Member Since: 20th Sep 1998
Stephen established his general accountancy practice in 1986 to help individuals and small businesses become more successful. Stephen is an Independent Certified Practising Accountant and Fellow member of The ICPA and member of the IAB. He was a TAS Software accounting partner and used TAS Software since 1995. In 2012 he became a Xero Certified Advisor with the strong belief that Xero Accounting software was changing the way accountants interact with businesses. Never looked back.
A visit to an Accountants' Exhibition in London's City area back in the 90's Stephen discovered a young Sift company promoting a new website called AccountingWeb. Since then he has been a regular subscriber.
9th Dec 2014
Smart casual and a warm welcome
A lot of the time I work on my own in my office. I dress smart casual and definitely no ties. Potential clients are invited to an initial meeting at my office. They will then see me in my working environment: a tidy and organised office, but a working office it most definitely is and my desk may have files and work spread out on it - heaven forbid! (note - visitors cannot see the contents of any files). Most visitors also dress smart casual or just casual and I've never had anyone yet turn up in a suit.
A warm welcome is important and keep language clear and simple. Ask if they've had an accountant before as this will give you an immediate heads up on how they might be feeling. I was once told that a visit to the dentist was preferable to visiting an accountant. Chat and listen in equal measure (but not at the same time). Some I get on really well with. They become clients. Others don't. That's life. Some I wouldn't want as clients an that's the whole point of the initial meeting. It's an introduction for both of you.
The first impression is important but it must be a genuine one if you are to maintain a great and lasting relationship with your new client. Personality counts more. If the client likes you and feels comfortable in your presence you're already half way there.
23rd Sep 2014
Complexity, Ignorance & .......
We had a sole trader client referral last year who had his tax return prepared by a national firm. It was a cheap and not so cheerful service with little interaction between the two. When I was preparing his 2012-13 return and reviewing the previous year's return prepared by the previous accountants many things didn't stack up in the property letting. The mistakes in the return were:
Declared unfurnished but was let furnished.
Mortgage payments were declared instead of interest only. It was a capital repayment mortgage.
Property was declared 100% in clients own name but was jointly owned with spouse.
The 2011-12 return letting pages could not be more wrong if they had tried. My client believes he told all this information to the previous accountants for which I cannot comment. If he did then that makes it worse. I managed to get a refund from HMRC for his 2011-12 return and the 2012-13 was submitted correctly.
Unfortunately for his spouse she was PAYE and had never submitted a SAR. I first obtained a UTR and then completed her 2012-13 SAR reflecting her share of the profit. For 2011-12 I used the HMRC Let property campaign to declare her share of profit. Built into this is a fixed penalty and interest which we have to calculate. All submitted and no repercussions.
2013-14 should be straightforward by comparison but you can never ever assume the client knows what they are talking about when it comes to property letting. There are a number of criteria which if got wrong, as this example shows, the results can be costly. You must ask the right questions and listen, neither of which the previous accountants apparently did.
20th May 2014
We Went to Accountex and Enjoyed It
We are a husband and wife small general practice and have been to Accountex for the last 3 years. This is a 200 mile round trip for us but well worth it. Away from clients, the West End Theatreland beckons, and of course Accountex.
The attraction of Accountex for me is the interesting lectures but because there are so many to choose from I draw up a spreadsheet before I go listing the various theatres in columns and times slots in rows. Enter all the seminars of interest then pick a first and second choice for each time slot. I also try to build in free time to visit some stands.
The hot topic in Nov 2012 was of course RTI and much useful information was learnt. For 2013 Accountex changed from Olympia to Excel and moved to June. RTI was still a popular topic 3 months in. We visited stands for TaxCalc and OCRex (Autorec) which we later signed up for both.
For 2014 Accountex moved back a month to May. We kicked off with a chat to Brendon Woods, founder of OCRex who demonstrated their launch of DocuRec. We agreed to be a guinea pig and trial it for him. For our first lecture we chose VAT penalties and cross border business in the Tax Theatre. Then it was off to the Sage Theatre for a presentation by David Rown, editor of Wired Magazine, called Boost your practice with technology. We stayed on for the next presentation about Auto Enrolment - why you should plan early. Back to the Tax Theatre next for a simple guide to IR35 then more Auto Enrolment at the Sage Theatre, an overview by The Pensions Regulator.
We decided on a break from lectures visited a few stands. We chatted to our friends at TaxCalc and visited the Xero Village to find card payment solution providers but only Payment Express were there. Time was pressing so off to the Tax Theatre again for a presentation of Tax Issues for the Over 60's.
And that was it. All over and we had only done one day. Unfortunately we couldn't do the second day for personal reasons but we shall be back next year for the full monty. We thoroughly recommend Accountex but to get the most out of it you need to first make plans to get the most out of it. Its well worth spending a bit of time doing some homework. And don't forget to avoid/ignore all the sales hype. Don't hand out your business cards to every vendor or you will be inundated with emails and phone calls when you get back. Finally some organisers will email the lecture notes and slides after the show. This is extremely useful should you wish to visit 2 lectures that are on at the same time.
14th Mar 2014
I wonder if the camera crew were asked to prove their identities when they arrived. I can see it now. "But you called us". "But we have to check who you are". "You know who we are, we the camera crew". "Are that's what you say; you could be imposters"!
4th Mar 2014
64-8 and SA1
We attended the Digital Online Services and Agent Strategy Update presentation at Bournemouth yesterday. On the subject of 64-8's and SA1s he told us to staple them together. With a mail room the size of an aircraft hanger, if the forms are not stapled together they will be placed in separate piles and go off to different departments. The 64-8 will be processed more quickly and because there will be no UTR and SA record the 64-8 will only be assigned against the taxpayer's NI record. When the SA1 is processed later they will not check whether a 64-8 is on file against the NI record so you would have to submit a new 64-8 to obtain SA authority. By stapling them together they will be processed at the same time.
As an update to my earlier post I asked about the box on the 64-8 "If UTR not yet issued yet tick here". No UTR will be generated and authority for tax and NI (not SA) only will be set up. So I did it right as that's what I wanted. Asked when will I know I have authority, the answer was less helpful - I won't know. When I contact HMRC on behalf of the client I will be declined if authority hasn't yet been processed. I know they are processing 5000 64-8's a day but its a shame the system can't generate an auto alert that it's been completed. Perhaps the 64-8 could accommodate a mobile number for a text alert and or email address. Or perhaps these details could be already be included in our agent profile linked to the authority.
24th Feb 2014
64-8 and No UTR
I have obtained agent authorisations using the online service for many years for 100% of our clients - until today. I had to complete a paper 64-8! This was on behalf of my son who has a single job with a low income and has just received a code BR for 2014-15. Clearly an incorrect code but will cost him serious cash flow problems if not corrected. He doesn't have a UTR (and why should he) which is why we cannot apply online. Once I have authority I will complete HMRC's online form "Tell us if you think your tax code is wrong" as this can be completed on behalf of clients but only if you are the registered agent.
18th Feb 2014
Many years ago I knew a financial advisor who had two cars; one posh car and one banger. When visiting a client he would choose the car to turn up in depending on what he thought the client's perception would be. For "wealthier" clients he would turn up in the posh car wearing a suit but for the "poorer" clients he would turn up in the banger wearing smart casual clothes. He believed the posh car and suit would go down well with the "wealthy" clients by giving out signals of wealth, status and success. But he believed these would not go down well with the "poorer" clients as they might be envious so he tried to identify with them by dressing down and driving the banger. I can't tell you whether he succeeded or not as has was shallow and a snob and our relationship did not last long.
12th Nov 2013
@Peter. I agree that Digita support is very good. They usually came up trumps when I had a problem. I cannot comment on TaxCalc support as I have only been a user for three months and not needed to call them
12th Nov 2013
Digita to TaxCalc
Congratulations to TaxCalc for coming top in the Integrated Suites Category even if there is no award this year! We are a small practice and had used Digita applications for up to 15 years plus. Over time these also became fully integrated. After a re-assessment of our software needs this summer we left Digita and opted for TaxCalc who we saw at Accountex launching their new integrated hub for tax and accounts production. Having used TaxCalc for three months now we are very happy that we made the move. The software is updated regularly and we saved a small fortune on costs when we moved. TaxCalc seem to be in tune with the needs of the smaller practice.
24th Oct 2013
Cloudy with sunny intervals
At Accountex earlier this year Digita was demonstrating their hosted solution. Like all Digita applications the cost escalates with the more clients you have and every option selected. I personally found the costs getting too much for a small general practice. That's a shame as we welcome all things cloud based but not at all costs.
Also at Accountex I visited TaxCalc who had launched their integrated tax and accounts production solution using a client hub. This presented far better value for money for a small general practice and after extensive trials we signed up and left Digita. A big wrench after so many years. Whilst this is a desktop application only at present is was good to see in a recent TaxCalc users survey the question "would you be interested in a cloud version?" YES.
Other cloud applications we are currently using are MyPAYE for payroll, Xero for book-keeping, Autorec for converting bank statements and uploading into Xero. I await developments with interest.
Stephen Quay, Xero Certified Advisor