Making assumptions about clients

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Mark Lee
Mentor and Speaker for accountants
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We’ve all done it I’m sure. We make assumptions about what our clients want, their reasons for asking for advice, the fees they will pay and their motivations in business, explains Mark Lee. But what if we’re wrong?

Why do accountants assume?

The main reason accountants do it I suspect is because we think we’re entitled to make assumptions based on our experience. And, yes, I know I’m making an assumption of my own here. It’s so easy to do.

If you have plenty of experience in practice then you should, almost by definition, know what tends to drive clients.

After all, you have worked with plenty of other clients who have faced similar issues and challenges. You have experienced the reactions of many, many clients to your fee proposals. And you can point to dozens of occasions where your preconceptions and expectations have been matched by reality.

Perhaps you also think that clients expect you to know all the answers and that this requires you to also know why they have asked their questions.

Maybe there are other reasons?

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  • The dangers
  • Fee limiting
  • The lost opportunities
  • What can we do?

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By exhuang
25th Jul 2012 20:29

tax advisors vs accountants

Great blog, Mark.  One of your comments that stood out for me is "advice from tax specialists costs more than advice from accountants".  As you know, many of my clients are accountants and what I find is that some of them have difficulty in getting this message across to their clients.  Often, the accountant thinks that the client will say something along the lines of "but aren't all accountants the same" / "you're an accountant, why don't you know about tax", etc etc.

However, just today, in an exchange of e-mails I have had with an accountant, he said "I have noted the thoroughness with which you have asked your questions and it can only bode well for the outcome of the exercise".  To me, this demonstrated I asked questions on a tax planning scenario which he hadn't considered and thus opened the possibilities of options he hadn't considered, thereby demonstrating value to the end-client.





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By exhuang
25th Jul 2012 21:18

Specialisms ....

Whilst on this topic, another of your phrases caught my eye: "there are few real experts able to advise across all areas of tax".

Most tax barristers I come across say something alongs the lines of (& this is a direct quote, apart from my anonymising it, from one particular tax barrister): "J Bloggs, of XX Chambers, specialising in all aspects of UK taxation and National Insurance matters"......!




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25th Jul 2012 22:21

Good points Edwin

You're right of course. We could all do more to help break the assumption that all accountants are expert tax advisers. Some clients do indeed assume this and it's not fair on them; nor is it fair to pressure accountants to feel they need to meet this expectation. The more confident and professional ones deal with it honestly and openly.

Re Tax Barristers:  I remember asking one how he could specialise across all areas of tax (leaving aside the fact that's not specialising at all of course). His view was that Barristers don't have to know everything about all areas of tax. They only need to understand the contentious bits that give rise to disputes, disagreements and alternative views. He implied that all such areas comprised only a small proportion of the yellow and orange books.  


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