One of the pressures that all ambitious accountants endure is the need to advise on issues that do not arise every day. The more experience you have the more confidence you gain to know whether or not you have enough knowledge to give the advice without double checking it’s right.
Double checking might simply involve checking the rules in a book on the shelf, online, asking a colleague or going outside the firm to an independent specialist. There is no shame in not knowing. You cannot know everything and it’s a mistake these days (and probably always was) to claim to be the font of all knowledge on any accountancy or tax related subject. None of the real experts would make such a claim so why should a ‘generalist’ feel it necessary to do so?
If you’re not sure though, here’s a simple solution.
Pretend the client seeking your advice is a close family friend, your mother, brother or someone else you really care about. Would you be happy for them to act on the basis of the advice you are giving? If you’d want to double check before letting them follow your advice then you know you should double check regardless.
I’ve addressed related points in previous posts on this blog:
- Are you at least ‘reasonably competent’?
- What sort of advice do you give? Specialist, Compliance or Dangerous? (part one)
- What sort of advice do you give? Specialist, Compliance or Dangerous? (part two)
- Generalists – watch out!
- The trusted adviser who couldn’t be trusted
- What does it take to become a trusted adviser? (part one)
- What does it take to become a trusted adviser? (part two)
And if you don’t know where to turn when you require specialist tax input, I’d have to recommend the Tax Advice Network.