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The most annoying client questions

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27th Feb 2015
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One AccountingWEB member sparked a lively debate on Any Answers when he wrote: 'I think I'm developing an anger issue'.

Delving deeper into his worrying post, we found it was concerning the infuriating or repetitive questions he gets asked and statements he hears from clients. 

We know there are a number of reasons clients ask questions and of course, an open dialogue between you both is to be encouraged. However there are some - the infamous 'my mate down the pub' - which may just be heard a little too often.

It is in your power, as an accountant, to help and stop current and future clients from asking these basic questions. There are a number of solutions to this, but before we share our top tips on how to answer these and combat repetition, we want you to vote for your top three worst.

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Replies (17)

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By abaco
01st Mar 2015 07:37

Why is this a Problem?

If clients were not in the habit of asking daft questions they would probably not need the services of an accountant.

Thanks (1)
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By NO Tax
01st Mar 2015 23:29

Client Questions
Client asks, 'So if I buy and piece of Plant and Machinery for £10k and I get 100% allowances, then I can claim back £10k of Tax', happens all the time!

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By redboam
02nd Mar 2015 07:52

Just answer the Question!

This contribution is a bit of a worry. Regarding clients, prospective or otherwise with contempt in this fashion does not appear to be particularly constructive.

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By ShirleyM
02nd Mar 2015 10:26

We had a good one this morning

Client has received a penalty for an overdue partnership return (we sent them repeated requests for the records).

Client blames HMRC as 'they told us we had to do a partnership return, but didn't tell us how to do it'!

I sometimes feel sorry for HMRC. We can get rid of the PITA's but HMRC have no escape.

Thanks (2)
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By sharonm1
02nd Mar 2015 11:29

Similar to ShirleyM

Just today had a recently new client come in, so new the 64-8 hasn't been registered yet. At our first meeting he told me that he used to do tax returns but he hadn't needed to lately and so 2013/14 was fine. Today he sent his wife in with a penalty notice for late submission of the 2013/14 tax return plus a neat file of all the information he thought I'd need. She said that he'd had no idea he needed to do a return. Filed right under the penalty notice was the letter from April 2014 saying he needed to do a return!

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By Vaughan Blake1
02nd Mar 2015 12:30

My 'favorites' are

These accounts/tax returns are wrong.  I don't understand them.

You need to claim some more expenses for me to reduce the tax bill.

But Google & Amazon don't.....

That can't be right it's not fair.

My mate who must earn much the same as me pays less tax than I do.

My profits have halved, so why is your fee the same as last year.

 

 

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By Crouchy
02nd Mar 2015 12:40

had a few classics

Just last week a client asked me why bad debts were not 724.99 in his accounts - we'd included £725.

have previously had a client ask if they could buy a grand piano for his wife on the business....he's a driving instructor

keeps us entertained!

Thanks (1)
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By youngloch
02nd Mar 2015 12:44

Client's doing their own bookkeeping...

All these Apps and Cloud Accounting packages make our job appear TOO easy these days.

"If I pop in for an hour with my wife can you show her how to do the schedules to save you time?" says the client....

My answer these days is 1 of 3:

1. "Has she got experience of spreadsheets, Sage, QuickBooks, VAT, accounts, bookkeeping?" If yes then thumbs up...

If not then it's either:

2. "If only I could train my staff in an hour!" God help you when you send them a bill for the training and then the wife mucks up because it surely means you were a terrible teacher!!

or if they still don't get it because are convinced it can save them money:

3. "If I built wall at home and it was a bit wobbily I could get you to check it but that will involve an extra trip, then demolition, then a skip take to take the rubble away and THEN you could start from scratch. So that would take longer wouldn't it"

Number 3 often works in the event that they failed on point 1.

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
02nd Mar 2015 13:36

@ youngloch, The third analogy works a treat for people who work in the trades and have to unbotch botched DIY. 

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By Discountants
02nd Mar 2015 18:12

With reference to something that happened today.

The most annoying question I get from clients is the one I have already answered six times before and he still hasn't got it.

Yes, I have tried six different ways of explaining it :(

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By Jakarmi
02nd Mar 2015 21:07

My favourite one came from a client who I sacked three months before his tax deadline due to the grief he gave me.

When his new accountant didn't file his tax on time he emailed me the penalty letter asking me "what the hell was he supposed to do with this?" Um give it to your accountant...

The other classic if someone has a high profit and tax bill on their accounts through the growth of the business is "How can we include more expenses to get this bill down?". "Of course there are lots of expenses that I've left out but now you've asked I'll put them in for you" is the response I stop myself saying every time.

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Chris M
By mr. mischief
03rd Mar 2015 06:38

I don't have any

I am happy to exaplain client questions, in my view the more they ask and the more I answer:

1.  The higher the quality of the outputs.

2.  Should we get an enquiry, my client will have less problems going in front of HMRC.

In 5 years I have had one client who went a bridge to far with questions.  He got a yellow card letter and ignored it so he got a red card letter.  The only thing which seemed to annoy him was that he had not thought of firing me first!

That's one out of around 200.  Seems reasonable odds to me.  Moan about clients at your peril, if you find yourself in that mindset a lot of the time then one of two things needs to happen:

1.  You need to red card some clients and get some better ones, or

2.  You need to change your career to something more suitable.

Thanks (2)
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By JC
03rd Mar 2015 08:24

Same applies to computers …

@youngloch – you make a very good point about ‘.. All these Apps and Cloud Accounting packages make our job appear TOO easy these days ..’

Today it is all about de-skilling quite complex areas and interestingly enough nowhere is this more evident than with computers (systems/applications). Yet a  many in the profession are prepared to provide advice in areas that are not their ‘specialist subject’ – so how is this any different from a man in the pub advice?

Nowadays, a great many areas of computing have been made idiot proof and seem simple; therefore they hide the actual complexity behind systems and everyone is suddenly an expert – in some ways this no more evident than in the Profession where ‘playing’ with Excel etc. sometimes breaks up the tedium of the day-job

As with accountancy many other disciplines take years to master and just because one can use a pivot table or export to csv does not make one an expert. Furthermore, solving a challenge such as whether to use Pivot tables, Sumifs or Sumproduct to find a solution is a world away from entire systems designed from ground up encompassing thousands of lines of code

Of course one doesn’t have to understand what is beneath the surface – just drive it like a motor car – but claiming expertise on cursory knowledge gained via a few annual hours CPE or some other quick fix is surely questionable

Thanks (1)
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By jivebunny
03rd Mar 2015 12:12

Client questions

In over 40 years of practice the most frequent question, apart from the old favourites, usually begins " I'm thinking of buying a - select any one from car, van, lorry, coach or new machine ". Should I do it on HP or a lease or get a bank loan?

Invariably the client never has any figures for comparison so I have to tell them to go away and get relevant details from lenders and only then I might be able to answer the question.

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By johnjenkins
05th Mar 2015 10:57

I am really

lucky. All the questions my clients ask me are to do with the accounts, tax and the future. Not all my clients understand what I do and how I do it but as they say "that's what I pay you for".

Although competition is on the increase I think if the client has confidence in you (most of that will come from the opening meeting) then they won't ask the questions illustrated.

If my client is worried about something then I feel it is my job to relieve that worry.

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By Rachael White
09th Mar 2015 12:02

Article number two

Is available here - check in for some answers and advice from Heather Townsend. 

Remember to comment with your own suggestions too! 

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By LMT
20th Mar 2015 10:27

"i can explain it to you, but

"i can explain it to you, but i cant understand it for  you"

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