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Accountants debate charging a furlough processing fee

The question of how much accountancy firms should charge for the furlough scheme has been hotly debated on AccountingWEB. In his latest polemic, Kevin Whitehouse gives his take on accountancy’s current dilemma.

28th Apr 2020
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Last Monday morning, many accountants got up at 6am and started feeding their clients information into HMRC’s furlough portal and were still there at 11pm in the evening - and they continued this routine all week.

Overworked accountants have already written off hours of billable time since the virus intensified and this charitable nature has extended to the job retention scheme. However, the conversation about being paid and how they’re going to be rewarded hasn’t come up. 

But as one anonymous reader posted on Any Answers: “I have offered hours upon hours of free of charge advice and support these last few weeks: where do we draw the line?” 

‘It just wouldn’t feel right’

Despite preparing detailed spreadsheets with most of the figures and calculations over the weekend, many AccountingWEB readers have opted against charging

“It just wouldn't feel right sending them an invoice in these times,” noted AccountingWEB reader Sheepy306. The reader has done a huge amount of free work in the last few weeks and recognises that it's done nothing for their cashflow and financial position.

“I see it as an investment in our ongoing and future client relationship, it cements what is hopefully a good existing relationship.”

AccountingWEB reader Twa also decided against charging. “It isn’t anything like when auto enrolment came about,” the reader said. “They are going through some tough times, and it makes no sense for me to charge them for this when their staff need it more than they do.” 

NH echoed this point. “[I]n a time of unprecedented crisis we have committed to work for more hours and make slightly less profit than we normally would... I am able to do that because I have built up sufficient resources and have the capacity to work seven days a week for a short while.”

'Doing free work isn't the way'

But the longer the lockdown goes on, some accountants are starting to rethink not charging a fee - even if it’s a token gesture of £25 per employer claim like AccountingWEB member and one-man-band Marky.  

“The calculation on the spreadsheet takes time, the client and employee information gathering in order to complete the claims takes time... I know that I'm building up great goodwill with some clients but some would leave in a heartbeat without blinking,” writes the reader. 

“Surely we must place even a small value on this amount of service. If you run weekly payroll and large payrolls then you have to surely charge something as the workload may be huge."

Bucking the trend, other readers actually had clients instructing them to charge. JD said: “I have clients telling me to make sure I do make a charge, despite my reluctance. I tend to support it, it's an investment in our clients' view.” 

In my opinion, reactions to the COVID-19 crisis and the furlough scheme are being fuelled by emotions, which is understandable. Whilst being charitable and helpful is commendable, doing a bunch of work for free isn’t the way.

Are you asking the right question?

So, while many accountancy firms ponder how much they should charge, the question they should ask is what is the value to my client. 

The value to your client is the level of service you offer or have completed. If you have already done the work and not charged or agreed on fees yet, then by default you have already lost value because now you are in a position of weakness to dictate the price.

If you do not charge for this service you are not only damaging your own business by simply not making a profit and there is also evidence some are even damaging their health over this.  

By not charging for a service, you are sending a message that what you do has no value, and in turn clients will not always respect what you say. You are becoming the hired help instead of the trusted advisor you deserve to be.

You may be surprised to hear, your clients don’t really want the furlough scheme. What they want is peace of mind and not to worry. They really want things to get back to normal and for everything to be alright, and they want to know you are the go-to person to reassure and look after them, they will be happy to pay for that service.

You could add value and provide fast efficient service so they don’t have to worry and then package that with dealing with their PAYE, pension scheme, notifying the staff with the appropriate communication and maybe offering full HR and coaching support during furlough to make sure the staff are fully engaged for when the business returns.

Or do they just want some quick cash without spending a penny to get it? As the old adage goes, you can have a quality service, a cheap service or a fast service, but you can’t have all three come to mind.

Therefore to answer this question: Yes you most definitely should charge

How much depends on what type of client you have. If they are your ideal client, what other services are you including? How do you help them and ultimately, what value do they place on your proposition?

Unless you change the way you serve your clients and stop being a servant, you are doomed to a life of misery, stress, heartache and a load of work for which most of it you won't even get paid for.

As for the accountants fretting because they don’t know how to ask clients for money and organise how they’re getting paid, they should take solace in AccountingWEB user Johnny Fartpants. “Interestingly ALL clients have seemed more than happy with the fee when faced with the task of doing this for themselves. Likewise, I am feeling a lot better now that I'm not doing all this for free.”

That’s my two cents. But everyone's decision is different and is based on many factors. So are you charging a fee or are you processing the claims for free?

Replies (61)

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By simsonj
28th Apr 2020 10:10

If you thought of doing it for free do not forget to add the time that it will take to create the engagement letter, particularly if you are using the wisdom from ICAEW!

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By why always me
28th Apr 2020 10:10

We advised clients the week before of the information we would need and told them there would be a charge in the region of normal monthly processing cost for the furlough claim.

Entire office has been doing this all week and no client has questioned fee and majority are happy you are helping them (remember we could have closed). There are many hours at the start basically comforting and informing help available that we will not charge for, but this is a tedious time consuming task and clients appreciate our help.

This is an incredibly valuable service, both in monetary and stress levels for clients unable to pay staff and we are probably undercharging, but covering our own costs at least.

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By paullacey007
28th Apr 2020 10:17

Yes I decided on a nominal charge as up until then like most accountants I had given hours and days of advice for free and thought long and hard about when I started my 80 furlough claims. I came to conclusion that a nominal charge of £20 per claim seemed reasonable and I've had nothing negative from clients, indeed most clients appreciated that the furlough claims took time and thanked me for the work I had done beforehand keeping them informed and the claim itself!

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By Michael B Bennett
28th Apr 2020 10:15

If you do not charge for doing this, then you are placing a "zero" value on your services; if you value them at zero, how can you expect any client to value them. also, if you can do this at no charge, then your clients may expect you to do other things for no charge. I believe a token charge is a correct approach, after all, you might be doing this for 6 months. I have been asked to do this for 100 clients.

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By Michael B Bennett
28th Apr 2020 10:15

If you do not charge for doing this, then you are placing a "zero" value on your services; if you value them at zero, how can you expect any client to value them. also, if you can do this at no charge, then your clients may expect you to do other things for no charge. I believe a token charge is a correct approach, after all, you might be doing this for 6 months. I have been asked to do this for 100 clients.

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By Philip Nickson
28th Apr 2020 10:16

If accountants do not put a price on their work then neither will the client. I have given my clients the option: Do it yourself or get me to do it for a fee. In fact I emailed all clients before the HMRC portal went live and told them it was an "estimated" fee. Two came back to me and said, very pragmatically, that as they were currently not working they might as well do it themselves. Another thought I was being unreasonable in charging, tried doing it himself and then came back asking me to do it as he realised it was not so easy. My rationale for charging is (a) it's extra work, and (b) my staff wanted paying.

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Replying to Philip Nickson:
By RM and Co
28th Apr 2020 10:20

Hi Philip, I appreciate what you are saying, but they can argue that you have not done the usual work for them as the business was not trading. Instead you are doing something different for them rather than their normal tasks.

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Replying to RM and Co:
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By Philip Nickson
28th Apr 2020 10:31

So what ? Just because it's new does not stop it being chargeable. My approach of telling clients before I do work tends to forestall problems.

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Replying to RM and Co:
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By hibees07
28th Apr 2020 11:01

Remember that some of these clients won't recover from this and the likelihood is that fees won't get paid for any work that's been done not just CJRS grant claims work
Passing this work on to accountants and also the stress that goes with it and not expecting to be charged is very unreasonable.
Someone actually accused me of putting the boot in!
Accountants have to put food on the table too and if like me you are a sole trader it's even more important to make a reasonable and fair charge for the work done.

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Replying to Philip Nickson:
By 0098087
28th Apr 2020 10:26

same here

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By RM and Co
28th Apr 2020 10:16

(If you have already done the work and not charged or agreed on fees yet, then by default you have already lost value because now you are in a position of weakness to dictate the price.)

I disagree with this comment. For our firm and many others this task is ongoing. It was not a one off job. I personally am not willing to charge as my charges are already high compare to other firms, however there is still time for sending invoices out to clients and of course dictating the price.

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By BryanS1958
28th Apr 2020 10:24

I would hope that my clients would expect me to charge, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

I haven't noticed supermarkets, chemists and other businesses giving everything free to help customers in need; if anything prices seem to have gone up. All my suppliers are continuing to charge me full whack, so why should I not charge for my services?

If you are feeling philanthropic you could always donate your fees from furloughing to charity.

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By roger brisley
28th Apr 2020 10:23

I cannot see a problem with charging at normal rates but I would see a moral issue with taking a premium on the work. You could discount the work making it clear what the discount is but its probably only creating a rod for your own back in the future..

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By [email protected]
28th Apr 2020 10:24

Rather than charge clients for the first month's filing we have decided not to charge but have asked them to donate the fee of £25 to an NHS charity. That way they understand that there is a cost involved and we will issue fees for the second and subsequent months as it is taking us a full 2 manweeks to deal with the submissions.

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By Ian McTernan CTA
28th Apr 2020 10:30

Charging clients who currently have zero/much impacted income will come back to bite you.
I decided to help my clients through this crisis - the last thing they need from me at the moment is a bigger bill. I am making no additional charge for this, plus no charge for sending them updates as new schemes are announced.
This is a defining moment in your relationship with your clients. Do you see them as a money pit to be gauged as much as possible or are you there to help them and have a closer relationship with them which will last for years?
When they needed your help the most and you could build up huge goodwill going forward, did you extend a hand and share the pain or did you put your hand out and ask for more?
My clients know that when things get tough I am right there with them helping them through it. If you're charging then your clients realise that you don't care about them they are merely a number to you- so don't expect them to be loyal when things improve.
Reap what you sow.

Thanks (6)
Replying to Ian McTernan CTA:
By Duggimon
28th Apr 2020 11:13

I went to Tesco the other day and was astonished to find that, despite the ongoing crisis, they still wanted me to pay for my food.

Tesco need to realise this is a defining moment in our relationship and they could earn some serious goodwill from me if they gave away their food rather than gouging me by charging me the going rate for groceries.

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Replying to Duggimon:
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By philaccountant
28th Apr 2020 11:47

Your relationship with Tesco ends each time you walk out the door. The barrier to competition is the time it takes to walk to the next shop. It's in no way comparable to a relationship with an accountant or tax adviser.

And actually many businesses in other sectors are doing things for free and giving some of their time and resources away to those who *need it*.

I think everyone needs to do what's right for them and their clients but in my case I agree with Ian, if you can afford to then I would not be sending additional bills at a time in which many clients are in dire straits.

I don't see it as working for free as we will still be expecting to be paid our usual fees in good time. I see it as helping people who need our help at a difficult time.

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Replying to philaccountant:
By Duggimon
28th Apr 2020 11:55

As I said in my more full response below, we're making a lot of concessions to help clients through this, they just don't extend to offering to do work for free.

The clients can do this themselves and have all the information necessary. If they prefer to have us do it for them then that is a choice they are making and not an obligation on us. It is not part of the work covered by the payroll fees, it is an additional service, requested by the client.

By all means wait until everyone's back on their feet before billing them, I don't think we're sending any bills to anyone not currently working for the moment, but do bill them for it. Or don't, I mean it's your choice, I just wholeheartedly resent the implication that I ought to not charge at all, that it's somehow the right thing to do.

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Replying to Duggimon:
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By johnjenkins
28th Apr 2020 13:58

Also have you noticed how the prices have increased. Obviously to pay for the extra security staff and the sanitation equipment used for the trolleys.
We use a bit of PR by not charging, but adding a bit on at the year end accounts.

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Replying to johnjenkins:
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By ronwelsh
30th Apr 2020 10:00

johnjenkins wrote:

Also have you noticed how the prices have increased. Obviously to pay for the extra security staff and the sanitation equipment used for the trolleys.
We use a bit of PR by not charging, but adding a bit on at the year end accounts.


I'm flabbergasted you are even prepared to write this down in black and white. So what you are saying is we pretend we are doing something for free then later we sneak a charge in on an invoice for other work. You need to take a long hard look at yourself. That's deception.
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Replying to ronwelsh:
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By johnjenkins
30th Apr 2020 11:16

I'm flabbergasted that you are even in business. I don't pretend anything and I'm certainly not doing something for free. I don't charge clients for advice or any other matter that arises throughout the year. However I sit down with them when discussing the next years fee and charge accordingly. The client can accept or go. I've never yet lost a client because of the way I work. In fact most clients like the fact that they don't get bills for this that and "value added" the other.
You really do need to read what people say not interpret what you think they said.

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Replying to Ian McTernan CTA:
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By GW
28th Apr 2020 11:58

Clients appreciate the hand holding in these uncertain times, they also realise that if we don't charge for the work we are doing there is a significant risk that they won't have an accountant when this is all over as we will have gone bust.

We are not charging premium rates, which would be wrong, but we can't afford to work for free.

Thanks (2)
Replying to Ian McTernan CTA:
joe
By Smokoe Joe
28th Apr 2020 12:04

Totally agree, it is swings and roundabouts, most of my clients are now on a monthly "subscription", the JRS claim will be the swing to the three entry VAT return roundabout.

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By Duggimon
28th Apr 2020 10:31

Our clients pay us to process their payroll. In the course of doing this work, we provide them with payroll reports detailing what is paid to their staff in each pay period.

They therefore have all the information they need to enter a claim, but want us to do it for them. It seems bizarre that you wouldn't charge for this.

With a view to the strange times we live in, and the difficult position many clients find themselves in, we are not seeking payment from them immediately, or even imminently, but the idea of not charging for a service provided is crazy. We care about our clients and are responsive to the problems they have and happy to work with them when cash flow is tight to try and help, but not to the extent that we would work for free.

All kinds of businesses are continuing through this crisis and providing goods and services essential to people at this time, and they are all still charging the usual rates for doing so because they are businesses and things with value require to be paid for.

Thanks (2)
Replying to Duggimon:
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By Philip Nickson
28th Apr 2020 11:56

It still comes back to the fact that if you don't put a value on your services you can bet your clients won't.

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By Gillian Mill
28th Apr 2020 10:37

This is not the first stream on charging for work during lockdown and I am amazed it is even under debate. I log all my time which will be charged to my clients, whether it is giving advice, making claims, providing info for loan applications or just verbal hand holding. I haven't furloughed my staff so we can continue to support clients and I need to pay them.

The only concession is a reduced hourly rate for my time when I'm doing work which would normally be done by a cheaper member of staff. Only a couple of clients have asked how much and no-one has expected my services to be free.

We are also agreeing to a 3 month payment holiday for those clients who pay monthly but they have to ask, I'm not advertising it.

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7om
By Tom 7000
28th Apr 2020 10:40

I have done 100+ payrolls. Staff cost is about £20 per employee. If you want to cover your overheads and have money for food at Tescos for yourself. £30 per employee

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7om
By Tom 7000
28th Apr 2020 10:41

I have done 100+ payrolls. Staff cost is about £20 per employee. If you want to cover your overheads and have money for food at Tescos for yourself. £30 per employee

Thanks (3)
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By Ron Enticott
28th Apr 2020 10:48

I see no problem in charging a fee for this service particularly where a payroll service is already provided. Whilst a client could do this themselves it is likely to be more time-consuming for them and little nuances such as not claiming for employers NI due to the impact of employment allowance may not be known by the client. In much of our tax work we are calculating and advising clients as to their tax liabilities, a service for which they pay. Here we are getting something back for the client and they are grateful for that. Do not undervalue your services. I have offered for a small fee to make the claim for a charity of which I am Treasurer. The payroll is outsourced but they are not making JRS claims. In fact in order to note on the payroll that someone is furloughed they are making a charge of £5 per employee!
In sending out fee accounts for 2019-20 recently I have been offering extended time to pay or pay by instalments. I have also offered to loan selected self-employed clients the equivalent of the estimated monthly SEISS payment to be repaid when the actual payment comes through, hopefully in June.
Rone

Thanks (1)
All Paul Accountants in Leeds
By paulinleeds
28th Apr 2020 11:12

I'm charging £15 for small companies each month. I'm invoicing at the end of June when hopefully we are mostly all back to work.

A client said that they'd do their own as they have free time. They couldn't do it and so I did it for them.

'£15 is a bargain' said one client.

Is anyone else that you are a customer of giving their services away for free in the next few months due to current hard time? I doubt it. So why should we. We can be charitable but we are not charities.

I think if I keep my general prices fair, without lots of padding for all the extras, then when extras are required I make a charge. It therefore depends on what price the client is paying for everything else.

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By Rgab1947
28th Apr 2020 11:18

I cannot understand the free bit.

Does your plumber/electrician do a freebie? No! even though maybe flooded or in darkness.
Does the restaurant give you a free meal because you are hungry? No!
Does the solicitor do a free conveyancing job because your father passed away? No!
Does HMRC forgive you the tax bill because you cannot pay? No!

So why debate the free bit. You are doing a job for which you are qualified and do as an offerring to business.

Try telling your wife its bread and water because you did all those freebies.

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By Alan Ovenden
28th Apr 2020 11:30

I have completed the job retention grant application for the majority of my PAYE clients. I have charged a fee of £25 per client. My view is that my time is valuable and my charges are reasonable and therefore I don't lose any sleep in charging.

The majority of my clients have thanked me for my time in processing their claim and also paid my fee.

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By Alan Ovenden
28th Apr 2020 11:30

I have completed the job retention grant application for the majority of my PAYE clients. I have charged a fee of £25 per client. My view is that my time is valuable and my charges are reasonable and therefore I don't lose any sleep in charging.

The majority of my clients have thanked me for my time in processing their claim and also paid my fee.

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By Wilco707
28th Apr 2020 11:50

I agree with the author who states above "By not charging for a service, you are sending a message that what you do has no value, and in turn clients will not always respect what you say. You are becoming the hired help instead of the trusted advisor you deserve to be". Creating goodwill is OK to a point (and for us that was the first week or so of fielding calls and queries from clients), but if the client wants you to do this for them it means they can't, and therefore of great value to them. Presumably you are paying your staff to do the work and so, unless you are in buiness for charitable purposes, you should be charging.

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By unclejoe
28th Apr 2020 12:09

May I make a comment as a user of accounting services rather than as a supplier nowadays. Absolutely you should charge. Good accountants are perceived by customers in the same way as consultants. In consulting quality of service is assumed to be related to price and it is common for business to increase as price increases. By all means dress it up as a discount, or extra help by agreeing deferred payments, and accept that some customers may end up not being able to pay. And if you have customers that are very long standing and have been good clients - do the work pro-bono, but if you do make sure that the client knows this is a goodwill cost you are incurring, and they know the real value of that work. Or show your community commitment by donating part of the fee to charity, etc, but make sure that you take advantage of this in your marketing/communications. If clients want to do it themselves that's fine, you don't really want this work anyway, but my guess is that most will find it better to leave it to the experts. Ask yourself, if I can't add value at a time like this am I really a good accountant. And if you are, and you are still uneasy, invest in a course on sales and marketing! Just my tuppenceworth.

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By sally1964
28th Apr 2020 12:56

When we sent out our invoices for end of year PAYE, P60's etc we stated that the invoices excluded anything to do with CJRS claims as we did not know the true cost of the time and we would bill in the future.

We have had many discussions in the office about this and we will need to decide how long each client has taken us, some are straight forward, other meant looking at average earnings etc to see what what best for the employee if on zero hours etc.

I will send a fee in due course, asking for payment when they are in a financial position to pay it. I think about 75% of my clients will pay without hesitation - it probably wont be at our normal rates but as other people have said - we are not charities, still have a few claims to make but they are on the clients that have repeatedly not paid our bills even though they are months over due and we had already told them that we were not doing any more work for them.

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By sally1964
28th Apr 2020 12:56

When we sent out our invoices for end of year PAYE, P60's etc we stated that the invoices excluded anything to do with CJRS claims as we did not know the true cost of the time and we would bill in the future.

We have had many discussions in the office about this and we will need to decide how long each client has taken us, some are straight forward, other meant looking at average earnings etc to see what what best for the employee if on zero hours etc.

I will send a fee in due course, asking for payment when they are in a financial position to pay it. I think about 75% of my clients will pay without hesitation - it probably wont be at our normal rates but as other people have said - we are not charities, still have a few claims to make but they are on the clients that have repeatedly not paid our bills even though they are months over due and we had already told them that we were not doing any more work for them.

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By dwgw
28th Apr 2020 13:39

Good debate - I'm glad this isn't my line of work and therefore not a dilemma I face.
The only "right" answer is what works for you and your clients.
The black and white views are unhelpfully divisive though - whether it's of the "you don't value your service if you don't charge" variety or the "you don't care about your client relationships if you do charge" type. Shades of grey, people, shades of grey.

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Replying to dwgw:
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By mbee1
28th Apr 2020 13:55

dwgw wrote:

Good debate - I'm glad this isn't my line of work and therefore not a dilemma I face.
The only "right" answer is what works for you and your clients.
The black and white views are unhelpfully divisive though - whether it's of the "you don't value your service if you don't charge" variety or the "you don't care about your client relationships if you do charge" type. Shades of grey, people, shades of grey.

I agree it's what is right for the client and is not clear cut. The nature of our services mean that most of our payrolls are charities or not for profit organisations and I try and keep the fees as low as possible. I made the decision that the CJRS claim formed part of the payroll process and that i would do it and not charge.

Some of these may not survive anyway and I don't want to make it worse by charging fees they were not expecting. I bill my payrolls quarterly and I'm also expecting to not charge a small number of them at the end of June where their cashflow has been severly curtailed.

We're all in this together and I'm not going to be seen as profiteering from this pandemic. It's taken up a chunk of my time but - so what, I'd hate to think my clients saw me as mean spirited particularly when most of my new clients come by way of recommendation.

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Replying to mbee1:
By Silver Birch Accts
28th Apr 2020 16:26

If you believe that ''we're all in this together'' then you are sadly mistaken.
I have clients who are benefiting from Local Council grants, removal of Business Rates and the Job Retention Scheme. Some are doing very nicely out of this situation without needing to lift a finger. You are worrying about seen as a profiteer, well I have news for you - clients do not worry about this.

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All Paul Accountants in Leeds
By paulinleeds
28th Apr 2020 16:47

The more I think about this, the more I cannot take some of you accountants seriously. Why would any sane business person (and supposedly a trusted advisors) recommend giving away their time, money and energy for free just because of a temporary economic situation. I do not see their 'goodwill' having much value. It will soon be forgotten …. if ever it was noticed / remembered.

Why you do work without agreeing a fee …. in the hope that 75% of your clients will pay it? Clearly 25% do not value your work!

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By North East Accountant
28th Apr 2020 17:44

The most tragic situation of all... someone dying.

When I was last at the funeral directors they were terrible professional and you know what despite the tragic circumstances they did charge.... massively.

And you know what I'll go back there again when I need those services again.

Each to their own and if you are happy to spend your life away from your loved ones flogging yourself to death, that's entirely up to you.

For me, I've done this for more years than I care to mention but now I'm no longer prepared to do it. You get very little thanks and as soon as it suits them many clients will drop or bump you without a moments thought.

In years gone by I would have done this one for free too, but not this time... I might as well be home with my kids having fun rather than working all hours for nothing.

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Replying to North East Accountant:
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By sally1964
30th Apr 2020 13:21

I felt sad reading your post, most of my clients totally appreciate what we do for them and could not run their businesses without us. We have had flower deliveries, wine as well as thank you emails. And they know we will need to charge them.

We have on the flipside delivered cakes to some of our clients(mother unable to leave house and bakes us so many cakes).

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Replying to North East Accountant:
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By sally1964
30th Apr 2020 13:21

I felt sad reading your post, most of my clients totally appreciate what we do for them and could not run their businesses without us. We have had flower deliveries, wine as well as thank you emails. And they know we will need to charge them.

We have on the flipside delivered cakes to some of our clients(mother unable to leave house and bakes us so many cakes).

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Replying to North East Accountant:
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By sally1964
30th Apr 2020 13:21

I felt sad reading your post, most of my clients totally appreciate what we do for them and could not run their businesses without us. We have had flower deliveries, wine as well as thank you emails. And they know we will need to charge them.

We have on the flipside delivered cakes to some of our clients(mother unable to leave house and bakes us so many cakes).

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Replying to sally1964:
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By johnjenkins
30th Apr 2020 13:36

Sally have you got hiccups?

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By Refs1
28th Apr 2020 21:45

We are treating each case on its merits. We will consider client loyalty, annual fee budget, client referrals and lastly the time it takes to undertake the claim.

I have read this with great interest and do like the per employee method charge. The one director client jobs tend to be our most profitable and also loyalist clients most of these will be undertaken free of charge or a slight increase factored into there annual accounts that tend to be charged late summer.

A lot of clients have been with 15 to 25 years not moaned about fees and paid on time, this time is to repay that loyalty. We won’t be rushing bills out, at the same time Furlough cases will not be treated urgent unless severe financial difficulties were arising.

Trying to take a sensible view on this.

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Jennifer Adams
By Jennifer Adams
29th Apr 2020 12:01

Unfortunately at the beginning of the lockdown (before the schemes were announced) I told my clients that I would not be charging. I thought it would be extra advice not completing forms myself.
Then I completed the CJRS forms.
It took me hours.
I'm torn - shall I charge or shall I do as craig has done and ask them to give the money to charity? My guess is that clients wont do the latter so I think I'll charge a nominal amount.
I suppose I could then give the money to charity on behalf of the business and send clients some confirmation that I have done so.

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By DKB-Sheffield
29th Apr 2020 13:56

Dear All

I am shocked and amazed that this question is still being asked!

On announcement of CJRS in March, this question was posed and the advice - nay DIRECTIVE from AWeb was along the lines of...

The crisis is NOT our clients fault. We must therefore support them financially and otherwise. After all, WE should have advised them better with crisis planning.

Advice was (for ALL CLIENTS - not just those in hardship)...

- Not to charge for specific advice e.g. CJRS)
- To cease charging entirely for ongoing work/ retainers
- To write off work in progress
- To pay clients retainers to cover their ongoing costs
- To cover clients for lost income

All of the above should continue until all client businesses are back to normal and 100% back on track - this will be years!

If we can do the above from reserves, fine. If not it was advised we take out loans in order that our clients don't have to.

I have carried out as above to point 3. Some clients (who are struggling) have insisted they pay the WIP (I have accepted and expect and deserve to be chastised on here for so doing!). However, another (who is trading fairly normally from a home-based businesses) has insisted I pay them the £10K rates grant that they have lost out on because I never advised them to have their home split into residential/ non-residential! I'm sure this is a regular issue but, it is correct - WE SHOULD have had the foresight and WE SHOULD have advised accordingly!

I will soon be starting on points 4 and 5. I know I am behind most of you on this and thoroughly deserve the possible litugation that will follow. However, I have no idea how I'll do this... given the combined loss of income claim for one week alone is around 5x the entire annual revenue of my practice! How are others handling this?

Clearly this will all be difficult/ nigh on impossible. However, if some accountants do as directed/ advised and others either; don't or cherry pick, we're likely to end up with years of litigation cases!!!

Finally, people keep mentionning Tesco! PLEASE STOP! Tesco is a business and is required to make profit!!! WE are neither!!! Furthermore, RetailWEB (I know it doesn't exist... that's not the point) has not DIRECTED Tesco to give food away for free OR to pay it's customers retainers or loss of income. We're this to change, or if Tesco were to cease being in business with a view to making profit, it would be a more equal for comparison.

So, to end a long post

- NO certainly DO NOT charge for CJRS
- DO NOT charge any fees for ongoing work
- WRITE OFF any old WIP
- PAY clients retainers
- PAY clients for lost income

It really can't be simpler than that? Can it?

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Replying to DKB-Sheffield:
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By BryanS1958
29th Apr 2020 14:08

I'm currently in the process of applying for charitable status:-)

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