Member Since: 25th Oct 2010
12th Jan 2022
I have always had the policy that only one person at a time is charging time to the client when it comes to training staff. So for example, if a trainee is doing the work and I am assisting in training them, the trainee charges time to the client and I charge time to training. This is because I would assume that the trainee would improve and learn as they went along so it wouldn't be fair on the early clients they are getting if their fees were higher due to the job including teaching a trainee the basics of their job. The exception I would make would be if there was something particularly complex in the clients affairs which *required* someone at my level rather than my work being required due to the lack of training of the trainee.
Similarly, time reviewing work can be split between time actually reviewing the job to ensure it is complete / correct etc and time going over the mistakes of the trainee and instructing them. Only time relating to the actual job gets billed to the job. Then you should see over time that "training" time and cost goes down. If it doesn't either you have trainees who aren't learning or managers who aren't capable of letting go a bit.
10th Jan 2022
I think it depends so much on the client. Some clients do the same thing year in, year out. Think the self employed gardener who is perfectly happy with doing what he does and isn't looking to do anything radical with his business, just keep his regular clients and get his accounts done once a year. He's probably an ideal candidate for ditching meetings as there is little to gain. However then you have the entrepreneur who is constantly seeking out new opportunities, growing and developing their business. You probably want to get her in for a meeting because there is so much that you might miss if you don't have a bit of a chat.
For me though it also depends on how that client communicates as to what is appropriate. I find some give loads of info on a call but barely read emails, some don't like calls but will write detailed replies to emails, some you really don't get anywhere with unless you're face to face with their undivided attention. So I'd never advocate ditching face to face meetings entirely, but it's as good a time as any to look at what benefits the relationship with each client and then use your time appropriately. Also, look at how well you are controlling meetings if you find they are a waste of time. A clear agenda and a fixed end point (ie have something you have to do after the meeting so it doesn't drag on all afternoon) can work wonders. There is the "people" side of it too. I used to have a couple of elderly clients who loved to come and have a chat over their tax return. They were probably quite lonely and saw it as a social outing. I'd always make time for them because at the end of the day, qualifications and hourly rates aside, we are all human.
22nd Jun 2021
Thank you! I was pretty sure that was the case, but as I wasn't completely sure I wanted to check.
10th May 2021
As above, make the claim but opt not to be paid. It is a good idea to do this even if both parents are above the NIC LEL and would not benefit from the credits as your child benefit claim, I believe, it what triggers an NI number being issued when the child reaches 16. It can also be helpful as part of establishing the residence of a child in child custody hearings.
7th May 2021
I would be very wary of offering specific advise for free, simply because specific advice, if wrong, could possibly get you sued. If it's for free, it's likely you don't know all the specifics and you are more likely to make mistakes. The only exception to this is a do an Independent Examination of a charity for free. They are at the lowest threshold so only require a person with a reasonable understanding of accounts, I do double the work I would normally do for that level as I know I wouldn't be covered by any PI etc. I checked with ACCA before I took it on as I don't hold a practicing certificate and they agreed that doing it for free and at that level was absolutely fine as I wasn't "practicing".
7th May 2021
I draw the line at basically anything they could make a PI claim against. So general information, fine, specific advise, not fine. A useful tactic when they keep coming back is:
I would not want to advise on that issue without knowing all the specifics of the case as tax / accounts law can be complex and a quick general answer may actually be incorrect and cause more harm than good. Why don't we make an appointment / why don't you make an appointment with another accountant where you can discuss the full circumstances of your case and ensure you are getting the best possible advice.
As I said earlier, I no longer work in private practice so I signpost to an accountant when it's something I can't do for free, but if I was still in practice I would suggest I would get back to them with a quote for the required work.
That way you're not directly saying "on yer bike", you're actually helping them by not providing a half baked answer that could end up being completely incorrect as you don't know all the facts.
7th May 2021
Wow, I'm quite surprised by your attitude. I often give free advice, as long as it's not generic information and not something specific. For example, the pandemic has created a huge swathe of people who have become self employed, and I will happily inform people of the timescales for registering as self employed and tax return periods etc. I had one friend in a blind panic in January 2021 over filing a tax return when it turned out she started trading September 2020 so her first tax return wouldn't be due for a year! If I can help someone with something simple like that then I will. Similarly, when they ask something that needs an accountant I will tell them that and point them in the right direction (I am no longer in private practice so the right direction wouldn't be me!).
I suppose it really depends why you are an accountant. If it is to chase money and get a fee for every possible thing then I can see why you wouldn't give anything away for free. I became an accountant after starting a job waitressing at 16 and having my tax code completely screwed up so I was paying BR tax despite it being my first ever job. I couldn't understand why my tax was so high so I went into the Inland Revenue (remember the days of Inland Revenue Enquiry Centres!!) and the person who helped me took the time to explain tax codes and what had gone wrong. I found it so interesting and ended up working there. I often help friends or acquaintances when they are first setting up and can't yet afford the advice they need with things like what information they need to keep, helping them set up systems and making them a dream client for their future accountant. I figure I make plenty of money doing my actual job and if I can help someone who needs that help, why wouldn't I?
I honestly don't think I'm taking anything away from accountants in practice. The "work" I'm doing for free is low level and generally wouldn't be worth charging, however it will most likely benefit their future accountant.
In my opinion, people are far more likely to part with their money if they don't feel they are being fleeced for every last penny. When I was in practice if paying clients asked for something outside the scope of what they were being billed for I would do it for free if it was something relatively small and if not explain what needed to be done and quote for it. My fees weren't particularly low, but clients felt they were fair because I wasn't tracking every last second of a phone call to add it onto their next bill or charging for "reading emails" (popular with solicitors!!).
30th Apr 2021
I have found that staff can be trained (if they are trainable) and qualifications can be achieved, what you CANNOT train is attitude, not just to actually working but to how you get the job done.
Nine times out of ten, a junior/trainee will come to me with a problem that they could easily have resolved if they had just thought about it for ten minutes. Or I will get a job to review and find parts incomplete, however when I ask the member of staff they say they didn't know what to do so left it. Or people make the same mistakes again and again without learning from them.
What I'm saying is that if someone comes to an interview and is willing to learn, willing to be corrected, willing to try and think of solutions to problems, willing to ask for help when needed then they will stand out from the crowd.
To be clear, I never complain when anyone comes to me asking for help, however there is a huge difference between "I can't do this" and "I've not come across this before, I've had a think and I think it should be approached by doing x, y, z but wanted to check with you first".
Attitude is EVERYTHING in trainees. Get that right and you will stand out by a mile.
23rd Apr 2021
I spent quite a few years travelling around the country following my husbands job (forces) and as a result have had quite a few interviews. Mainly for temp roles because if I'm only going to be somewhere 6 months, it makes sense to temp. I have very rarely come across interviews where any form of testing is done. I have a professional qualification and a cv full of experience - they know I can do the job, what they want to know is whether or not I am the sort of person they can work with.
Two jobs stand out as having quite intense testing procedures. One, I didn't get the job. It was a completely new geographic location to me and I knew nothing useful about the employers I was interviewing with. Once I had been in the area for a while and got to know other people I became very very glad I didn't get the job - by all accounts the business was an absolute nightmare to work for. The other job I did get. It was the worst job I have ever had. Interestingly, for a firm that had such rigorous testing procedures for applicants, they were terrible at recruiting and good staff were there more by luck than good judgement. I regretted accepting the job part way through the first day and somehow stuck it out for three years.
To me, if a recruiter feels the need to extensively test, they have little to no faith in their own judgment and there is often good reason for that. I'm not saying don't apply for those roles, but if the interview goes badly and you don't get it, I wouldn't worry so much.
A childhood friend works as a model and gave me the best career advice I have ever had. She was being asked how she dealt with rejection over something as personal as her looks/height/weight (modelling being a particularly brutal industry) and she said you must never take it personally. When a business wants a model they will have an idea in their mind of what they want that model to look like and you can't look like the picture in everyones mind. When you a rejected, they are not rejecting you as a person, you just don't match what they are looking for but you will match what someone else is looking for. Since she said that to me I realised every time I don't get a job I wanted, then it really was for the best because it was probably a bad fit.
5th Mar 2021
Absolutely agree with ireallyshouldknowthisbut. I have a rather toxic ex husband and when I get one of his ramblingly abusive emails full of inaccuracies and accusations I get it all out of my system with a reply saying what I really think. Then I delete, sleep on it, and send a rational reply the following day. Always take the high ground. When you stoop to their level you ultimately regret it.