The Tax Advice Network includes a private forum area where the tax adviser members can discuss and share ideas and issues. No one else can see or take part. A recent discussion concerned how different tax advisers deal with calls that only take 10 or 15 minutes.  A number of different views were expressed. My contribution was to refer back to a blog I posted last August: “I hope they’ll tell someone about me”

Of all the contributions from advisers who promote their services through the Tax Advice Network, this one seemed to be the most commercial. What do you think?

I am set up to bill small pieces of advice and  regular clients use me as an ad hoc advisory service for both large and small matters so I have no problem in charging for small bits of work. I see no benefit in giving free advice to professionals who phone up a stranger expecting something for nothing because that mindset probably repeats itself and they move on to the next mug. I am surprised that accountants would seek to do this because they, like us, are selling their time and expertise!

As an expert who only does one off work I stay well away from the notion of  a free initial consultation because there’s often nothing more to come anyway.  I have a different view of private individuals who are a riskier issue altogether and I am not surprised with the something for nothing chancers here. I tend not to advise at all without a formal engagement. There is little chance of any repeat work from this source but if bits of advice are given too freely and misused or misunderstood can we get sued and do we always have the full story anyway? I am very cautious with this in mind where I do not know the client.

Finally, why would we want to give our expertise away free? Even small bits of advice are often the product of years of experience and may save large amounts of tax. Surely this is worth something and I am reminded of a discussion at a partners meeting many years ago as to how to value the bit of advice that takes 15 minutes and save £1m. Do you charge 15 minutes or say £10,000+ (OK – it was a big 4 firm) for the umpteen years of training and experience that enables that answer to be given quickly?

It seems to me that if it is good advice then its worth paying for and if it’s good advice at a reasonable price then there should be a potential of good repeat work afterwards.