The advisers’ guide to HMRC products

As a long time supporter of the excellent work done by LITRG I’m pleased to note that they have recently launched www.revenuebenefits.org.uk for accountants and other advisers.

This new website is designed to provide advisers with access to the latest information on various HMRC ‘products’, including tax credits, child benefit and guardian’s allowance, national minimum wage and more.

LITRG has been keen to do more to support advisers who have to grapple with the “giving” side of HMRC activity, in particular, tax credits and child benefit. The new Revenuebenefits website was created with the support of HMRC and in partnership with Rightsnet.

Those who have heard almost any of my various talks over the years will also know that I routinely stress the importance of being able to advise on these issues – especially tax credits which, for example, may be due to clients when their business falls on hard times – but only if they have pre-registered.

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Don't be an Accountwit on twitter

It’s been a while since I last shared my tips and advice re twitter. These are all linked on the twitter page of this blog.

I’m seeing more and more accountants and accountancy firms starting to use twitter and making classic mistakes. No wonder so many stop tweeting after a while and conclude it’s a waste of time. It is if YOU do it wrong. That’s not a fault of the concept but of the user misunderstanding what it’s all about, how it works and how to get the best from it.  See, for example, my Twenty top tips for using twitter.

I think it’s a shame when accountants reveal themselves as twitter twits – or, as I have dubbed them, Accountwits. These are accountants who tweet just like other annoying or foolish twitter twits. In other words, accountants who make themselves less likely to be followed on twitter by real people.

Here’s my top ten list of Accountwit habits:

1. They tweet continuous promotional messages about their services

2. They tweet invitations to contact them for help re accounts and tax – as if non-followers might see them. They won’t.

3. They tweet references to what they are eating at each meal time. No one is interested and it doesn’t make the accountwit seem human, just stupid.

4. They tweet anonymously. Unless they are consistently VERY entertaining no one will be interested.

5.  They haven’t replaced the ‘egg’ graphic with a photo or, at least, their logo – but photo is best. People engage better with people.  Unless the tweeter is a huge brand of course. But the accountwit isn’t.

6. They don’t check or respond to direct messages sent only to them.

7. They have set their account to issue a standard Direct Message (DM) whenever anyone new follows them.  Only naive numptys do this. It’s even worse if the accountwit tries to use this DM to send people to the accountwit’s website etc. At this point all they know is that the tweeter is a an accoountwit. It’s unlikely to motivate them.

8. In an effort to get their follower count up the accountwit follows anyone and everyone in the hope that they will follow back. And the accountwit thinks they’re rude if they don’t. They’re not. That’s not how twitter works.

9. They start following celebrities and tweet replies thinking that they read all of the accountwit’s tweets that mention them. And that makes them a friend of the celebrity. Er, NO!

10. They have protected their tweets – so that no one can see them unless they have the accountwit’s permission. These people REALLY don’t ‘get’ twitter.

Don’t be an Accountwit on twitter. Check out the simple advice and tips on the twitter page of this blog.

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Don’t be an Accountwit on twitter

It’s been a while since I last shared my tips and advice re twitter. These are all linked on the twitter page of this blog.

I’m seeing more and more accountants and accountancy firms starting to use twitter and making classic mistakes. No wonder so many stop tweeting after a while and conclude it’s a waste of time. It is if YOU do it wrong. That’s not a fault of the concept but of the user misunderstanding what it’s all about, how it works and how to get the best from it.  See, for example, my Twenty top tips for using twitter.

I think it’s a shame when accountants reveal themselves as twitter twits – or, as I have dubbed them, Accountwits. These are accountants who tweet just like other annoying or foolish twitter twits. In other words, accountants who make themselves less likely to be followed on twitter by real people.

Here’s my top ten list of Accountwit habits:

1. They tweet continuous promotional messages about their services

2. They tweet invitations to contact them for help re accounts and tax – as if non-followers might see them. They won’t.

3. They tweet references to what they are eating at each meal time. No one is interested and it doesn’t make the accountwit seem human, just stupid.

4. They tweet anonymously. Unless they are consistently VERY entertaining no one will be interested.

5.  They haven’t replaced the ‘egg’ graphic with a photo or, at least, their logo – but photo is best. People engage better with people.  Unless the tweeter is a huge brand of course. But the accountwit isn’t.

6. They don’t check or respond to direct messages sent only to them.

7. They have set their account to issue a standard Direct Message (DM) whenever anyone new follows them.  Only naive numptys do this. It’s even worse if the accountwit tries to use this DM to send people to the accountwit’s website etc. At this point all they know is that the tweeter is a an accoountwit. It’s unlikely to motivate them.

8. In an effort to get their follower count up the accountwit follows anyone and everyone in the hope that they will follow back. And the accountwit thinks they’re rude if they don’t. They’re not. That’s not how twitter works.

9. They start following celebrities and tweet replies thinking that they read all of the accountwit’s tweets that mention them. And that makes them a friend of the celebrity. Er, NO!

10. They have protected their tweets – so that no one can see them unless they have the accountwit’s permission. These people REALLY don’t ‘get’ twitter.

Don’t be an Accountwit on twitter. Check out the simple advice and tips on the twitter page of this blog.

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A template agenda for a new client meeting

This draft agenda re a first meeting with a prospective client dates back to 2006. It’s an example of the approach I adopted when I was in practice.

I had created a number of  template agendas – I chose the most appropriate one and personalised it for each meeting. This always impressed prospects as it showed I had thought about their situation beforehand – by ref to our initial telephone conversation.

The other benefit of this template was that it contained reminders of issues I needed to cover. Better that than to have them scribbled on a pad. Notice that there is no specific point for me to talk about my practice – other than at point 5. There is little point in starting such meetings with a summary of you and your firm’s background. Instead, after the briefest of intros (especially if you have a colleague or staff member with you) encourage the prospect to talk about what’s on their mind – as prompted perhaps by some of the agenda items – it’s not set in stone, just may be helpful. The items listed may also help the prospect realise that there are more issues to consider than perhaps they had previously considered.

What else might you want to add on to such an agenda?  Looking back I think there’s something pretty obvious missing.

AGENDA

1. Introductions

2. Issues and concerns

a. Extraction of cash
b. Maximising entitlement to Business Asset Taper Relief [Entrepreneur’s Relief now of course]
c. Potential sale in next couple of years
d. Inheritance tax (business property relief)

3. Company background

a. Activities
b. Annual accounting date
c. Last filed accounts
d. Premises and locations
e. Accounts and Directors Reports

4. Attitude to risk taking

a. Tax avoidance schemes
b. HMRC (Revenue) enquiries – any history?
c. Investments

5. How can we help?

6. The way forwards

a. Advice required to provide peace of mind
b. Terms of business and payment on account
c. ‘Know your client’ paperwork

Related posts:

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Stop being a generalist – Why you’ll get more clients if you’re specific

Some years ago I signed up for some personal coaching with John Niland. I have remained on his mailing list – he regularly shares useful tips and advice for independent professionals. Last week I noted he had given another good example of why it is so important to be clear as to who are your ideal clients. It’s irrelevant that YOU may feel capable of being able to help anyone or everyone:

“To see the truth of this, just place yourself in the position of a [prospective] client. Perhaps you [as the prospect] want the services of a web-designer, or an accountant. Two candidates present themselves. The first speaks about their experience, their services, their way of working. They show you their testimonials, their references and give several guarantees about quality.

The second candidate speaks about your world, and how this is different to that of most other businesses. They show you some of the classic pitfalls that exist, perhaps even those that their generalist-competitors have fallen into. You add some of your disappointments, because you have probably hired a web-designer or accountant before. Together you explore some opportunities that are unique to your sector: for the health-professional, perhaps links to local professionals: for the general manager, contacts with national associations who have a panel of management-experts on their website.

All other factors being equal, which of these two candidates carry the most credibility for you? And if they are a bit more expensive, aren’t they worth it? Indeed, you might even expect that.”

As I have stressed previously, you will also secure more referrals if your business associates, friends and even your family are able to speak about your specialist expertise or business focus. This can be so much more powerful and worthwhile than simply being thought of as ‘just another accountant’.

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Tax specialists leaving general practice accountancy firms

I’ve commented before on the challenges that face accountancy firms that look to recruit their first full time dedicated tax partner. Recently I heard about an unexpected development – Tax specialists leaving general practice accountancy firms.

It’s a sign of the times. The reasons vary but include:

Tax partners’ reluctance to promote dubious tax schemes – to the disappointment of general practice partners (who naively consider their tax partners’ approach to be uncommercial);

Tax partners wanting a bigger share of the firm’s profits – to better reflect their contribution. The tax partners may perhaps be focusing on the level of their billings for tax advice. I hope that in such cases the tax partners are rainmakers and able to generate fees without the input of general practice partners who reel in new clients for recurring accounts and related work.

I’m told that at the CIOT Annual Conference last week there were a number of tax partners who have recently left their firms and set up by themselves.  Clearly I welcome this development and hope that the better ones get in touch and join the Tax Advice Network.

I’d welcome feedback as to why you think tax partners are leaving firms and setting up as standalone tax practices.  Do you think it will continue?

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Yellow pages bingo for accountants

I love a blog post written by Paul Simister on his ‘Differentiate your business‘ blog.

He explains that Yellow Pages Bingo is a game for checking that your marketing hasn’t fallen into the trap of being too similar to your competitors. And he then reveals the results of playing the game with accountants in central Birmingham.

Paul’s game shows the high level of similarity when comparing accountants’ adverts in Yellow Pages. He looks at descriptions of firms, services and offers. I suspect the results would be the same across the country and that the content of accountants’ websites are also pretty similar.

Paul’s concludes by answering his own question:

What happens when every supplier looks the same?

The choice comes to either the cheapest or the most convenient.

I agree, but I’m not sure it’s a bad thing as it’s what most people want and those are pretty much the two most important factors determining how they will choose their first accountant. Cost and convenience.

Paul notes that the latest edition of his Yellow Pages has fewer adverts for accountants than previously. I suspect this is due to an awareness that most people now use the  web to find a new accountant. Back in 2009 I wrote a related piece:  Accountants’ adverts are not working any more

And here’s the rub. To be found on the web when someone searches for a new accountant you need to use the same words as everyone else – in so far as visitors may be searching for those terms.  Of course you have the facility to make your website stand out in other ways, beyond the words you use. But that’s a subject for another day although I have previously provided objective advice here on ‘websites for accountants‘.

What do you think about yellow pages bingo for accountants?

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