Accountants ‘just do the accounts and tax returns’

Today I quote selectively from the blog of one of the members of my Tax Advice Network, Jon Stow. I’ve added a few words of commentary of my own.

Most business owners will tell you what they think their accountants do: they prepare the accounts and do the tax return. They probably think of this as pretty much a process. There are two misunderstandings implicit in that sort of thinking; the first is there is a sort of sausage machine at work and that you put in the figures and get a certain result, and the second is that there is no room for manoeuvre.

How would your clients describe the services you provide?  Is it just preparation of accounts and tax? In most cases the answer is ‘yes’ although you may have a few clients where you focus on helping them to build their business. Is this because you have agreed additional fees for doing this or simply because they haven’t screwed your basic fees down and you feel you can afford to spend more time with them?

What business owners should expect from their accountants is not just the “doing”. Business owners should expect from their accountants some thinking in terms of the tax side of things. Most accountants will deliver this. Those that fail to do the thinking may be the larger firms who will use their junior staff to cut their teeth on “smaller” companies and who do not have the experience to think. Sometimes the very small firms are rushed off their feet to do all the accountancy work and are not able to think properly about the tax process beyond doing basic tax calculations.

This latter point being one of the reasons that so many firms sub-contract tax advice to independent tax advisers, like those who are members of the Tax Advice Network.  Members can help on ad-hoc matters or provide tax clinics and visit your office on a regular basis. Better you engage them than you leave your clients to source specialist tax advice that they assume is beyond you as you ‘just do the accounts and tax returns’.

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By |2010-12-01T10:07:23+00:00December 1st, 2010|Uncategorized|

About the Author:

Mark Lee FCA is an accountancy focused futurist, influencer, speaker, mentor, author and debunker.


  1. Jeroen Geut 1st December 2010 at 10:25 am - Reply

    By offering a part-time FD solution to SME, with the option to also pass over the bookkeeping, my clients would expect me to not just ‘do the accounts’, but be part of their team. I actively communicate to them that by harmonising and synchronising the different business strategies with the finance objectives, these can be achieved in a more certain manner. I do sub-contract the tax side, as I rather offer a whole solution, than have the client put all of it together themselves. It’s not just a USP, it’s quite simply good customer service.

  2. Alfred 29th January 2011 at 9:38 am - Reply

    Problem is that most accountants are good accountants but with no experience in running a business or even caring about it. Simple e.g. in a retail setup how do you get a label from the GRV area to the shelf. How are the debtors clerk going to in the debtors. Can my accounting program handle my direct email or SMS campaings. Thus business owners if you want to grow your business, you as owner must look out after your own interests and do not expect wonders from your accountant. First step is making sure your acoounting/management software is up to scratch. One of the best that I have come across is at and can be used in just about any country any situation

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