Last year I awarded a (notional) prize for what I considered to be the best Budget night ‘commentary’ that I saw the following day. The winner, and runner-up to a lesser extent, stood out among the dozens of ‘me too’ pieces that were, frankly, not worth anyone’s time and effort.
Many years ago the Chancellor’s March Budget heralded tax changes that would take effect from the following 6 April. In those days there was a real client service need to summarise the Chancellor’s announcements, what they would mean in practice and what action clients might need to take as a result.
That was then. This is now. Few tax changes take immediate effect any more, other than the closure of fancy tax loopholes. And when that happens more detailed analysis is required than will ever appear in a Budget commentary. Also long gone are the days when the Budget Night press releases contained sufficient detail to enable accountants to say something constructive. Now we have to wait for subsequent announcements that appear long after the Budget newsletter was published. And most of the next tax year’s rates and allowances were announced a few months back – as has become the way for some time now.
But still many firms produce their own summaries or buy in a commercially produced ‘overnight’ Budget commentary to send out to their clients. I’ve heard the arguments for this. “Clients expect to get one from us.” “They get one from every other accountant in the town.” “They like them” (really?). To my mind there are plenty of better ways for accountants to distinguish themselves from the competition and to provide real client service. These standard Budget emails, newsletters and booklets are of very little value and rarely contain anything more than appears in the daily paper or in generic news (or even tax news) email updates. And they have little in the way of ongoing value.
So why the awards last year? Quite simply because the winner’s approach was distinctive and better than all of the standard stuff that I received from dozens of accountants around the UK. Elaine Clark of CheapAccounting.co.uk published ‘Not a Budget newsletter‘. It was client focused and recognised the fact that there was next to nothing of immediate impact in the Budget itself.
This year Elaine has already published her summary of the key tax data that the media will only think to announce after the Budget – despite the fact that the information was announced long ago.
I announced a runner-up award last year for informanagement as they had at least divided up the announcements:
- Budget Summary March 2011 – New tax changes announced today
- Budget Summary March 2011 – Future changes announced today
- Budget Summary March 2011 – Changes previously announced for 2011-12, now confirmed
So here is a challenge for readers of my musings and blogs. If you can avoid a ‘me too’ attempt and you adopt a different, client centred approach this year, please let me know. If I agree I will give you the 2012 award (which simply means you get a mention on my blog and a link through to your website).
Of course if you want to argue the case for ‘me too’ summaries I’d also love to hear form you via the comments facility below.