You pays your money...By Simon Sweetman
Finding the right sort of tax advisor at the right sort of price can be something of a lottery, thinks Simon Sweetman.
One lesson I have learned over the years is that when it comes to tax there are different kinds of people. There are those who know the limits of their knowledge, and will either refuse to do anything they do not understand or will take advice, and there are those who seem blissfully unaware of how little they know and who sail on regardless. That is to leave out the ones who go all phobic at the sight of a brown envelope and stick it behind the clock or feed it to the dog. And that’s just accountants. Some people know a great deal about tax, but there are no people – and that certainly includes me – who know all there is to be knowed, like the clever men at Oxford.
For some people, I think, tax advice is like sex: they wouldn’t dream of paying for it. For others, advice isn’t advice unless it is gift wrapped in gold leaf and enclosed in an embossed folder bearing the name of one of the big four.
The top end of the profession have some odd ideas about small business. Currently I believe that one major firm of advisers is apparently offering small firms a discount rate…of £250 an hour. Another will take £100 off the price of its all day seminars, reducing them to a trifling £499 (quite apart from the productive time you lose). And you don’t even get wine with your lunch any more.
However enough of that (with perhaps a plug for the excellent value for money seminars provided by Accountingweb). Where do you go for tax advice if you are a small accountant in practice and want accurate tax advice that you can afford, but are not a member of the kind of professional organisation that offers you a reliable helpline?
There are advisers all over the place: accountants who have specialised in tax, former employees of Her Majesty, even some lawyers. Some of them, who do not operate from great shiny palaces, are affordable. But how do people know?
I get some references through my website (but people have to find that first), but mostly business comes through personal recommendation (you don’t usually find out about the ones who say “I wouldn’t go to him”). Other people I am sure mainly operate in the same way. There must be a better way of linking adviser and adverse: is it time somebody picked this one up and ran with it?
You can find Simon’s website just here!