surprised when auditors turn up at the time appointed and take three days to deliver the agreed data then blame your firm.
  10. Private clients who send in tax return information in late January.
  11. Partners who refuse to promote you or offer a decent pay rise until you hand in your notice.

As the song says, these are a few of my favourite things – well perhaps not. If any readers have solutions to these knotty problems, all of us would love to hear them.

You may also have your own beefs that could do with a good airing and sharing and this might be the perfect opportunity to get them off your chest.

Replies (20)

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By Justin Bryant
09th Sep 2019 13:13

Time sheets?

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Replying to Justin Bryant:
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By Homeworker
11th Sep 2019 10:17

One of the main reasons I set up my own practice! Now I make my own rules.

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Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
11th Sep 2019 14:09

12. Clients who look at you as if you personally introduced the legislation that thwarts their " cunning plan" of the day- never fear though, you can be as rude as you like to them as they have thick skins (and brains) , they will be back to you with plans B,C,D and E, on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

13. All aspects of the ML regulations- ever have the feeling that the really decent money launderers can likely get round your checks and all you are really doing is checking the intrinsically honest.

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Lone Wolf
By Lone_Wolf
10th Sep 2019 10:08

This probably ties in with 3, but dealing with stupid people - and I'm not talking about clients. I find my tolerance for them wearing incredibly thin these days.

Now I'm hardly brains of Britain, but when you have supposedly qualified accountants completely ignorant to the fact that the things they are suggesting amount to deliberate tax evasion, then it really makes you despair. Even worse is when they think they're being really clever, so put the incriminating stuff in an email to show everyone how clever they are.

I'm dangerously close to just replying that they are idiots and should hand back her qualification - probably sue whoever put them through it as well for such a poor job.

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x
By rockallj
10th Sep 2019 12:00

No contest, the HMRC telephone system and dealing with HMRC's errors and endless delays.

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By Joe Alderson
10th Sep 2019 13:54

Stupid people are probably my number one, not just clients, it can be colleagues/employees or people working for HMRC.

There was one time I was on the phone to HMRC trying to find out why we hadn't got agent authorisation for the clients Self-Assessment after applying online and then inputting the authorisation code before it expired. The HMRC employee told me that we can't apply for agent authorisation online, it's not possible.

I explained that you can, we did and we had done plenty of times and I was staring that page on the website as we spoke, but no.... apparently I was wrong and none of that existed.

Thanks (6)
Replying to Joe Alderson:
Lone Wolf
By Lone_Wolf
10th Sep 2019 16:06

I once called up to check if HMRC had details of an overlap figure and the guy on the other side was adamant that there was no such thing. Telling him the box number it would be in didn't help, he just point blank refused to believe it was a thing.

It's simply staggering that these people hold down a job with our tax authority :o

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By Tickers
11th Sep 2019 07:22

3. Members of staff who struggle with the most basic of tasks. Dealing with HMRC is frustrating but these people are outside of my control but staff are supposed to be within my control so when they perform poorly it's a reflection on me and ultimately it's my responsibility. But I wonder as to what level of detail do need to instruct people these days to the extent that it's easier to do the job yourself, and they don't seem to learn from their mistakes and everybody needs to be trained in something to use it these days. We're rolling out a new timesheet software and I know that the staff will be flapping around with app trying to log their time when how difficult can it be??? 1 hour client x, 2 hours client y, 15 mins admin, 1 hour lunch. But I'm sure we'll have a meeting after week 1 and the feedback will be that they were getting used to the "new system"

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By Homeworker
11th Sep 2019 10:15

How about clients who appoint you for your expertise and then query every last detail in the accounts/tax return (of course you have already quoted a fee!). I don't mind explaining why I have done what I have done (and usually do so upfront), its the backwards and forwards with umpteen emails trying to justify technical adjustments that they just don't understand.

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Replying to Homeworker:
Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
11th Sep 2019 14:16

At least they are showing an interest- knocking out a set of accounts, especially if tricky/convoluted, only to be faced with disinterest is akin to slaving in the kitchen over a meal and then at best getting a grunt of acknowledgement from those consuming same.

It is a bit like coming in from the garden having laid paths, built walls etc, with scrapes on hands and knees, every bone aching, mortar dust in every orifice just to be told by your other half that she has little sympathy for your plight as you "enjoy" gardening; suspect that sort of line was used on those constructing Stonehenge.

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Replying to DJKL:
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By Tickers
11th Sep 2019 23:12

Not quite.

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Replying to DJKL:
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By Tickers
11th Sep 2019 23:12

Not quite.

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By busacrun
11th Sep 2019 10:55

Clients who take advice from 'Dave' at the local pub and then get annoyed at you for advising that what Dave is suggesting is not actually legal / possible at all

Clients who have a big tax bill and thinks its your fault

clients who answer all your queries, only to come up with a load of extra info once accounts and tax returns are drafted, resulting in you having to adjust and redraft everything

everything about HMRC!

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Replying to busacrun:
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By Joe Alderson
12th Sep 2019 10:50

I've had enough clients who have been advised by "Dave" down at the pub. One of them was a seafarer who definitely didn't qualify for Seafarers Deduction, but his mate told him he did and even if he didn't all he needed to do was put the figure into the right box on his return to get it anyway.

And each year more and more do complain about their tax bill, it's almost like the concept of paying tax on their income is a complete surprise and they've never had to do it before.

Sometimes I really do despair.

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Chris M
By mr. mischief
11th Sep 2019 12:01

Easy one. My top 3:

1. HMRC.
2. HMRC.
3. HMRC.

By a mile.

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Sparkly Orange
By Sparkly
11th Sep 2019 12:28

Right now it has to be HMRCs website and the new Agent Services Account, which displays nothing at all, is impossible to find without an external browser search, and whose stupid idea was it to make it look identical to the existing agent account?! They need one screen with 3 links to log-in i.e click here to login for personal gateway accounts, click here for old agent accounts and click here for new agent services account

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By Vaughan Blake1
11th Sep 2019 17:08

1) Banks
2) HMRC

Working with trusts and charities I find banks are the most frustrating by far. Changing a large trust to a CIO and the bank actually said that all 19 trustees had to attend their branch at the same time, I actually laughed out loud! Try changing the mandate for a new trustee, especially replacing one who had the audacity to die without giving notice.

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By Ken Howard
11th Sep 2019 19:10

How about letting agents' accountants reference requests? 9 times out of 10, they send the wrong form, i.e. they send an employer's reference rather than an accountant's reference. Then they send the wrong accountants' reference, i.e. a sole trader one when it's a limited company. Of course, there's the new hell which is the online questionnaires where it's impossible to enter your own comments, and even once you've submitted, they keep sending the email link time and time again as their systems are so poor, they don't know it's already been submitted. Last one I did, they wanted me to do screen prints as I filled it in and fax them in!!

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Replying to Ken Howard:
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By ChrisA
12th Sep 2019 08:02

Don’t forget them chasing you every hour until you have done it!

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By lam_ac
12th Sep 2019 11:43

Small but irritating (a description of me some might say) - setting up a new dormant company client. A plethora of money laundering requirements and forms, engagement letters, internal procedures to adhere to. All for a negligible fee. The balance between bureaucracy and return seems all out of kilter when doing the initial work.

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