Predictions that recur year after year

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Mark Lee
Mentor and Speaker for accountants
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For as far back as I can recall the media has asked commentators and consultants to predict what the New Year will bring for accountants, says Mark Lee.

Naturally the ensuing predictions include well-publicised developments in tax and financial reporting. Typically the predictions also include variations of the same old warnings of other developments that will, so we are told, force accountants to make major changes to the way that they operate.

I don't doubt the sincerity of those who repeat these ideas. Some of their warnings are coming true at last but typically only many years after they were first aired. You could say the predictions were ahead of their time – which some of them were.

It was Bill Gates who said...

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06th Jan 2014 14:02



I still believe that most accountants only have themselves to blame if they have clients who routinely leave things to the last minute in January."

Very general and insulting...

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06th Jan 2014 15:36

1 - Most NOT all
2 - sorry but who else is it down to if clients do it year in, year out?


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06th Jan 2014 16:15


The clients?

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

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06th Jan 2014 16:49


dynamo1227 wrote:

The clients?

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

Unless your a superhero like Mark appears to be...

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06th Jan 2014 16:29

Only a January rush?

Agree with most of those points.

January rush - I don't mind admitting that I do around half of my personal tax returns in January. Those being the straight forward one's.

I tend to get the complicated one's done during the rest of the year.

Why most done in January? Well I'm busy the rest of the year as well - doing accounts and CT returns, its just the way most of my work is done.

So January rush - I'm not complaining. I'll probably finish 3 sets of limited company accounts together with 40 (give or take a couple) SATR's this month.

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06th Jan 2014 17:19

Is this year worse?

I always thought I could nag my clients into submission but this year has proved bad - many more have not sent their stuff in. It is our own fault. Because every year we do save clients a lot of money by burning the midnight oil and getting the returns in on time.

Ohhh...I've not submitted mine yet!

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By Locutus
06th Jan 2014 17:33

We have a degree of choice

I'm sympathetic with the comments that you can't make clients do things - you can simply only advise. I'll be busy with tax returns in January, like many other accountants.

However, we do have a choice about which clients we keep and the terms on which we act for them.

I sent an e-mail to a client today to tell him that if the records arrive in the second half of January then he will probably get a penalty.  I intend to stick to it and am really not fussed whether he is still a client in February.

I have read a few accountants on Aweb use differential pricing to good effecrt - the later the records come in the higher the fee.  I've never tried it myself, but certainly would if I had more tax return cases.

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07th Jan 2014 03:19

Nail on head Locutus & Mark

If you have a band of clients who always provide their information so late that you have annual grief then there are two choices 1 put up with it and stop moaning or 2 don't act for them.  Both choices are yours.

As far as persuading clients is concerned, just tell them your deadline is 3 months after the tax or accounting year end and remind them on a couple of occasions.  It's worked for us for the past 5 years and, again, if it doesn't, and the clients don't have a reasonable excuse, they only do it once.

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07th Jan 2014 12:29

End of the local accountant

Haven't heard too much about the "End of the small practice" and other slightly patronising predictions for a couple of years. Has this one finally done a death?

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07th Jan 2014 12:49

The paperless office is the future

This one has been around since the 1980's. Very few accountants have gone genuinely paperless, as it vastly complicates umpteen simple tasks, and hugely increases costs. So what's the point?

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07th Jan 2014 13:03

Social Media Convertions

Hi Mark, I would like to introduce myself as someone who has made thousands of pounds of new clients from Facebook AND Twitter. I'm sure I'm not the only one either!! Anyone else out there? Please respond!

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07th Jan 2014 14:29

How could I forget The rise of the paperless office?

We may have less paper but I doubt many are paper free. Nor do I think that will come to pass anytime soon.


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‘You will lose out as Indian accountants steal your clients’

This should really be seen as an opportunity for Accountants to improve fee recovery and have more valuable time to offer business advice to their clients. That's what clients are really looking for, not a set of year end accounts.  Why not outsource the compliance and technical work? We have spent a number of years researching, visiting and talking to Indian accounting firms and as a result, have developed partnerships with organisations that are reliable and expert at what they do. Its not a case of 'cutting out the UK based middleman accountant', but providing them with access to a service that can free up time, help with deadlines and improve margins. Might even make January a bit easier.. 

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By Locutus
07th Jan 2014 15:32

The paperless office prediction is the closest one that I have seen coming true.

I doubt whether paper will be completely banished in my working life, but I'm down to a few folders of the stuff, compared to the vast filing cabinets that a similar practitioner would have had a couple of decades ago.

... And I post about one letter per week.

That's progress in my view.

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08th Jan 2014 15:23

Electronic documents can be searched, unlike paper ones

In my experience, the great advantage to the electronic storage of documents is that they can be searched electronically, providing optical character recognition has been applied to scanned documents.

For about a decade, I have been using X1 to index all the categories of my files that I select. It can process and preview just about any format imaginable. The result is rather like being able to "Google" my own files but with far more options for defining searches. Even when documents have been correctly filed X1 can often find them more quickly than working through a directory structure and it is admirable for locating all the email correspondence with particular people or organisations.

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07th Jan 2014 15:53

My 2014 prediction...

... is that the gap will widen between practice.

You can see why in my Accountingweb article "The gap between firms will widen in 2014" from earlier today (7 January)



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07th Jan 2014 17:12

Partnership Successions?

I keep reading about and seeing so many accountancy partnerships with succession issues.  I suspect many up and coming accountants,that in years gone by would have 'bought in', are from a generation struggling with home mortgages and don't like the look of borrowing even more.  Given interest rates are at rock bottom it is only likely to get worse.  My prediction is therefore a 'polarisation' of accountancy firms with a reduction of the smaller partnership firms.

'Embracing' the latest technology is not usually most accountants forte.  The phrase 'kicking and screaming' is possibly more apt in most cases.  We will inevitably creep towards increased use of cloud technology and the like, and one day wonder how we coped without it.  I like to tread well worn paths and not be the guinea pig. I well remember trying to get a computer to do tax returns back in 1988 and don't want to repeat the experience.

I still remember back when 'Pay & file' was first on the horizon.  The great Philip Hardman said at a lecture that it was the start of a whole new era and that we would not believe the changes that were coming.  I often wonder if he was privy to some great secret HMRC master plan back then, or just very perceptive.  I suspect the latter!

Paperless, as in less paper has to come.  I remember looking at an archive of client files for a ltd company.  Back in the seventies the correspondence files covered four or five years (maybe they were flared).  Now it is a file a year!

Remember that bogeyman HR Block and the end of compliance work?

It is so tricky to separate the Cassandras from the Chicken Lickens!

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07th Jan 2014 17:39


Well done you!

Am now following you on twitter. Always pleased to hear about someone bucking the trend. And, for the record, I note that you are attributing thousands of pounds to your activity on twitter despite not having thousands of followers and even though you don't have a photo for your avatar. Seriously impressive!

The vast majority of accountants who try it out then give up or stick with it simply posting a series of promotional messages and wondering when they will start to generate some business.

I have written about this many times, as your experience is so atypical (sadly). 

Thanks for sharing your success


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08th Jan 2014 19:03

Twitter Ava

Hi Mark - just to let you know, that's only my Avatar in January! LOL

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09th Jan 2014 11:06

Natural inertia

In terms of attitude to change in our industry, we have come a long way since I started in practice and, if accweb is anything to go by, this has accelerated in the past 5 years.

There is however still significant inertia amongst number-crunchers that means that any predicted change, no matter how logical and sensible, will take a while to enter all the dark corners of the industry.

Paperless is a typical example, we decided to do away with our own 7 years ago and, whilst I agree that 100% paperless is not yet feasible, this is only because 3rd parties like HMRC continue to send it to us.  For those who use significant quantities still, I'm guessing you do because it's your choice not because that's "how it is".

This is even more apt when looking at Cloud facilities, although I don't like the expression, this really is one of the biggest "no-brainers" when it comes to predicting where we are all going. Many dispute this and still see it as "new" and risky, but have they tried it?

The development of new technologies has always brought the biggest pressure to change and provides many predictions but, again, if you close your eyes, or are wrapped up in numbers, then you and your client base (who will, in all probability, match your own inertia) can perpetuate existing practices, well passed their sell by date.

This is not to say any of this is wrong, I have a low boredom threshold to accountancy & tax and so anything that speeds up & streamlines the process, enabling me to do other stuff, is great.  Others don't feel like this, that IS "how it is".

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By Maslins
12th Jan 2014 13:18

A bit late to this but...

Outsourcing to India - IMHO this won't happen on a big scale mainly as the human input required to run an accountancy firm is dwindling as software improves.  Why outsource to someone a bit cheaper in India when you don't need people at all?

Cloud/Online Accounting - I imagine those who haven't will find on the whole that their practice has stagnated, whilst early adopters will have done well.  When I say early adopters, I mean within the accountancy sector...the main reason being end users have "adopted" in droves already.

Social media - we've done brilliantly in the past from Twitter, though I feel that's largely behind us (as our "novelty" of using FreeAgent is disappearing).  I don't in anyway think this means all firms should do it, most won't get anything from it.  Not really tried Facebook for business purposes.

January rush - I largely agree with Mark despite the aggressive responses above.  Recurring monthly fees I think are the main reason we don't have much of an issue.  If your client pays you when you've done the work, there's a cash flow incentive for them to delay you doing it as long as possible,

More than just accountants - well, my personal view is that compliance for the smaller business is a doomed marketplace.  It's only a matter of a couple of years before cloud bookkeeping packages enable you to submit statutory accounts/CT returns online, together with VAT/payroll which some already do.  At that point, many clients will feel they don't need an accountant anymore.  Whether HMRC like this or not is another matter, as I foresee a lot of tosh figures being submitted by clients with a "how hard can it be" mentality.

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12th Jan 2014 17:15


Thanks for adding your views here - your point re annual billings is a good one. Although equally those who pay fixed monthly fees have no obvious incentive to supply data early unless the total fee they pay will reflect this. 

All other points are well made too. Nice to see we agree on so much now. I recall Dennis Howlett encouraging you to make fun of my view re twitter a few year back. Seems we're now on the same page ;-)


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By Maslins
12th Jan 2014 19:07

I think clients want to know their tax bill (and get the tax return out the way) early...but they also want to hold onto their cash.  Take away the latter and most are keen to get it done sooner rather than later.

Re Dennis...I was merely a pawn[***] in one of your "who's the best accounting blogger" arguments! ;-)  Maslins definitely did very well out of Twitter (to some extent still do, but I think they heyday is behind us).  Hard to pin an exact "I got £100k fees from it" type figure, but it's one of a few things that were key in our expansion.

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