Tax Advice Network

Last month I posted less frequently on this blog than usual. My focus was on the launch of a new business venture – an additional service to those I provide to support ambitious professionals. The Tax Advice Network has a clear focus on accountants in general practice although others may find it of interest too.

Tax Careers Magazine has just published a piece based on our launch press release.

Lee forms new online tax alliance:

Former ICAEW Tax Faculty Chairman, Mark Lee, has created a new virtual tax firm. The online facility www.TaxAdviceNetwork.co.uk is aimed primarily at accountancy firms without inhouse specialist tax expertise.

Already 20 experienced tax advisers have joined the network and between them they are able to give tax advice across a broad range of fiscal disciplines. Lee says that his members can advise on dozens of areas of tax, including the more complex areas of inheritance tax, employment status, customs duties, residence issues, corporate reorganisations and VAT. International tax will be added to the coverage in due course.

Lee states that the site includes customisable discussion forums exclusively for tax specialists to exchange views about tax and business issues of their choosing. In addition to actively marketing their services the Tax Advice Network also provides an online networking support facility for its tax specialist members.

He is targeting the service at firms that have ad-hoc need for high quality advice from experienced practitioners but are unwilling to pay the fees that larger firms charge. He wants the service to grow to include 200 specialist advisers within two years. “The site acts as a broker, marrying supply and demand,” he says. “It enables accountants to search and find advisers by location and by area of expertise. There is no charge for using the site and it contains full profiles for each specialsist.”

If this is something that might be of interest do please have a look at the website – which has been widely complimented by visitors for its clarity and ease of use.

We also offer a free weekly tax news email update focused on the needs of accountants in general practice; The first five copies are also available to read or download from the website.

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Is lack of time a barrier to innovation in professional firms?

When I facilitate partnership strategy meetings I often ask the partners about their interest in and attitude to new technological solutions to age old issues.

There is often one visionary in the firm who has, as yet, been unable to persuade other partners to invest in ‘the future’. The reason is rarely down to cost. Few of the available innovations have a heavy price-tag. But they require TIME and, in my experience, it is the lack of incentive to make sufficient time available that is amongst the biggest challenges and barriers to innovation in accountancy firms today. And, yet, ‘innovation’ doesn’t have to mean doing new things.

It’s that fear of the unknown that often becomes the excuse for a lack of progress. In my view a firm is far more likely to succeed if it first starts innovating the way it does things with which the partners are familiar. So a more business-like a modern approach to financial management (and dashboards for example) will often be the first step forwards. This will often be part of the evolution of a strategic plan for the firm. This does not need to be some complex multi-part treatise that takes forever to create and is never referred to again.

It should be a working document and the backdrop for all innovations, new processes and systems. There is little point in establishing an IT strategy, for example, unless this is placed into a context and the partners are clear how the proposed changes will tie in with the firm’s strategy and the partners’ objectives.

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Billing for extras – a client's reaction

We’ve all done it haven’t we. Estimated (or maybe even quoted a fixed) fee for a specific piece of work and then the scope of the work has changed slightly. And then a bit more. Perhaps we’ve delegated the work and have not kept in touch with how much extra time the ‘tweaks’ have involved.

And then we see the WIP reports and realise that the cost over-runs are more than we anticipated and certainly more than the client might have expected.  So what do we do? We write a bit off and then approach the client with what we consider to be a reasonable amount to bill them on top of the expected fee.

If we’ve taken the coward’s route we await the dreaded phone call or letter and if we hear nothing for a few days we relax. We got away with it!  We can bill the extra and we’ll get paid.

I’ll admit that, in the dim and distant past, I pursued that approach.  I later learned that although a letter/email may be a good way to broach the subject it is critical to proactively follow up with a prompt phone call rather than to just wait for a reaction.

I’ve recently found myself on the other end of such an arrangement and am now more convinced than ever before as to how important is that timely follow up call.

If you’ve underestimated a fee and want to increase your prospect of recovering more than the expected amount you MUST take the initiative. Set out your justification and plan your approach to the client. Don’t just send the bill. Don’t even send the bill if you hear nothing back after sending the client a note of the proposed additional fee. Even if it gets paid you cannot assume the client is happy. They may well be looking for a new supplier.

You will only know what your client thinks if you SPEAK to them – and you trust them to tell you the truth!

I welcome your comments and ideas as to how you deal with such situations in practice.

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Billing for extras – a client’s reaction

We’ve all done it haven’t we. Estimated (or maybe even quoted a fixed) fee for a specific piece of work and then the scope of the work has changed slightly. And then a bit more. Perhaps we’ve delegated the work and have not kept in touch with how much extra time the ‘tweaks’ have involved.

And then we see the WIP reports and realise that the cost over-runs are more than we anticipated and certainly more than the client might have expected.  So what do we do? We write a bit off and then approach the client with what we consider to be a reasonable amount to bill them on top of the expected fee.

If we’ve taken the coward’s route we await the dreaded phone call or letter and if we hear nothing for a few days we relax. We got away with it!  We can bill the extra and we’ll get paid.

I’ll admit that, in the dim and distant past, I pursued that approach.  I later learned that although a letter/email may be a good way to broach the subject it is critical to proactively follow up with a prompt phone call rather than to just wait for a reaction.

I’ve recently found myself on the other end of such an arrangement and am now more convinced than ever before as to how important is that timely follow up call.

If you’ve underestimated a fee and want to increase your prospect of recovering more than the expected amount you MUST take the initiative. Set out your justification and plan your approach to the client. Don’t just send the bill. Don’t even send the bill if you hear nothing back after sending the client a note of the proposed additional fee. Even if it gets paid you cannot assume the client is happy. They may well be looking for a new supplier.

You will only know what your client thinks if you SPEAK to them – and you trust them to tell you the truth!

I welcome your comments and ideas as to how you deal with such situations in practice.

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