The ‘secret accountant’ reflects on three of the biggest challenges facing practitioners today.
This month the ‘secret accountant’ seeks to strike a chord with practitioners across the country with their reflections on the challenges of dealing with HMRC and clients’ self-employed bookkeepers, as well as listing some of the random challenges presented by clients in the past 12 months.
HMRC Have you ever found yourself literally banging your head on your desk through the sheer frustration of dealing with HMRC? I have, on several occasions: once with an investigation into a church minister’s affairs when the HMRC officer assured me that it was a luxury to have a computer and therefore not tax allowable, even though he had another one for personal use – surely he could write his sermons with pen and paper (or was that quill and parchment?)
And how many times does one still have to argue when they say there is no 64-8 in place although you have been acting for the client for years and received much correspondence from HMRC regarding him?
And what about when you wish to discuss several clients in one phone call to save time, but have to give your name, rank and serial number each time you move from one client to the next?
Best advice – don’t forget to use the existing agent dedicated line, which can ease life and do join the campaign to have one for PAYE.
Clients’ self-employed bookkeepers The majority are very good but not all. Some may be incompetent and very protective of their position and because they make the clients’ lives so much easier, how do you tell the client that there are mistakes, especially where VAT is concerned - eg VAT claimed on stamps, bank charges and insurance?
And ‘everything is done for you – you only have to prepare the final accounts’ – but hang on a minute, that so-called reconciled bank account is £500 out and on further investigation you discover £500 sitting in a suspense account entitled ‘bank difference’.
Best advice – book onto a training course on the art of tact and diplomacy.
Clients’ random challenges What do you say to the clients who:
cannot get their records to you because they are dog-sitting?
have met a man down the pub who has told them he never pays tax so why are they having to – should we not be doing more to eradicate their tax bill (but that man is also a client and we know that he does pay tax)?
you prepare payroll for – and when everything has been run, payslips prepared, FPS authorised and you are just about to press the button to submit the RTI you receive an e-mail saying ‘sorry, I forgot to tell you about a new member of staff – he is eighteen, definitely doesn’t have an NI number and by the way, he is my son’?
run sole trades and partnerships and take out ‘wages’ each week, believing that this will reduce their overall tax bill?
pay their class II national insurance and just cannot understand that they have to pay class IV as well?
have been badly advised by their previous accountant, without ‘calling’ our peers?
have solicitors who have incorrectly calculated inheritance tax on an estate they are involved in?
Best advice – stay calm, use ACCA’s technical advisory helpline and keep a sense of humour. The secret accountant is an ACCA practitioner somewhere in the heart of England