Joss & Co Accountants - FAQs
I've listed below the questions I'm asked most frequently, and in the sections that follow, I've tried to set out my fair answer to each of the questions:
- Q1 - How quickly do you deal with work coming in?
- Q2 - How many staff do you employ?
- Q3 - How much do you charge for your services?
- Q4 - When do clients receive bills?
- Q5 - What are your working hours?
- Q6 - Do you have any preference re clients contacting you by mail, telephone, email or text?
- Q7 - Do clients need to make appointments?
- Q8 - Do you offer Tax saving advice?
- Q9 - Some accountants specialise in accountancy, audit or tax. If you work on your own, do you have the knowledge/experience to deal with all aspects of clients affairs/problems?
- Q10 - I understand all Tax Returns and VAT Returns etc. have to be filed online now. Can you deal with that?
- Q11 - Are you a member of a recognised professional body?
- Q12 - Do you work extended hours prior to the self-assessment filing deadline?
- Q13 - Are you registered under the Data Protection Act?
- Q14 - Do clients need to tell you if they no longer want you to act for them?
Q1 - How quickly do you deal with work coming in?
I aim to deal with all correspondence, emails and telephone calls on the day of receipt, or the next working day.
Accounts and tax work coming in during the first couple of days in any week, is usually started that week. Work coming in during the last couple of days in any week, is usually started the following working week.
Unless due to unforeseeable situations like illness, I do not have a backlog of work.
Q2 - How many staff do you employ?
I do all the professional work, with some background assistance with the administrative work from my wife.
Q3 - How much do you charge for your services?
All work is charged for on a time basis. The hourly rate depends on the type and complexity of the work involved.
Although I do all the professional work myself, if it is the type of work that could be handled by an experienced competent assistant, the hourly rate is £45 per hour.
If it is the type of work that can only be handled by a manager/partner, the hourly rate is £90 per hour.
As the firm's turnover is below the VAT registration threshold, I am not registered for VAT. This makes the fees I charge to businesses that are not registered for VAT very competitive, as with the fees I charge to clients for personal tax work.
Q4 - When do clients receive bills?
As I am sure the owner of any small business knows, probably the biggest single problem facing them on a day-to-day basis is late payment/non-payment by customers.
Accordingly, for clients requiring annual Accounts prepared as well as associated tax work done, I now require all clients to make reasonable payments to account of fees by monthly Standing Order.
When a new client is taken on, the initial amount of the monthly payments is not intended to equate exactly to one-twelfth of the likely annual total. It's simply based on the ‘average' fees charged to the ‘average' client. When taking on a new client, I've no way of knowing the number of transactions going through their records, and the style in which their records are kept and the accuracy with which their kept. Obviously fees charged to clients keeping their records on computer, where bank and VAT balances are reconciled regularly, will be much lower than fees charged to clients keeping manual records.
The amount of the monthly payments is reviewed after the end of each full year, to reflect the time spent on each client's affairs in the previous year.
Fee invoices are issued following completion of each set of annual Accounts and each annual Tax Return. However, should completion of any set of Accounts or annual Tax Return become protracted due to circumstances outwith my control, I reserve the right to issue an interim fee invoice. Any balance not fully covered by accumulated payments to account, is payable within 30 days of the issue of the fee invoice.
For clients for whom I am only completing the annual Tax Return, provided the anticipated annual fee is less than £200, I do not require payments to account. A fee invoice will be issued following completion of the annual Tax Return. However, should completion of a Tax Return become protracted due to circumstances outwith my control, I reserve the right to issue an interim fee invoice. All fees are payable within 30 days of issue of the issue of the fee invoice.
Q5 - What are your working hours?
Normally I make myself available 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, with a break for lunch from 12.30 p.m. to 1.30 p.m.
However, as I work alone, there will be times when I'm not available. Most days I am out at some point at meetings, and other mundane things such as dental appointments etc. Therefore, clients coming to my house to hand in records or documents, or to uplift records or documents, or indeed to speak to me even briefly about anything, are always urged to telephone beforehand to check that I'm to be at home and free to see them.
Q6 - Do you have any preference re clients contacting you by mail, telephone, email or text?
As I deal with the affairs of clients from all backgrounds, some of whom have limited computer skills, it would be inappropriate for me to impose on any client one method of communicating with me.
My concern about emails and texts, is over the last few years, I've become increasingly conscious that some clients use emails and texts as forms of social media, in the sense they send me emails and texts of no relevance to any ongoing professional work. I spend the first part of each day processing the emails and texts that have come in over the previous 24 hours. Most days that takes at least an hour, sometimes quite a bit longer. There is no 'perfect' method for charging for that time. The fairest method I can devise, is to note the time I start processing the emails and texts each morning and the time I finish processing them, and spread the total time as fairly as I can across the clients who have emailed me or text me that day. Therefore when it comes to fixing the amount of a fee to be charged to any client, if the incoming emails and texts have been restricted to matters of importance, they will have minimal impact on the amount of any fee. On the other hand, clients who have emailed me or text me seemingly every few days on matters of no real imporantce, will find their fees quite a bit higher than they need to be.
Telephone calls are less of an issue. Clients are not charged for calls that are simply to arrange an appointment or something similar, but they are charged for calls when information is exchanged or advice is sought and given.
Q7 - Do clients need to make appointments?
Clients coming to the house without a pre-arranged appointment will not be seen.
Apart from the disruption to current work, spontaneous answers given to questions of which no prior notice has been given, can be incomplete and/or misleading. For everyone's sake, it is better to have some prior notice of clients coming to see me, and matters likely to be discussed.
Q8 - Do you offer Tax saving advice?
Yes. As each working relationship develops, I point out obvious ways (if any exist) of reducing the amount of tax each client pays. However, to keep fees for annual complaince work at reasonable levels, a detailed review of any client's affairs is only carried out at their specific request.
Q9 - Some accountants specialise in accountancy, audit or tax. If you work on your own, do you have the knowledge/experience to deal with all aspects of clients affairs/problems?
Like all things, this needs to be kept in perspective. I am to accountancy and tax what family doctors are to medicine. We are all ‘general practitioners' . Being a general practitioner is in fact a ‘specialism' in its own right. Try asking a consultant neuro surgeon from a local hospital to stand in as a general practitioner in a local Health Centre for a few days!
Just as your family doctors cannot be expected to be experts in neuro surgery, I cannot be expected to have a detailed knowledge of every nuance of extremely complex and ever-changing tax legislation.
If an unusual point or an extremely complex point arises regarding a client's affairs, I reserve the right to seek advice from a tax specialist. The use of tax specialists in appropriate circumstances is to the client's advantage, as it obtains a more assured answer, and at much less cost, than if I had to undertake time consuming research for which I would otherwise have to charge the client.
Q10 - I understand all Tax Returns and VAT Returns etc. have to be filed online now. Can you deal with that?
The firm is registered with HM Revenue & Customs so that all Income Tax Returns, Corporation Tax Returns, VAT Returns and PAYE Returns are filed online.
Q11 - Are you a member of a recognised professional body?
No; not now.
As stated elsewhere, I qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1972 and remained a member of The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) until July 2004.
I resigned from ICAS at that time purely for commercial reasons. By 2004, the firm was paying out nearly £2,000 in annual membership/registration fees to ICAS, to the Financial Services Authority, to the Data Protection Commissioner and to HMRC re the Money Laundering Regulations. Balanced against the very modest fees charged to my clients and the increasing resistance to increases is fees as trading conditions started to deteriorate in this area, that level of ongoing expenditure became unsustainable.
Clients now have the level of ‘protection' merited by the level of fees they pay. The firm is now registered for data protection and money laundering purposes; the minimum required by law.
Q12 - Do you work extended hours prior to the self-assessment filing deadline?
The 80:20 doctrine applies in an accountancy practice just as assuredly as it applies in any other walk of life –
- 80% of clients provide records and other information on time; the other 20% are late.
- 80% of clients keep their records and information in good order; the other 20% don't.
- 80% of clients pay their bills on time; the other 20% don't.
After 50+ years in the profession I know from experience –
- If I work extended hours to help a client out one year, more than likely, the same client will provide their records or other information even later the next year!
- If I work extended hours to help a client out, there is no ‘guarantee' that will be reciprocated by prompt payment of the eventual fee. Indeed experience suggests fees charged to clients who have been helped out ‘above and beyond the call of duty', are the ones most likely to be ‘queried' and/or paid late.
For sole traders and partnerships, self-assessment has been with us since 1996, so no-one can be unaware of the deadline for filing Tax Returns and paying tax on 31 January each year.
For limited companies, Accounts have to be filed with HMRC and Companies House within nine months of the end of the financial year and tax paid by the same date.
Taking both deadlines together, any business or personal taxpayer has a minimum of nine months to have Accounts prepared and filed, Tax Returns prepared and filed and tax paid.
My policy is that provided clients provide me with their business records within six months of the end of the financial year, their Accounts will be completed before the relevant filing deadline.
In similar vein, as long as clients provide me with the information for the annual Tax Returns by the end of October in any year, their Tax Returns will be completed before the relevant filing line.
However, as there is always a bottle-neck of work in December/January each year (due to the 80:20 doctrine) and work coming to me is done on a strictly ‘first come, first served' basis, clients providing me with their records or other information ‘late', should expect deadlines may well be missed and Late Filing Penalties and interest may well be incurred.
Putting things simply, if clients play fair with me by getting their records and other information into me in good time and in good order, I will do my utmost to make sure Accounts and Tax Returns are filed on time, but conversely, I do not feel professionally or morally responsible when Accounts or Tax Returns miss filing deadlines, especially when they relate to clients who provide me with their records and other information ‘late' year after year.
Q13 - Are you registered under the Data Protection Act?
Yes. All the work I do on each client's behalf is done on computer. The only information stored in my computer is the mimimum necessary to do the work agreed to be undertaken for each client, and that information is not dislosed to any third party without the clients written permisson.
Q14 - Do clients need to tell you if they no longer want you to act for them?
Apart from common courtesy, yes. The timetable for processing much of the work in an accountant's office is dictated by deadlines set by HMRC and Companies House. This creates bottle-necks of work at certain times of the year. I try to mitigate the impact of these pressure points by doing essesntial, but not time-critical work, in the background at quieter times of the year. It's in the wider interest of my clients as a whole that I do this. This can only work for everyones' benefit provided clients advise me in writing as soon as they decide they no longer require my services. From time to time I am asked to do 'one-off' work, but it will be clear from correspondence etc. that there is no ongoing commitment either way.
Phone Andy Joss - 07961 433320