Technical and Insight
Building a firm with client experience at the heart

Welcome to the third article in our series exploring themes of a truly digital firm.

Welcome to the third article in our series exploring themes of a truly digital firm.


In article one we talked about catalysts for change and how Covid-19 had provided a somewhat unique opportunity to ‘try out’ a few new things: working from home, using remote technology and perhaps most importantly talking to clients regularly! This latter point will be one we discuss in this month’s article.


Article two moved on to one of the most challenging and widely discussed topics for accountants, pricing. What is too much, what’s too little. Clients will be the ones to decide the answer to this question related directly to their own perception of the value we as accountants deliver. The topic of client experience is therefore incredibly relevant to the question of value as we will discover.


In last month’s article I asked you to have a think about what client experience means to you. When did you last encounter great customer experience and what made it so great? How can this translate to the way you engage with your own clients?


If you had chance to have a think about this, I hope it was a useful exercise and I will share some suggestions with you in the article to expand on your own ideas.


Everything we do as a firm should be linked back to the client experience. It’s for this reason that when I talk about the digital firm I use my digital firm wheel.



Client experience sits at the heart of a digital firm and should be at the heart of every firm, digital or not. Before we do anything we should be asking how does this impact the experience our clients receive from this action or decision.


So what is client experience?

Customer experience for me is best summarised as the way we make a customer feel. You know how you get that warm fuzzy feeling? That’s what we want when clients engage with us!


The more technical definitions of what client experience is revolve around the total sum of the interactions a client has with us over the lifetime of the relationship. It is therefore not a one-off event. Typically it comprises the customer journey, the touchpoints a client has with our organisations, the different environments the client encounters whether online, in our office and so on.


Client experience encompasses everything we do from quality of service, reliability, communication, branding, and the ease of use of our services. It requires us to think about every part of our business and the way we design services to meet the expectations of our clients.


Expectations was highlighted above and this is a critical point. Client expectations have shifted. We never used to talk about client experience - we talked about good service and we will discuss this more in a moment. Service providers have got better at delivering goods and services, technology has played a part of course. Digital disruption involves removing friction from a supplier and customer relationship. All the best disruptors have done this, Netflix, Uber, AirBNB and Amazon. They have all made the experience better by removing the niggles in booking a taxi, a hotel or simply buying good and services.


As consumers get more accustomed to better client and customer experiences the greater the expectation across all areas of their lives. It won’t change overnight but as more firms catch on to the principle and build their services around client experience the harder it becomes to ignore it in our own firms. We don’t have to be Amazon overnight, but we do have to be better than our competition.


How is client experience different from client service?

We started to touch on this a moment ago. One of the best things about being an accountant is also one of the worst and it’s the concept of gross recurring fees. We are the envy of our professional service colleagues in that we don’t have to keep going out to win new business as we have a recurring revenue stream. All we have to do is to not mess up, right? Sadly, this has been the case for many years. As long as we delivered an OK service, clients would come back year after year. The world, however, is changing, and it is easier than ever for clients to shop around so that historically low bar for service expectation is rising.


Delivering good service is what we might refer to as a critical success factor. It is one of the things we have to do to stay in business. A good service historically, however, might have been filing accounts and tax returns on time and responding to client queries in a reasonable timeframe. Whilst this might be enough to keep you in business (and I’m not sure it is anymore), it is not going to give you any level of competitive advantage. The bar has been raised and if you want to differentiate your service offering by quality of service you have to be delivering world class client experience.


How can we improve client experience?

I have spoken to many firms over the last few months and there has been a common message. It goes something along the lines of ‘our clients have been really positive about the support we are offering’, ‘we have created really high levels of client goodwill’, ‘we are getting really positive comments and feedback from our clients recently’.


Any ideas why this might be the case? Most firms have gone beyond themselves to support clients in the face of Covid-19. They have been regularly updating clients on the latest government guidance sending regular email campaigns to clients, picking up the phone, promoting Covid Information Hubs on their websites and much more. I wonder if there is a direct correlation between this uplift in client feedback and apparent satisfaction and the fact that firms have engaged with their clients on a weekly or fortnightly basis maybe for the first time ever!


What we can take from this is that the number one way to improve client experience is to increase the touchpoints we have with our clients. Look for ways to engage regularly in a positive proactive way. It could be through sending regular information. It could be by delivering regular (daily or weekly) bookkeeping; however you do it, it needs building into a process so it always happens.


Remember client experience is the sum of the total parts of the lifetime journey from start to finish. The onboarding process is critical and we shall talk more about this in a future article, you never get two chances to make a first impression! You also need to live by those first experiences consistently.


Firm vision and values are the things that will engage a client in the first place and it's imperative that in delivering lifetime client experience you live and die by these principles in everything you do. Brand mismatch will become very evident. This was a real issue in our firm before we refitted our office. Our previous office did not match our vision and values and created confusing messages about who we were and what we did.


In building great experiences for your clients design the customer journey:

  1. Be clear on why you exist, what your vision is
  2. Be clear on what the values are that underpin this vision and drive your approach to clients
  3. Take your brand and build it into a living breathing firm personality, make it consistent across all you do
  4. Clearly define your onboarding process to understand and set client expectations. Don’t be afraid to turn away clients where there is expectation mismatch
  5. Build regular touchpoints into your processes to ensure expectations are delivered against
  6. Measure client experiences and ask for regular feedback


How do we measure it?

I have set out in the last section the steps to build great experience in your firm and point 6 is around measurement. How do we measure client experience? The obvious answer is to ask clients how you are doing, and this should be something we undertake regularly. It is, however, possible to use a global benchmarking approach to measurement of client experience. It is a tool known as NPS or Net Promoter Score. Even if you don’t think you know what this is you will almost certainly have seen it. Does this look familiar?



Collecting NPS data is as easy as that. You can use Mailchimp or similar to send and collect the results. Of course, you can only base the result on the responses you get but it provides a consistent measurement that can be compared regularly to assess how you are progressing with client experience. You are likely to get a response rate of some 15-25% of your client base. Once you have the results in you can calculate your NPS.



As you will see the calculation is fairly simple. We ignore the passives, those that score 7 or 8 and we take the percentage of promoters who scored 9 or 10 and deduct the percentage of detractors those that score 0 to 6. Therefore, if you had 60% promoters, 30% passives and 10% detractors your NPS score would be 60-10 = 50.


A score of 50 is excellent. Essentially:

  • a positive score is good (more promoters than detractors)
  • a score of 50 or more is excellent
  • a score of 70 plus is world class.


Here is a useful analysis 


NPS provides a simple way for you to measure direction of travel when it comes to client experience and at the same time gives you a sense of comparison with global brands. If we focus on this as a measurement and engage our teams we go some way to create a culture where client experience really matters and that is great for you, your firm and most importantly your clients.


Next steps

To recap, client experience is critical as we move into a world where clients' expectations are shifting. The first steps to building a client focused firm are:


  1. Define why you exist, what your vision is
  2. What the values are that underpin this vision and drive your approach to clients
  3. Take your brand and build it into a living breathing firm personality, make it consistent across all you do
  4. Clearly define your onboarding process to understand and set client expectations. Don’t be afraid to turn away clients where there is expectation mismatch
  5. Build regular touchpoints into your processes to ensure expectations are delivered against
  6. Measure client experiences through NPS and ask for regular feedback.


Next month we will look at the importance of process. How do we blend people, process and technology efficiently to deliver great client experiences? I look forward to sharing my views on why we as accountants have to dictate the process and the benefit of us owning the end to end process of our clients' accounting functions.


Will Farnell FCCA – Founder and Director, Farnell Clarke


Covid-19 – latest changes on the CJRS and SEISS support

Keep your clients fully informed of the latest changes.

Keep your clients fully informed of the latest changes.


Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)

As has already been announced, the scheme now allows for employees to be flexibly furloughed from 1 July and employers can continue to claim for periods when employees are not working. For any furlough periods up to 30 June 2020, the last day for making claims is 31 July 2020.


HMRC has clarified that employees who are being made redundant and are serving their contractual or statutory notice periods can continue to be placed on furlough whilst on notice and be eligible for claims.


We have updated our CJRS guidance about error corrections for furlough claims, including reducing the amount for subsequent claim or deleting an erroneous claim within 72 hours of making the claim. These corrections can be made online via the claims portal. Other errors such as revising a previous claim upwards if an underclaim was made or if revising a claim downwards if an overclaim was made and no further claims are to be submitted cannot be made online. In such cases employers will have to use the HMRC direct contact details which are provided in our guidance mentioned above.


HMRC has announced that it will be introducing legislation to recover overclaimed grant amounts through the tax system. If any overclaimed grant amounts are repaid through the above methods then this will reduce or, if the full amount is repaid, prevent any potential tax liability under that legislation. See our article on Targeting Covid-19 related fraud – new HMRC powers for further details.


The additional legislation also provides for penalties (including revised penalty factsheet CC/FS48) for not notifying HMRC of any overclaims of grants that employers are no longer entitled to with deadlines by when notification must be made – our updated guidance has further details.


At the same time, HMRC has now provided a facility to make complaints about any mistakes or unreasonable delays caused by them. This is unlikely to include any complaints about the non-qualification of claims under the annual payroll scheme for directors. Whilst ACCA Policy continues to push for some leeway on getting support for this section of the small business community, we are also in support of the Forgotten Ltd campaign group and any members who have been unsuccessful in making claims for their annual payroll director companies may wish to join this group for a better chance of success.


Job Retention Bonus – the government has announced the introduction of a one-off payment of £1,000 to UK employers for every furloughed employee who remains continuously employed once the CJRS ends at the end of October. Employees who had been previously furloughed and are retained in their jobs must continue to be employed from 1 November 2020 to 31 January 2021. They must also earn above the Lower Earnings Limit (£520 per month) on average in those three months. The bonus payments are due to be made from February 2021. Further details about the scheme are due to be announced soon.


Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

Claims under the first tranche of the SEISS scheme closed on Monday 13 July. Eligible individuals were able to claim a first taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profits, paid in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £7,500. There will be no further updates to this tranche.


Eligible applicants whose businesses have been adversely affected by COVID-19 on or after 14 July will be able to claim a second and final taxable grant worth 70% of their average monthly trading profits, paid in another single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, capped at £6,570. An individual does not need to have claimed the first grant to receive the second grant: for example, they may only have been adversely affected by coronavirus in this later phase.


This scheme will run from 17 August when claims will open in the online portal and run until 19 October 2020.


HMRC has announced that those individuals who may have overclaimed or should not have claimed due to not meeting the eligibility criteria should tell HMRC and repay any appropriate amounts to HMRC via the same online portal from which they made the claim. Further details of the repayment of the grant are available.


Whilst practitioners may not have been directly involved in making the SEISS claims for their clients, they should communicate details about the repayment portal as soon as possible to their self-employed clients.

Covid-19 and corporation tax trading losses

Accounting for current year and prior year relief for trading losses.

Accounting for current year and prior year relief for trading losses.


Generally, if a company incurs a trading loss in any accounting period it may claim to first offset that loss against its total corporation tax profits for the same accounting period.


The claim may also require that any unrelieved balance of the loss be carried back against total profits of the previous accounting period or periods, so far as they fall (wholly or partly) within the period of 12 months ending with the start of the loss-making period.


The legislative reference for a current year claim is: CTA 2010 s37(1)(2)(3)(a)

Restrictions on the use of losses can apply to companies with losses in excess of £5m from 1 April 2017.


Making an early claim

Due to the impact that Covid-19 has had on businesses, HMRC has now acknowledged that, in exceptional circumstances, claims for repayments of corporation tax for prior periods based on anticipated losses before the current accounting period has concluded will be considered.


As a result HMRC has updated their corporation tax guidance covering situations where a company seeks repayment of tax before a return has been filed.


Where a company knows that it has suffered large losses, it can seek relief for those losses against profits made in a previous profit-making period and reclaim the associated corporation tax that was paid over to HMRC.


The company must give notice to HMRC stating the amount which it considers should be repaid, together with the change of circumstances and grounds for believing that the amount paid exceeds the company’s probable liability to corporation tax.


The most common example of this will be a company that:

  • has paid tax for accounting period 1 (AP1)
  • during accounting period 2 (AP2) believes it will make a loss that it intends to carry back to AP1.   

Until AP2 has ended, no allowable loss has crystallised and the company cannot anticipate losses/reliefs and obtain repayment. The reason for this is because loss relief claims under CTA10/S37 require that AP2 losses are first set against profits of that accounting period before the remainder can be carried back.

Until AP2 has ended, the full extent of the profits and losses of that accounting period also cannot be determined with any degree of certainty. This means that in practice it is very difficult to establish that a specified amount will be available for carry back and to produce an accurate revised calculation of liability.


After the end of AP2, however, HMRC may accept draft accounts or management accounts as evidence that the company has grounds for believing that it has paid too much tax.


Providing an acceptable form of evidence is therefore critical to the timely success of a repayment. Any submission to HMRC requesting the early carry back of losses will need sufficient evidence that losses will be included in the company tax return for the loss-making period when it is eventually submitted.


Terminal loss relief

Two types of terminal loss relief are available to corporates.

  1. Terminal relief for losses in the final 12 months of trade

This relief allows a company to carry back any trading losses that occur in the final 12 months of a trade and set them off against profits made in any or all of the three years up to the period of the loss. As normal, losses can only be set off if the company was carrying on the same trade and is claimed on a LIFO basis.


On a practical note, terminal loss relief has to be claimed. A claim must be made within two years of the end of the accounting period in which the loss was made. The claim is normally made within the tax return or an amended tax return.


2. Terminal relief for carried forward losses of a trade from 1 April 2017

From 1 April 2017, if a company stops trading, it may be able to claim terminal loss relief for carried forward losses of that trade.


This is designed to give additional relief to companies that have been prevented from fully relieving profits of the final three years of a trade, due to restrictions on relief for carried forward losses.


Losses that can be used are trade losses carried forward to the final accounting period when the trade ceased. These losses can be used to reduce profits:

  • of the final accounting period
  • for earlier periods up to three years before the end of the final accounting period.


You can only use this relief to reduce profits of the three years ending with the end of the period in which trading stopped. This is not the same as the three-year period that applies for losses that occur in the final 12 months of the trade.

Covid-19 and modified filing requirements at Companies House

The very latest details of modified filing requirements.

The very latest details of modified filing requirements.


The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act and The Companies etc. (Filing Requirements) (Temporary Modifications) Regulations 2020 that came into effect on 27 June has introduced the following measures regarding filings at Companies House:


Extension of deadlines for filing accounts from 27 June 2020

From 27 June 2020, if the company’s filing deadline falls any time from 27 June 2020 to 5 April 2021 (including these dates), the deadline is extended as follows:

  1. for private company from nine to 12 months.
  2. for LLP from nine to 12 months
  3. for PLC from six to nine months
  4. overseas companies (who are required to prepare and disclose accounts under parent law) from three to six months.


If the company has already had an extension, the extension granted by the regulations will apply to the original filing deadline. It will not be added to the filing extension already granted by Companies House.

If this is the company’s first accounts and:

  1. if the first accounts cover a period of 12 months or less, the filing deadline will be extended from nine months to 12 months for private companies and six months to nine months for public companies.
  2. if the first accounts cover a period of more than 12 months, the filing deadline will now be:

    – 24 months from the date of incorporation for private companies
    – 21 months from the date of incorporation for public companies or
    – three months from the accounting reference date - whichever is longer.


This is a temporary measure - any filing deadlines that fall on 6 April 2021 or later will not be automatically extended.


Confirmation statement

Companies and other types of business registered at Companies House will get more time to file their confirmation statement. The current 14-day deadline (from the end of your review period) will be extended to 42 days. This is a temporary measure; the filing deadline extension will not apply where the end of the review period falls on 6 April 2021 or later.


Event-driven filings

The period allowed to deliver details of the event have been increased to 42 days.


For changes to details of directors this covers:

  • information on people with significant control (PSC) and secretaries
  • changes to registered office address
  • notification of place where registers of members, directors, PSCs and secretaries are kept
  • notification of place where copies of instruments creating charges are kept

For LLPs this covers:

  • changes to membership or PSC information
  • changes to registered office address
  • notification of place where registers of members and PSCs are kept
  • notification of place where copies of instruments creating charges are kept
  • changes to details of partnership under section 9 of the LPs Act 1907.


This is a temporary measure. The filing deadline extension will not apply where the deadline for the filing falls on 6 April 2021 or later.


Mortgage charges

The period allowed to deliver the particulars of a charge to Companies House will increase from 21 days to 31 days.


For charges created on or after 6 June 2020, the period to deliver the particulars of a charge will automatically increase to 31 days. This 31 day-period will start the day after the date the charge was created.

Covid-19 SMP recovery

How can you create a safe working environment during the Covid-19 pandemic?

How can you create a safe working environment during the Covid-19 pandemic?


It is difficult to know where to turn to see the latest recommendations on returning to the office. We have been sharing what our ACCA family has been putting into place over the past two months. As you will know, being an employer, you will always endeavour to keep your employees safe and informed during their transition back to work. Also, you want those clients you physically see to feel safe and informed and they will also be looking for support. For your business you need to draw a plan around moving back to the office and what to consider from a digital and human perspective.


The British Standards Institute has laid down very comprehensive guidance for creating a safe working environment for home working and workplaces. As the guidance is evolving and changing regularly, these are reviewed by an expert advisory group. Build into your plan a regular visit to the site to ensure that the procedures followed comply with the issued guidance.


As you and your clients will appreciate if Covid-19 is spread by the practice/business, then any liability that may exist could be reduced if you can show that you adhered to guidance such as the BSI guidance. The BSI guidance can be downloaded here.


Many businesses have started with regular surveys of their team and in some cases their clients. You may wish to use the following as a start, from one of our SMPs, and adapt it for your business.


Using the guidance available it is advisable to have a practical checklist that you keep under review. This can include:

  • survey of your team and clients
  • deliver updates to the right people
  • easily manage a staggered return
  • be sure your employees and clients stay safe
  • help managers lead through change
  • notify teams in one place and feedback
  • understand the impact and respond accordingly.


Guidance on recommends when, as an employer of more than four employees, you are reopening your business during coronavirus, you need to carry out a risk assessment to make sure that you keep employees and other people safe on site.


The government advises you should also consider the security implications of any decisions and control measures you intend to put in place, as any revisions could present new or altered security risks that may require mitigation. The procedure to meet your obligation should include consideration around:


Record your risk assessment

You need to write down the findings of your risk assessment on a risk assessment template and the information on how to do a risk assessment can be found here.

Decide who should be on site

Only essential employees and people who cannot work from home should be on site. To keep employees safe the government advises that a business should:

  • minimise the number of people on site
  • make sure on-site employees can spot symptoms
  • tell workers with symptoms to quarantine immediately
  • explain new procedures and provide training where necessary
  • consider the protected characteristics of your employees when making decisions, and to prevent discrimination.


NHS Test and Trace

To manage this risk certain sectors should collect details and maintain records of staff, customers and visitors for NHS Test and Trace. These include hospitality (including pubs, bars, restaurants and cafés), tourism and leisure (including hotels, museums, cinemas, zoos and theme parks), close contact services (including hairdressers, barbershops and tailors), facilities provided by local authorities (including town halls and civic centres for events, community centres, libraries and children’s centres), places of worship, including use for events and other community activities. This guidance applies to any establishment that provides an on-site service and to any events that take place on its premises.


How to ensure social distancing on site

The government advises you should always stay two metres apart (or one metre with risk mitigation if not viable) by putting up signs and floor tape to remind people to keep social distancing. Where you cannot stay two metres apart (or one metre with risk mitigation where two metres is not viable) you should:

  • only work together up to 15 minutes at a time
  • use screens and barriers to separate people where possible
  • work side by side or back-to-back rather than face-to-face
  • have fixed teams to minimise exposure
  • you need to make sure that your entrances and exits to the premises are safe and secured for a one-way flow where possible.
  • you should review layouts and processes to allow employees to work further apart from each other and avoid hot-desking.



You should clean the site including work areas before you reopen. You should clean busy areas more often and more thoroughly.


You should provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitiser and remind employees regularly to wash their hands.


Before you reopen your offices, you should:

  • check if you need to service or adjust ventilation systems, for example they shouldn’t automatically reduce ventilation when there are fewer people on site
  • get advice from your heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) engineer if your systems serve several buildings and you’re not sure if they need adjusting
  • open windows and doors to get as much ventilation as possible


Once you’re open you should:

  • frequently clean objects and surfaces that are touched regularly
  • limit or restrict the use of ‘high-touch’ items such as printers or whiteboards
  • restrict non-business deliveries, for example personal deliveries to workers


Protecting customers and visitors on site

You should work out the maximum number of customers that can reasonably follow social distancing guidelines. 


Keeping safe in meetings         

You should:

  • only have meetings in person if you cannot meet remotely
  • stay two metres apart (or one metre with risk mitigation where two metres is not viable)
  • use signs on the floor to help people maintain social distancing
  • have meetings outdoors or in ventilated rooms
  • not share objects like pens
  • have hand sanitiser in meeting rooms.


Keeping employees safe when they travel for work

You should:

  • only travel for essential work
  • have fixed groups of people travelling so that any contact happens between the same people
  • clean company vehicles between shifts
  • make sure accommodation meets social distancing guidelines
  • keep a log of who is staying where.


Receiving and sending goods safely

You should minimise contact at drop-off and collection. You should minimise contact when people pay for or exchange things, for example by using contactless and electronically signed documents.


More detailed guidance on for offices


Find out more about the plans other members have in place


Please also think about your business and what is needed for the future. In this issue you can find support on developing a firm's strategy, digital changes and services that you may wish to offer.


Please do share your plans with other members. You can send them to ACCA at


Fascinating forensics

Shaun Walbridge FCCA takes us behind the scenes in his role as a forensic accountant specialising in commercial and criminal cases.

In this issue we're delighted to be profiling Shaun Walbridge, who explains how he became a forensic accountant, what surprises him about the role and how it can be rewarding too.



Shaun is a Chartered Certified Accountant with over 20 years' experience as a forensic accountant specialising in commercial and criminal cases. 

Shaun trained with a top 50 firm of Chartered Accountants in the South West of England, qualifying in 1991. He is a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, a Registered Auditor and a Fellow of The Academy of Experts. He is also a TAE Accredited Mediator and Expert Determiner.


Can you describe your career journey, how did you get to where you are now?

I fell into a career in accountancy by accident!


When I left the Royal Navy (I was in submarines, as an engineer), I undertook a resettlement training course at what was then Plymouth Polytechnic — the course was entitled "Starting Your Own Business" and was run by a couple of local accountants.


My initial job was in a local factory (part of a multi-national engineering group) where I progressed to become an internal auditor — trying to curb all the stock losses. It was during this time that I realised that I had a bent for numbers and inspired by the accountants on the course, decided that this was the career for me.


Fast forward a few years — with plenty of hard graft, correspondence courses, lots of unsocial hours studying, resulting in my qualification as a Chartered Certified Accountant.


Upon qualifying, the firm that I worked for (now in the top 20), promptly made me redundant! This was at the time when the accountancy profession was in recession, I had become the fifth qualified person in an audit department that could barely support two, let alone five.


Having got over the initial shock, I started my self-employed career by setting up a consultancy practice and spent the next three years working in conjunction with the Audit Commission — mainly assignments within the Local Authority and Health Authority sector, together with ad-hoc private investigations.


It was this work that eventually led me into financial investigations and ultimately Forensic Accounting.


After three years, an opportunity came up to acquire a block of audit clients from a local accountant who hated audit work. This became the basis of my general practice which grew to employ ten people.


After a serious cycling accident in 2007, I reassessed my work/life balance, decided to sell the general practice and in 2008, embarked on a new career in forensic accounting. Twelve years on, I now run a successful practice covering commercial and criminal work.


Through my work, I have been recognised by my peers, and have been granted Fellowship of The Academy of Experts, a far and distant dream from my initial tentative steps as a junior.


What has surprised you, and continues to surprise you about the role?

The role of a Forensic Accountant provides me with opportunities that I wouldn't have come across in general practice, particularly in the criminal field (for both for prosecution and defence).


One of the biggest and earliest surprises was the simplicity of the majority of frauds. Far from being the complex frauds that we hear about daily - banking scams, the hacking of data etc., most frauds come down to poor accounting controls and procedures.


Another aspect has been the gullibility of people when offered something that is too good to be true. A classic example is the Ponzi fraud — the offering of unrealistic rates of interest that ultimately are totally unsustainable. Even now, despite the availability of information through the internet, people continue to fall for this type of scam!


What's the most rewarding part of being a forensic accountant?

The role of a Forensic Accountant is so totally different from that found in general practice or industry.


In general practice, I had become bored with the routine nature of the work — accounts preparation, tax returns and the increasingly burdensome nature of compliance. When I started in practice, it was about helping clients, finding solutions to problems and quite often, ways to mitigate tax.


I find that the most rewarding aspect of Forensic Accounting is the intellectual challenges that each case brings. Every case is different and requires the use of a broad range of skills acquired through work in practice and in commerce — accounting, audit, tax and good commercial awareness.


Whether it is a professional negligence case, or dealing with a criminal prosecution, I find that every case tests my abilities to present the facts of the case independently and impartially and to make sure that I fulfil my duty to the Court.


The most rewarding part of being a Forensic Accountant, is the chance to give evidence in Court (which whilst daunting at first sight), is ultimately the culmination of a lot of hard work.


How has ACCA enabled you to get to where you are now?

When I decided on a career as an accountant, coming straight from the Royal Navy without a degree was a serious obstacle as this was a prerequisite for entry as a trainee with the ICAEW.


Determined to get into accountancy, I persuaded a small practice to give me an opportunity as a junior, through the fact that I had started studying through the IAS (a predecessor training organisation to the AAT).


Despite thinking that I would never understand double-entry bookkeeping, I eventually qualified as a MAAT. Using this as a stepping-stone, I progressed to the ACCA and my eventual qualification as a Chartered Certified Accountant.


Training to be a Forensic Accountant

The one question that I am continuously asked, is what qualifications do you need to be a Forensic Accountant?


Simply put, qualifying as an accountant with ACCA or other accountancy professional body is merely the start of the career path to becoming a forensic accountant and expert witness.


To be a forensic accountant, it is generally expected that you will have a qualification with one of the major accounting bodies. There are exceptions, but they are few and far between.


Additional qualifications may add to the status of the forensic accountant. One that is seen quite often is that of Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE).


However, textbook theory and paper qualifications are no substitute for experience at the 'coal face'. To this end, it is not just good enough to have qualified; you will also be expected to have exposure at a high level as a partner or another senior position within a firm.


In addition to a broad understanding of accounting, audit, and taxation issues, you will require a good commercial grounding. After all, it is no use being an accounting wiz, if you haven't got a clue how companies operate in real life!


Once you have significant and verifiable experience, you may then choose to take it one stage further by undergoing vetting by an independent body who conduct peer-reviews on applicants by established experts in their field. Successful candidates may then be entered on to an 'Expert Witness Register', something that all solicitors refer to for verification of your experience.


Training & accreditation

An important factor in getting work and recognition as a forensic accountant is accreditation. This can take two forms, by membership whereby the applicant is subject to a vigorous vetting process, or through a simpler referee process.


The principal professional bodies in the UK are The Academy of Experts (`TAE') or the Expert Witness Institute ('EWI'). Both bodies act as a regulatory body for experts and have varying degrees of disciplinary and regulatory procedures.


I undertook my training through TAE, initially as an Associate (AMAE), then moving up to a full Member (MAE). Progression to Fellow (FAE) is conferred on those who can demonstrate an appropriately high standard of professional competence in their profession or calling and will have a wide knowledge and experience as an expert witness and knowledge of legal procedures and the laws of evidence.


I am fortunate to have been granted the honour of becoming a Fellow of TAE, one of less than 100 to have been granted fellowship in the life of The Academy of Experts.


Shaun Walbridge FCCA FAE QDR

Matrix Legal & Forensic Services Ltd



If this has inspired you to consider the future direction of your career, find out how you can expand your services.


Interested in providing a new service to clients as an expert witness or via alternative dispute resolution? Check out our free resources to get started.


Training and accreditation in this fast changing and highly regulated area is also available directly on The Academy of Experts’ website. For a limited period of three months The Academy of Experts will offer ACCA members reduced course prices normally only available to TAE members. Check available dates and book your place now.





Championing SME recovery schemes

Covid-19 recovery support for businesses left behind by existing government schemes.

Covid-19 recovery support for businesses left behind by existing government schemes.


On 9 July ACCA brought together a selection of ACCA members and industry partners to discuss Covid-19 recovery support for businesses left behind by existing government schemes.

Chaired by Head of ACCA UK, Claire Bennison, the meeting was attended by ACCA members, industry partners and welcomed guest speakers including Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Business & Trade, Sarah Olney MP, Small Business Commissioner Philip King and Forgotten Ltd campaign founder Gina Broadhurst.



  • Cherry Norton - Forgotten Ltd & Founder, Shared Voice
  • Claire Bennison, Head of ACCA UK
  • Gina Broadhurst – Founder, Forgotten Ltd Campaign
  • Glenn Collins - Head of Technical Advisory, ACCA
  • Kate Solomons-Freakley – Forgotten Ltd & Director, Kreative Group
  • Kirsty McGregor – Founder & Chairman, Corporate Finance Network
  • Nigel Adams – Founder, AdValorem
  • Paul Surtees – Co-Founder, Capitalise
  • Peter Jarman FCCA – Partner, Peter Jarman & Co
  • Philip King - Small Business Commissioner
  • Rob Burlison – Director of Corporate Affairs, Intuit Quickbooks
  • Sarah Olney MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Business & Trade



Opening Speakers


Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Business and Trade, Sarah Olney MP

Sarah Olney MP opened the meeting, relaying how her own experience with part-time study to become an ACCA qualified accountant has given her insight into how retraining opportunities can be a lifeline for those needing to change employment. She highlighted that these kinds of pathways will become very important in the next few years as unemployment rises and individuals look to retrain and re-enter the workforce.


Reflecting on the Chancellor's comments, Sarah said that though initially well received, there should be concern about the execution of these plans. In particular schemes such as the job bonus cast a wide net and may include those already planning to bring back employees, when funds could be put to better use in higher risk sectors, for whom the £1000 incentive might not be enough. She welcomed the reduced VAT rate for tourism and hospitality but questioned support for other areas of the economy and the ‘green recovery’.


Small Business Commissioner, Philip King

Philip spoke on how business trends were affecting financial outlook. Across the board there had been a sharp rise in late or frozen payments resulting in emotional and personal impacts, exacerbating mental health problems, causing sleepless nights and affecting relationships. Philip highlighted, in the work he and his office undertakes, good practice and poor practice including where his office has intervened. He felt it would be important to raise awareness of this impact among debtors to examine how they can support the supply chain now to protect its existence in the future. Examples included large companies extending support for employees out to the supply chain or bringing forward payments to creditors to provide immediate cashflow support.


Founder – Forgotten Ltd, Gina Broadhurst

Gina explained how Forgotten started in March as a grassroots campaign group of small business owners which has become a public campaign representing around two million limited companies employing 7.5m people. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the lack of support many of small businesses face and break down a generalised perception of owner managers as high-earners who don’t warrant support. The group's research had shown that almost a third of these businesses don’t expect to exist in a year, potentially affecting millions of jobs.



Open discussion key points:

  • Following the fall out of the 2008 crash many started businesses as part of an entrepreneurial culture encouraged by government. Now, due to business structure they have not received support and appear to be pinpointed as tax avoiders. 
  • Businesses now seem to be demonised despite a longstanding acceptance that business owners forfeited employment rights in return for limited company liability to protect assets such as their family home and personal savings. Peter highlighted that government schemes have been particularly unfair to those that started a business after April 2019 and those sitting just above the hard edge of the SEISS £50,000 income threshold.
  • In order to ‘build back better’ with the business resilience that will help many survive there should be more support to help owners change their business model and the way things are done within the company.
  • 46% of small businesses have a website compared to 96% of larger businesses.  Those thriving have been those able to pivot to digital platforms and communications tools to reach a wider audience.
  • Lender liquidity is an imminent issue; in 12 months lenders are likely to face difficult decisions as defaults begin to stack up from CBILS and BBLS and government guarantees have to be called upon through entry into the debt recovery process. To get cash flowing now, government must help provide liquidity to the majority of alternative lenders and promote lending as a force for good and sustainable business practice.


Wrapping up:

  • Sarah Olney stressed that there was enormous momentum in Parliament for these issues and the Liberal Democrats would continue to raise the highlighted trends but pressure on the Treasury would also be crucial.
  • Sarah said the insurance industry in particular needs to stand by its customers and as an economy we should value those that see the interests of their suppliers and customers as their own.
  • She also echoed comments on the availability of lending and was keen to further discuss policy around alternative financial products such as equity conversion and welcomed further discussions with the wider professional community.
  • Claire Bennison thanked attendees and committed to bringing the group back together to discuss further measures and continue the discussion around support for at risk sectors.



ForgottenLtd Campaign Overview

The ForgottenLtd Campaign exists to raise awareness of the lack of meaningful government support for the small business community across the UK. We call on the government to address this disparity by extending Covid-19 support packages to those of us left behind. We are asking for parity. We are asking not to be forgotten.


As small limited companies, we’ve been left out of most government financial packages. The situation is that:

  • As directors of small and micro limited companies, we are not eligible for the self-employed income support scheme (SEISS)
  • Many of us do not qualify for small business grants, as we are not in commercial premises
  • Although the Bounce Back Loans scheme is now available to some, many of us do not see taking on large debt in such an uncertain business landscape as a realistic option
  • Furlough is a catch-22 for company directors. Unpredictable cashflow means our salaries are low, so the scheme doesn’t cover our living expenses. And if we furlough, we're not allowed to work on saving our business
  • The negative cashflow position we find ourselves in is making it impossible for some to restart their business and become operational again
  • The mental health implications are immense, and are fast becoming a real area for concern


How to save UK #ForgottenLtd small businesses, our campaign asks include:

  • Reconsider putting directors of small limited companies on an equal footing with the self-employed income support scheme (SEISS)
  • Give small and micro limited companies a corporation tax rebate
  • Convert bounce back loans to grants
  • Increase the discretionary grant fund allocated to local authorities and, crucially, create parity of eligibility criteria, in all local authorities across the UK, to avoid postcode lottery
  • Allow furloughed directors to continue to work to support their businesses
  • Allow furlough for limited company directors paid via annual PAYE
  • Extend business support grant to all small businesses


View the petition details and more 



Companies House to restart the voluntary strike-off process

What date will see strike-offs recommence?

What date will see strike-offs recommence?


Due to coronavirus, in March Companies House introduced temporary easement measures to suspend voluntary strike-off action. The easements for voluntary dissolution apply to applications for strike-off registered at Companies House before 10 July 2020.


From 10 September 2020, voluntary strike-off process will restart for companies that have applied for voluntary strike-off.

When voluntary strike-off action restarts from 10 September - if there are no objections to dissolution and the two-month period from the publication of the Gazette notice has expired, the company will be struck off shortly afterwards.


Objections to a strike-off application

Any person with an interest in a company which is nearing strike-off should register an objection to dissolution at Companies House. If you have already registered an objection, but the time period for that objection is due to expire, you will need to register the objection again if it’s still required.


Any objection should be sent to Companies House as early as possible after publication of the Gazette notice and at least two weeks before the notice expiry date.


If you are going to file an application to strike off your company from 10 July 2020 onwards, these changes will not affect your company.


If the application is acceptable, it will be registered, and a notice will be published in the Gazette. If there are no objections to the dissolution, the company will be struck off in around two months’ time.


Compulsory strike off

The compulsory strike-off process is still paused. Companies House will continue to review this measure on a monthly basis and will publish any changes on its website.

Pause and reflect: is your website fit for purpose in 2020?

When it comes to website design, standards and best practice change constantly - which is why it’s important to stop every now and then and give yours a bit of an MOT.

When it comes to website design, standards and best practice change constantly - which is why it’s important to stop every now and then and give yours a bit of an MOT.


When you think about it, the website is a relatively new medium. It’s strange to think that we’re only just coming up on the 30th anniversary of the first ever website, designed in 1991 by the man who invented the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee.


They’re now such a part of everyday life and we all have opinions on them. Why is this website so ridiculously slow? Why is booking a ticket through this interface so frustrating? And my favourite: ‘Argh! Why did that button move when I went to click on it?’


It’s often the case, though, that we’re not very good at turning those critical abilities on ourselves – or, I should say, on our own websites. We’re used to their quirks and sometimes emotionally invested in them, having worked hard to agree a final design and copy.


The problem is, something that was decent enough in 2015 is now, more than likely, a bit of a relic.


Four simple checks
There are a few indicators you can look at yourself to get a sense of whether your website might be due an overhaul.


First, does it work well on mobile devices? A few years ago, best practice was to have two versions of your website – one for desktop PCs and one for phones and tablets. Nowadays, it’s better to have a responsive site, meaning one with a design that adapts to fit the device on which it’s being viewed.


The easiest way to test this is to look at the website on your phone and have a good browse around. Are there images that get cut off? Is there text that’s too small to read? Does it generally look a bit nasty compared to the desktop version?


If so, your site hasn’t been optimised for mobile – not only a frustration for users (around half of website visits are on mobile devices these days) but also likely to affect your Google search ranking.


Secondly, is it showing up a reasonable position in search rankings for terms such as ‘accountants in Burnley’ or ‘construction accountants in St Albans’?


Though search engine optimisation (SEO) is a strategic job in its own right, unexpectedly poor rankings – let’s say, beyond page three of results – can indicate underlying technical issues that are leading Google to downgrade your website.


Third, if you look at the address bar at the top of your web browser you should see the letters ‘https’ at the start of your website’s address. If you don’t – if it just says ‘http’ – that’s an indication that your site hasn’t been maintained to the latest standards.


HTTPS is a mechanism that uses a certificate to confirm that the connection to your website is secure. Since July 2018, Google’s Chrome browser has flagged websites without HTTPS as ‘Not secure’ – a scary-sounding phrase likely to deter users.


Finally, there’s an obvious test: how many leads did you get via the website in the past week, month or quarter? Has that number gone up or down compared to this time last year?


Ideally, you’ll have hard numbers on file but if not, an estimate is better than nothing. If it feels as if website leads have dried up, even as life has moved further online than ever, then it’s likely your website is deflecting potential business.


DIY user testing
Another quick trick to get a sense of how your website is performing is informal user testing.

Find a couple of people who don’t have much to do with your firm’s website – your partner, your mum, your mate from yoga. Set them up in front of a laptop and ask them to complete a simple task such as, say, finding your most recent blog post, or filling in and submitting a contact form.


Now, here’s the important bit: watch in complete silence. Don’t answer their questions or step in to help.


You’d be amazed at how often an exercise like this reveals deep flaws you don’t notice because you’re used to the website and its foibles.


Get a professional audit
If you’re beginning to suspect that there might be problems with your website, the next step is a professional review.


PracticeWeb offers a free website audit – get in touch to find out more.


Zoe Sweet, Commercial Director, PracticeWeb

Never forget your client’s digital experience

We all strive to ensure that clients all have an amazing client service and overall client experience. However, do we ever consider their digital experience?

We all strive to ensure that clients all have an amazing client service and overall client experience. However, do we ever consider their digital experience?


We are all aware that more and more businesses are looking to adopt technology with many moving to digital accounting platforms. There is also an increased adoption of the apps that then go along with this software as they strive to create a more automated and streamlined finance solution.


We, as accountants, also aim to ensure that the client has a smooth and slick technology focused service which starts with the onboarding through to the provision of monthly management accounts and year end accounts. However, do we ever sit back and think about our clients' digital experience and what makes a good digital experience?


Processes are key

When we provide our clients with technology-based services, the first things to consider are our internal processes. It is essential that we review and improve these where necessary and then ensure all our clients follow the same processes and that these processes are clearly documented and communicated with our staff.


We cannot easily scale up if we have different processes for each client as this causes confusion both within our team and with the client. This, in turn, leads to a poor client experience and hence must be avoided.


Always train your team

To provide a superior digital experience to your clients, it is essential that your team are trained on the technology. This extends beyond just the accounting tools and their training must include your practice management suite and the communication tools that are used within your firm. Also ensure that you and your team keep up to date with new software features and that this information is passed on to your clients.


If your team doesn't know how to use the technology, this will lead to inefficiencies and errors. Also, if your client is expecting you to be technology gurus, having a team that do not know how the technology works will lead to poor client experience.


The power of automation

We all know that automation equals efficiency. Direct integrations and apps such as Zapier allow us to save time and to streamline operations so providing an overall more effective and efficient service.


Onboarding is a common area where accountants use automation to reduce the manual processes needed when taking on a new client. For example, we can integrate systems so that when a proposal is accepted, the client is set up in the practice management software automatically and the direct debit mandate is created too. At the same time, we can send messages to the team to alert them that the client has accepted the proposal and we can send an automated email to the client to welcome them on board.


This automation is great with regards to the time savings made and also the client thinks we are on the ball as they have quickly had communication from us to say we are ready to start working with them. This is a super slick and streamlined digital experience! However, whilst digital is great, we need to remember the human touch. We are starting out on our journey with this new client and we need to get to know them and we need to question if having a fully automated process with no human contact will achieve this goal.


Consider including a welcome phone call and a personalised welcome pack to add a human touch to the process and that will really improve the digital experience for your new client.


Client needs and desires

Digital finance systems often allow us to provide our clients with a much wider range of real time information than previously. Information on key metrics, payment profiles and employee spend is all available and this can be reported back to our clients.


However, it is important to establish what a client needs and wants at the outset and then ensure that you keep checking with them in the future in case their needs change. Some clients like to have more information than others and what you think may be relevant to them may not be something that they want to monitor. It is dangerous to assume what they need!


It is also important to make sure you do not try a 'one size fits all' approach. To provide an excellent digital experience it is important to tailor the information you provide to their specific needs.


Client expectation

It is important to set out exactly how you work with your clients so that they know what to expect from the outset and also to ask them their preferences. This includes how you communicate with them, how they should contact you and how you will request information from them using technology based tools.


Your way could be very different from how the clients dealt with their last accountant so it is important you not only make them aware of the communication channels but also explain to them how they work, how they are accessed and if they are happy to use them.


There are many options available beyond just email including tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp and Facebook groups. Some of these may be totally new to your clients so you will need to take the time to implement these with them and help them get used to how the tools work and how you will use them.


Also consider what information you want on these different channels. For example, Xero Ask is a good option for providing Xero bookkeeping information and a secure document portal is a possible choice where clients can upload tax return details. However, we need to think about how many of these communication channels are used and the overall digital experience we are creating. Bombarding the clients with a lot of different options may lead to confusion so care is needed.


Also the frequency of communications and expected turnaround times are something you should set with your clients. Always ensure that these are achievable targets and that you do not over promise or the client experience will be impacted.


Setting all this out with your clients from the outset will ensure that they know what they can expect and this really improves the experience that they have with your firm.


Providing superior insights

Another benefit of a digital finance solution is the provision of insightful information to your client. It is possible to really drill down into the data, to pull information from many sources and then use this to provide your client with more detailed reports and insights than you could before using the digital solutions.


However, you need to ensure that the information is delivered to your client in the right format for that particular client. For example, do they prefer visual data or text, graphs or tables and do they want monthly comparisons to budget, forecast and prior year results or a more simple report?


Establishing the format and detail required is critical to ensure a great client experience. Get it wrong and the client could end up confused about their performance and will feel undervalued.


Remember to follow up

Never forget to follow up with the client for feedback and so establish if their needs have changed. Make sure you maintain the human element to your services throughout so picking up the phone or setting up a Zoom call where you see one another really helps to build a good client relationship.


Follow up is also important to both the firm and the team as this will allow you to identify where you can make improvements and identify areas where some team members may need extra support and areas where they excel.


The growth of digital technology within the accountancy profession has led to the provision of new information to clients and also the provision of information through different channels. Whilst we may see this as a benefit as we can deliver so much more than before, we still need to make sure that we consider the client and their digital experience. Consult with your clients regularly to make sure you are meeting their needs and also to maintain that human touch as this is still essential regardless of the automated alternatives.


Caroline Harridence – Editor, Digital Accountancy magazine


Don’t run off without run off insurance

Considering retiring? Don’t get caught out.

Considering retiring? Don’t get caught out.


As you are probably aware, ACCA requires that members who are ceasing to practice or are about to retire maintain professional indemnity cover for a six year ‘run off ‘period thereafter.


This cover provides protection should any claims arise during that period from work done before the practice was wound up. ACCA is currently being contacted by an increasing number of affected members who are struggling to obtain suitable run off insurance.


Ordinarily, run off cover is arranged in one of two ways, either by setting up a ‘six-year block’ policy which is paid for in advance or by setting up an annual policy which is then renewed each year for six years. Traditionally run off insurance can only be arranged with the insurer who provided the professional indemnity (PI) cover whilst the practice was trading.


Very few insurers, if any, will now consider providing run offer cover for a risk which had been held insured with another underwriter prior to retirement/cessation. Moreover, any insurer will also require to have held the risk for at least two years before they will even consider providing a six-year block of cover.


So, with few options available previously when placing run off, it is now even further fraught with difficulties. Such difficulties being experienced by members have been worsened now largely due to the prevailing hard market conditions for professional indemnity generally. Some insurers and Managing General Agents (MGAs) have withdrawn from the PI market for accountants completely and others are reducing their overall exposure to risk and so are no longer able to offer the six-year blocks of cover for run off.


Similarly seeking to curtail their exposure, Insurers may only provide minimum limits of Indemnity or restrict cover further by providing a single total limit on aggregated basis over the period of cover. All of this means that retiring accountants have a real problem effecting appropriate run off cover.


By way of a troubling example, we were contacted recently by a retired accountant, who had purchased an annually renewable run off policy with an MGA on which a claim had been made. Unfortunately, the accountant had been late in returning the renewal forms and the MGA simply declined to renew the policy.


In another instance, also involving an MGA, annual cover could not be renewed because the MGA simply withdrew from the professional indemnity market completely. We have received several such requests to place run off cover mid-way through the six-year period when Insurers depart the scene. Whilst we are obviously happy to assist, you must be aware that there are very few insurers available to assist at the present time.


As such when you are contemplating retirement or cessation of practice you must also consider the importance of addressing the continuing need for PI cover and be sure that it is placed properly. We therefore recommend that in the year or so you before you intend to close down or sell your practice you must ensure that your PI cover is placed with a stable, ‘A’ rated insurer and that you engage the services of a specialist professional indemnity insurance broker such as Lockton to assist you with the vagaries of the PI market.


Should you be considering the sale of your practice you also must give due consideration to ‘run off’ cover. Again, Lockton can readily assist you (or the potential buyer) with this to ensure that past liabilities can be protected appropriately.


Finally, and by way of immediate comfort to those accountants who are considering retiring from ongoing practices, there is better news: their past liability should continue to be covered by the firm’s professional indemnity policy on an ongoing basis.


Often after retirement, many accountants continue to practise as a consultant to the firm and likewise the majority of PI policies will continue to provide cover for work carried out by such consultants. Nevertheless, in each scenario, we strongly suggest that the policy wording be reviewed to make sure that cover is correctly in place and again Lockton can help with this.


Finally, if you have any questions please contact your Lockton Account Manager for further advice or email 


Lockton is ACCA’s recommended broker for professional indemnity insurance


Provision of non-contentious probate activities

ACCA is examining how we can support members who wish to undertake legal services activities now and in the future.

ACCA has been discussing with its Practitioner Panel how best we can support members who wish to undertake legal services activities now and in the future.


Our discussions covered a range of matters and there is a clear desire that ACCA should endeavour to provide further opportunities for its practitioners to access the legal services market, but to do so in a cost-effective way. ACCA has, for some time, been considering how best to achieve its stated aim to diversify and innovate in relation to new service lines for practitioners.


As you are aware, ACCA is only able to authorise firms for non-contentious probate work in England and Wales. In addition, ACCA is only able to authorise firms where all the principals are ‘lawyers’ (ie authorised for probate or other reserved legal activities) as ACCA is not a licensing authority for ABS - alternative business structures - and this was viewed as a potential blocker for many firms.


Therefore, for ACCA to truly open up the legal services market, it would need to gain recognition as a licensing authority for ABS and expand the range of reserved legal activities authorisations (such as the administration of oaths).


Legal services is a separate profession, largely restricted to those who operate in the field on a full-time basis and who have met the stringent licensing requirements (comprising additional examinations and experience requirements). The recent changes in the regulatory environment for legal services in England and Wales will increase the costs faced by ACCA in continuing as an Approved Regulator. These changes will impact, among other things, on ACCA’s governance arrangements and will mean that bespoke arrangements will need to be put in place to enable ACCA to comply with them.


Against that backdrop and that the provision of legal services sits as an adjunct to general practice, we believe partnering with another legal services regulator provides a pragmatic and cost-effective way to support practitioners to diversify their service offerings.


ACCA has explored the possibility of a partnership with a number of legal services regulators and we believe CILEx and CILEx Regulation would be suitable partners as their values and ambitions align to those of ACCA. We have therefore held exploratory discussions with CILEx and CILEx Regulation on a possible partnership which would provide ACCA practitioners access to a range of support services and a pathway for eligible ACCA practitioners to achieve legal services authorisation.


In summary, by partnering with CILEx and CILEx Regulation, we can continue to support our members in practice and provide greater opportunities for our small and medium sized practitioners in legal services, while managing the risks posed by changes in the regulatory landscape in this area. We will also be able to offer a pathway for eligible practitioners to achieve reserved legal activities authorisation beyond non-contentious probate work and, in turn, support practitioners to diversify their service offerings in a cost-effective way.


We will, of course, keep you informed of developments.


If you should have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Glenn Collins (Head of Technical Advisory, ACCA UK) or Laura Murphy (Standards Manager).

Help clients avoid sleepwalking into insolvency

Help your clients plan for recovery, in order to prevent business owners from ‘sleepwalking into insolvency’.

Following on from the above joint survey with CFN that revealed just 27% of clients had written financial forecasts or business plans that had been reviewing in light of Covid-19, ACCA has joined a new campaign to #LeaveNoBusinessBehind.


The campaign aims to provide additional support to the accounting profession to contact clients directly to plan for recovery, in order to prevent business owners from ‘sleepwalking into insolvency’ over the next 12 months. Greater government support and industrial strategy advocacy for business planning and professional advice is a central part of ACCA’s policy positioning.


The campaign will also provide educational materials and resources to accountancy professionals.


The campaign asks accountancy firms to sign up and do the following:

  • commit to have a dialogue with every single client
  • check in - Are they coping okay? What are their main worries?
  • prompt a forecast - Encourage them to prepare a cashflow forecast for the next 12 months & assist with that, if necessary
  • assess further support and funding needs - Do they need further support to raise finance, manage working capital or consider another strategic direction for their business?


To find out more, watch the recording of the kick-off launch. Sign up, make your pledge and you'll be given access to the skills hub.


Covid-19 policy activity

ACCA’s Policy Team is working to develop recommendations and lobby for government policy to support members and the businesses they advise.

ACCA’s Policy Team is working to develop recommendations and lobby for government policy to support members and the businesses they advise. The team maintains close relationships with a number of government departments and ministers to ensure that members have clear and relevant guidance.

Members have been sharing a range of helpful insight and experiences which we have reported back in response to government requests for business intelligence and our targeted lobbying and we continue to welcome a broad range of views and insight from members to shape lobbying at



SME Cashflow Survey

At the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown period, ACCA UK launched a survey in collaboration with the Corporate Finance Network (CFN) to identify the urgency and prevalence of liquidity concerns for businesses. This month alone, ACCA member feedback has received coverage in the Daily Telegraph, Sunday Times and City AM among many others.


Recent data shows a jump in the number of clients liquidating or dissolving their business from 2.9% a month ago to 5.4% this month. 23% of practice clients feel they will be unable to reopen their business with social distancing guidelines in place compared to a month ago.


We urge members to share their views and client experiences here.



Ongoing engagement with HMRC

ACCA regularly attends a number of HMRC forums and this month we have taken part in meetings with the HMRC Representative Body Steering Group, Employment and Payroll Group, Agent Digital Design Advisory Group and CJRS Stakeholder Group. We were able to raise several critical areas of member feedback including simplification of agent applications for CJRS, Director Payroll Applications and CBILS take-up. HMRC has noted member concerns and ACCA will share relevant feedback or actions with members in due course.


#LeaveNoBusinessBehind Campaign

Following on from the above joint survey with CFN that revealed just 27% of clients had written financial forecasts or business plans that had been reviewing in light of Covid-19, ACCA has joined a new campaign to #LeaveNoBusinessBehind.


The campaign aims to provide additional support to the accounting profession to contact clients directly to plan for recovery, in order to prevent business owners from ‘sleepwalking into insolvency’ over the next 12 months. Members can watch the campaign launch here. Greater government support and industrial strategy advocacy for business planning and professional advice is a central part of ACCA’s policy positioning.

Upcoming engagements and invitations for member collaboration:



ACCA will be preparing responses to the following consultations and welcomes member feedback and evidence to


Comprehensive Spending Review:  Representations will be accepted by the government from 24 September – members may send feedback to ACCA before this date.  


Members can access previous Policy activity updates on ACCA UK’s Covid-19 hub for members.

Thriving in challenging times

How can you stay ahead and continue to be relevant in our profession?

How can you stay ahead and continue to be relevant in our profession?


2020 is proving to be a very challenging year, and as an accountant you may be seeking to strike the right balance between client expectations, your and staff’s well-being and the long-term growth of your practice.


To help, consider adopting these behaviours within your own practice:


Be a passionate practitioner 

When developing the digitalised small and medium practice, explore the opportunities that accounting technologies and digitalisation can offer to transform your business.


A 360 degree view of a practice transformation by Nigel and Nikki Adams puts this perspective in context.


Embrace technology 

For organisations now, it is not a question of whether they digitalise, but how fast they embrace the opportunities and remain relevant to their customers.


This Focus on technology video by Alistair Barlow identifies many opportunities to streamline the practice digitalisation.


Scale-up success 

To supercharge your growth, explore how small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can thrive and create prosperity by adopting some of the practices of high-growth businesses by adopting a number of practical steps that maximise your growth potential and increase your chances of achieving success.


A webinar by Graeme Tennick for Practical guidance for SMPs in practice transformation identifies a number of great ways to make it happen.  


New services to add 

The competition is getting harder. As a practitioner, when was the last time you reviewed your offerings to clients for practice growth and sustainability? You can consider providing one of additional following services if not already doing so:


a) Probate services 

b) Alternative dispute resolution 

c) Expert witness 


ACCA is here to help

The following resources and support may help you save time and or reduce risks:


Meeting your compliance needs  

You can access our latest technical activities, engagement letters, making tax digital, audit & assurance, practice insurance, law & regulation, tax, financial reporting and factsheets.


Remote working and managing culture

As an employer you need to take a holistic approach to people. You need to be informed and take an evidence-based approach. Through research we have put together actions to consider.


Public practice and SMPs

ACCA is striving to help small and medium sized practitioners. As compliance fees fall and advisory work becomes increasingly important, everyone in practice must evolve to ensure they stay relevant. In this section, we have pulled together a wide range of resources and information to help you achieve this.


Cybersecurity and emerging threats

Watch this free webinar to understand more about cyber threats and what information really matters. 


Creating meaningful work through a digital perspective

Watch this free webinar to understand how you can embrace the potential of technology to create new types of work and be driven by a sense of purpose.


Eat Out to Help Out - key messages for your clients

A handy summary to share with clients who are participating in the 'Eat Out to Help Out' scheme.

Download and share our handy summary with clients who are participating in the 'Eat Out to Help Out' scheme.

Have your say on business rates... and more

Help shape our input into government consultations on business rates, tax advice and more.

There are a number of important consultations impacting working practices. ACCA will be preparing responses to the following consultations and welcomes your feedback and evidence. Please sent your thoughts to


The following questions are set to help guide member responses but views on other related areas are also welcomed:


HMRC Charter (closing 15 August)

  • Do you think the charter sets the right standards for HMRC’s service to customers?
  • What areas that are most important to customers when interacting with HMRC?
  • How you would like to see HMRC measure and monitor how it is performing, including how we can best listen to feedback and make improvements?


Call for evidence: raising standards in the tax advice market (closing 28 August)

  • What more could the government do to promote the work of good advisers?
  • From your professional point of view, how do standards differ between different types of tax advice? (with examples if possible)
  • Where else do good agents add value - for customers, HMRC and the wider economy? How could this be extended further?
  • Do you have any evidence about the impacts of unqualified agents or agents that don’t meet standards? And how effective are HMRC’s interventions to tackle poor practice?
  • What future changes do you consider will most impact the standards expected of the tax advice profession?


HM Treasury fundamental review of business rates (closing 18 September)

  • How well do you think current reliefs reach businesses that need them? Could they be better targeted?
  • What are your views on the frequency of revaluations (keeping in mind the need to giving businesses certainty while reflecting current property values)?
  • How can business investment and growth best be supported through the business rates system, and how effective would business rates changes be compared to other available measures or tax reliefs?


The scope of qualifying expenditures for R&D Tax Credits: consultation (closing 13 October)

  • Are there uses of data that contribute to R&D but which do not currently attract relief through the RDEC and SME schemes? Please provide examples
  • Do you already claim for software costs under the current definition? If so, what was your experience of separating out the R&D specific costs for the purposes of the claim?
  • Are there any business costs, partially or wholly for R&D purposes, that do not currently qualify for R&D tax credits, that should be if the regime is to better reflect the nature of modern R&D?


Comprehensive Spending Review:  Representations will be accepted by the government from 24 September – practitioners may send feedback to ACCA before this date. 


Audit changes and Brexit

Be prepared for changes to audit regulations.

Be prepared for changes to audit regulations


In order to give individuals and firms sufficient time to prepare for changes which will take effect when the transition period ends on 31 December 2020, ACCA has published draft Global Practising Regulations which set out the proposed amendments to the United Kingdom Audit Regulations 2016 in Annex 1, Appendix 1.


We've prepared a tracked changes version of the regulations.


The revised regulations will be implemented on 1 January 2021.


Those members with appropriate experience may wish to ensure they ensure they have applied for or hold the appropriate auditing certificates.


Firms undertaking work for clients in the EU may wish to review this work.


View the untracked version of 'Brexit impact on ACCA’s UK Audit Regulations' on the Brexit landing page on our website.

Targeting Covid-19 related fraud

HMRC granted new powers to crack down on fraud.

HMRC granted new powers to crack down on fraud.


Covid-19 related fraud is reportedly on the rise, with employers putting pressure on employees to continue to work when on furlough or businesses obtaining rates grants when not meeting the relevant conditions. HMRC is seeking to regulate its powers to deter deliberately incorrect claims through penalties and recover funds through self-assessment.


It is expected that the scope of policing powers to recover wrongly claimed grants may be extended through to local authorities, to gradually cover all of the Covid-19 support grant schemes in time.


The legislation

Finance Act 2020 Schedule 16 (regulation 9) gives powers to HMRC to make an assessment for coronavirus support payment to which the person is not entitled. On CJRS and SEISS schemes the Act will:


  • give HMRC powers to raise an income tax assessment on anyone who has received a SEISS or CJRS payment to which they are not entitled, or anyone who has not used a CJRS payment to pay furloughed employee costs. The assessment is equal to the amount to which they are not entitled, or which they have not used to pay furloughed employee costs
  • reaffirm HMRC’s inspection powers to check that the SEISS or CJRS grant has not been overpaid and that a CJRS payment has been used for its intended purpose
  • give HMRC powers to charge a penalty, where:
    • a person deliberately makes an incorrect claim for a SEISS or CJRS
    • a person who has claimed a CJRS payment deliberately does not use it for the costs it was intended to reimburse.
  • give HMRC powers to make a company officer jointly and severally liable for the income tax charge raised in relation to any CJRS payment to which the company was not entitled or which was never intended to be used to pay the furloughed employee, in cases where
    • the officer is found culpable of making a deliberate CJRS claim to which the company was not entitled, and
    • HMRC can demonstrate that there is a serious risk that the company will be unable pay the income tax assessment


Penalties for failed notification

Penalties will only apply if the person fails to notify HMRC about the situation within the prescribed notification period.


‘The notification period’ was the period commencing on the day on which the income tax became chargeable and ending on the later of:


(a) the 90th day after the day on which this Act is passed, or

(b) the 90th day after the day on which the income tax became chargeable.


What should members do?

With the budget deficit set to reach an all-time high, it is expected that the recovery of overpaid grants will be high on HMRC’s agenda, as indicated by the much publicised recent arrests to seize evidence of CJRS fraud.


It will now be particularly important for practitioners and the wider ACCA member community to ensure the correct understanding of the whistleblowing process as well as the obligations imposed on members by the Professional Conduct in Relation to Taxation (PCRT) and AML reporting obligations when suspicions of incorrect client claims are identified.

Withdrawal of P45 and P60 bulk stationery

If you require P45s for 2020/21 remember to order these now.

HMRC has written to employers to notify them that from 1 August 2020 HMRC will stop providing blank paper P45s and P60s to employers who are able to file their payroll online.


What you need to do now:

  • get ready to use payroll software to produce your P45s and P60s - go to for a list of products including free software if you have fewer than 10 employees
  • make sure you have enough blank P45s while you get ready to produce your own. P60s are dated, so only order more if you need them for the last tax year,


If you are exempt from filing your payroll online, you will not be affected by this change. You can continue to order stationery by phoning the HMRC order line.


An update from ACCA's president and chief executive

Jenny Gu, ACCA's president, and Helen Brand, the chief executive, share an update on what's been happening over recent weeks at ACCA.

As our members and wider community continue to work through the challenges of the pandemic and focus on recovery, we’d like to update you on ACCA developments.


We’ve heard from many of our members, future members and partners about how they’re coping with the demands they continue to face. We’re incredibly proud of the crucial role you’re all playing to support and guide organisations through these difficult times, and of your focus on thinking ahead to sustainable economic recovery.


The sense of working together has been resounding. This was demonstrated in the five global Covid-19 webinars held over the last few months in which we and members of our Council from different locations at different stages of the pandemic shared insights with some 12,000 members. Many members have also taken part in a huge range of online events across our global network designed to support them, and enable the sharing of experiences.


We’ve been tracking the impact of the pandemic through two global surveys in which some 14,000 members took part. Covid-19 global survey: inside business - impacts and responses was published in April, and its sequel, The road to recovery, in June. While helping members to assess and benchmark their own strategies, the surveys also highlight issues that need to be addressed by policymakers. We’re contributing to policy discussions about driving recovery in many parts of the world and our members’ views and insights have helped us speak with authority to governments on the critical issues they’re facing and influence their actions.


One area of focus is the huge challenge faced by SMEs. Many of our members are advisers to SMEs, or employed by them, and we’ve been working hard to support them as they help these businesses stay afloat. In May we joined forces with the International Chamber of Commerce in their Save our SMEs campaign. In the UK we’ve worked with The Corporate Finance Network and our SMP members to establish an ongoing SME Tracker to focus attention on the specific challenges they face. And in Malaysia we created an SMP100 group for practitioners to connect, exchange ideas and support SMEs, which we’re looking to roll out globally.


Digital solutions are more important than ever as the pandemic has dramatically accelerated business transformation. Professional accountants play a vital role in this with their unique blend of digital, analytical and human skills, and wider perspective. So over the next few months we’re focusing in particular on digital, supporting our community through new professional insights research, online events, and a refreshed digital intelligence hub containing a wide range of cutting-edge CPD to help members demonstrate their digital credentials, especially when it comes to career changes.


We continue to support our members and future members through ACCA Careers, our jobs website advertising some 100,000 vacancies around the world every month, alongside careers advice content, including how to ‘ace’ an online job interview, free CV reviews and career management sessions. And we’re supporting members and future members facing financial distress through support such as flexibility on fees.


The ACCA Qualification develops critical digital skills in our students. With disruption to exam sittings, we’ve worked fast to find a secure and rigorous solution for students to sit their exams remotely when our exam centres cannot operate. We’ve successfully launched remote invigilation for our on-demand Foundation and Applied Skills exams and we’re working to extend this across the ACCA Qualification for those students who experience exam centre disruption.


Keeping you updated has been a commitment we made right at the start of the pandemic. Our Covid-19 hub went live on 13 March, the day our London office started working from home. Since then, the hub has had a million pageviews, with content designed to help manage the impact and drive recovery.


In April we launched our new five-year strategy to 2025, with a refreshed ACCA purpose and values. For more on this and our strategic performance, along with more information on how we’ve managed the impact of the pandemic as an organisation, our integrated report will be published on 31 July.


We thank you wholeheartedly for your hard work, expertise, resilience and optimism – and the part you are playing to get the world economy back on track. We look forward to our ongoing work together on the road to recovery. And above all else, we wish you and your loved ones well.


Jenny Gu, President, and Helen Brand OBE, chief executive ACCA

Topical webinars: secure your place now!

Sign up now for one of five webinars covering vital subjects this autumn.

ACCA UK will running a series of free technical webinars for practitioners in September and October that will feature these webinars:


Inheritance tax planning 21 September (12:30)

Speaker: Paul Soper, tax lecturer and consultant


Landlord reliefs and taxes 28 September (12:30)

Speaker: Paul Soper, tax lecturer and consultant


Differences between realised and distributable profits and a recap of key areas 7 October (12:30)

Speaker: Helen Kerrigan, Future Finance Training Ltd


Business recovery options 13 October (12:30)

Speaker: David Fleming, Duff & Phelps


VAT issues with online trading 23 October (12:30)

Speaker: Dean Wootten, Wootten Consultants Limited



Register now for any or all of these webinars


If you are unable to join us for the live webinars then you will be able to watch them on demand at your convenience.


Each webinar will count for one unit of verifiable CPD where it is relevant to the work that you do.


Accounting Excellence Awards: ACCA connections

Multiple ACCA members and their firms have been short-listed at the Accounting Excellence Awards!

Congratulations to the following ACCA firms who have been short-listed across various categories (some in multiple categories) at the Accounting Excellence Awards 2020:

  • flinder
  • Soaring Falcon
  • Makesworth Accountants
  • Pell Artists
  • Inspire
  • Inca Caring Accounting
  • PJCO Chartered Certified Accountants
  • Sterling Finance (UK) Ltd
  • Kinder Pocock
  • DH Accounting
  • Melanie Curtis Accountants Ltd.


Meanwhile in the Practice Pioneer Award category, we have four ACCA finalists – Alastair Barlow, Daniel Crowther, Nathan Keeley and Simon Cowie.


Congratulations also to the ACCA members in other practices shortlisted.


The very best of luck to everyone and we hope we are celebrating some successes at the Award ceremony in February 2021!

Expand your services

ACCA practices can diversify by offering additional services such as forensic accounting, probate work and research & development claims.

ACCA practices can diversify by offering additional services such as forensic accounting, probate work and research & development claims.


Here, ACCA members share their personal insights into providing these services.


Shaun Walbridge of Matrix Forensic

As forensic accountants, the majority of our work involves dispute resolution, typically for cases that may end in the courts. We work in the main with solicitors to provide expert witness reports for civil or criminal cases. Civil cases include professional negligence, company valuations, ancillary relief or other financial matters, all of which bring into play the experiences gained from general practice.


We also undertake criminal cases (both prosecution and defence) which are challenging but enjoyable. On occasion, it may be necessary to give evidence in court before a jury.


The role of the expert witness is guided by the procedure rules – civil, criminal and family. You are expected to be independent and to act impartially; your overriding duty is to the court and not to the person paying.


One area that is misunderstood relates to the qualifications to be a forensic accountant - the court requires expert witnesses to be suitably qualified and to have appropriate experience of acting as an expert witness. Training to be an expert witness is through The Academy of Experts (in partnership with ACCA) who are an accrediting body for expert witnesses.


Take an in-depth look at Shaun's work in this related article called Fascinating Forensics.



Jane Heard of Jane Heard Probate Services

Having been in general practice for years, gaining a wealth of experience assisting clients, executors and solicitors in complex situations relating to probate, I jumped at the chance when the Legal Services Board gave regulatory approval to ACCA to authorise its members to provide non-contentious probate services.


Accountants are ideally placed to provide this service, dealing with figures, liaising with HMRC, shouldering the administrative burden, completing countless forms, providing valuations, calculating tax liabilities, working to deadlines, preparing accounts and looking for ways to reduce the overall inheritance tax liability.


You need to constantly ask questions, be a detective, think outside the box, be methodical and keep good records. Inevitably an answer to one question leads to more questions, and there can be long delays in getting answers from third parties. It is a very different area of work but incredibly rewarding. Accountants are always there to help make life easier for clients, but this work has the added responsibility of providing a caring, professional, efficient service at the sensitive time of the loss of a loved one.



Alex Black, Head of R&D at Ad Valorem

Each day as an R&D specialist varies greatly as the eligibility for the R&D scheme is wide reaching and therefore the client base is diverse. However, at their core they are all innovative and have a common approach in challenging the ‘norm’.


HMRC has criteria for what qualifies as R&D – a company must be seeking a technological or scientific advancement and overcome uncertainties. There is the pure R&D where a new product is created, then there is the R&D that takes a product or process and advances it over the base line. A good example is the iPhone – mobile phones and MP3 devices already existed but Apple integrated them into a smartphone in a significant advance. Engineering firms often find better ways to do things, and IT companies often integrate several pieces of software to allow functionality that was not previously possible.


Unsurprisingly, software is the most common R&D claim area, followed by engineering. But right now, there are quite a few eco-friendly R&D claims – most industries are seeing a drive for all processes, logistics and packaging to be eco-friendly or 100% recyclable.


R&D claim work involves understanding what the client has done to determine whether there is a case for a claim. Projects that succeed after a number of failures are more indicative of R&D so clients need to be encouraged to think about the failures they have had, how the end result is better than the baseline, and the hurdles they have had to overcome. Alex uses this information to produce a technical report to show HMRC that eligibility criteria have been met, and then provides a detailed calculation for the costs being claimed.


Some ACCA practices may be wary of doing R&D claim work but that can leave clients exposed to rogue R&D advisers. If you do not want to do R&D claim work yourself then make sure your clients use qualified professionals for an R&D claim. Ad Valorem provides R&D services to its own clients and also clients of other practices on a non-competing basis.



ACCA UK’s technical advisory website provides information on these areas of service as well as the training required and guidance available. Take a look to see whether these services might benefit your clients.




top row: Shaun Walbridge and Jane Heard


bottom row: Alex Black

Digital CPD events - book now

Our popular Saturday CPD Conferences for Practitioners have gone digital!

Secure your place now for the 2nd and 3rd in the series of digital Saturday CPD Conferences for practitioners and join from the comfort of your own office or home.


Saturday CPD Conference Two for Practitioners


  • Construction industry tax update
    Monday 14 September 2020
    Tim Palmer CTA ATT, Senior partner, Palmer Consultancy Partnership

  • Employment law update
    Tuesday 15 September 2020
    Louise Dunford LLM LLB Barrister, Director LD Consultancy Ltd and consultant for CompleteHR Ltd

  • Knock your socks off service in these challenging times
    Wednesday 16 September 2020
    Simon Chaplin FCCA, Director, Pull Your Socks Up Simon Ltd and GreenStones Ltd

  • Accounting standards update
    Thursday 17 September 2020
    Steve Collings FMAAT FCCA, Partner, Leavitt Walmsley Associates Limited



Saturday CPD Conference Three for Practitioners


  • Claiming allowances and reliefs for individuals and owner-managed businesses
    Tuesday 24 November 2020
    Paul Soper FCCA, lecturer, consultant and broadcaster

  • Protecting your data & digital privacy
    Wednesday 25 November 2020
    Dr Stephen Hill BSc (Hons) MLPI CIIP PhD, Managing director, Hill Bingham Ltd

  • Autumn budget update
     Thursday 26 November 2020
    Dean Wootten FCA CTA, Consultant, lecturer and author

  • Cross border VAT in 2020 and beyond
    Friday 27 November 2020
    Dean Wootten FCA CTA, Consultant, lecturer and author


Fee: £115 + VAT (£138.00) per person/per conference


If you are unable to join the live webinars, you will be able to watch them on-demand 24 hours later.

Guide to practical audit compliance for partners and managers

Essential two day workshop helps participants prepare for ACCA and ICAEW audit monitoring visits.

This two day workshop has been designed to help participants prepare their practices for ACCA and ICAEW audit monitoring visits.  The most common causes of unsatisfactory monitoring visit outcomes will be identified and discussed during the workshop.


The workshops are organised and delivered by PCP.  For further information click on the links in the dates below or email



13-14 October London

24-25 November, Manchester

16-17 December, London




ACCA working in partnership with PCP