HMRC change RTI goalposts

Self Assessment… Do You Really Need An Accountant To Deal With It?

Ray Stewart Bookkeeping, Tax Matters Leave a Comment

We have seen the paper form filing deadline come and go – this is now ancient history.  In just a few short weeks the on-line filing option will expire on the 31st January 2009.

You will not be one of those who miss the deadline will you?

What are the options for filing between now and the deadline?  There are 3 at the moment:-

  1. Using HMRC software on their own website.
  2. Using a program you have bought yourself specially to file on-line this year.
  3. Using an Accountant.

I am sure you know which one I prefer you use… that’s right, No.3.

Lots of people still insist on going their own way and that’s fine, as long as the implications of going it alone are fully understood.  The main problem is that, astute as most business people are, they don’t really have a clue about what they can properly claim against their income, and whether or not the figures they submit are just walking into a Tax Investigation.

The reason accountants are (mostly) very good at their jobs is because they specialize in certain types of businesses, and therefore build up a vast store of knowledge about their area of expertise; what is acceptable; what they can “get away with”; and what just doesn’t “look” right and needs altering.

For example, I don’t audit companies.  I specialize in small businesses up to 15 employees.  My interest is in helping those businesses who want to grow, improve their profitability and yes, weirdly, watching them get too big for us to handle and see them go on to success and personal wealth.

This is why accountants charge for their services.

It isn’t because they are just out to be a leech on business.  They can actually add substantial value and are worth many times more than the annual fee to business owners who use them fully.

How do you choose an Accountant?

There are good and bad accountants out there – so how do you tell the difference when you are looking through the Yellow Pages – skipping through the search results on Google?

Obviously, other people’s opinions and recommendations count here.  As do whether or not you know the accountant’s name from things they have been doing locally; Round Table; Newspaper editorials; Radio interviews; advertisements; charity events etc.  I always tell new prospective clients that “chemistry” is important in the accountant/client relationship.  Does the chap make your skin crawl when you sit in the office? Is the office an untidy mess all year round?  Can they give you a couple of satisfied clients to talk to?  Can they give you an informative report on the area of business, marketing, cash-flow, employee management, VAT, Income Tax, Capital Gains Tax, selling your business? planning strategies? that you are struggling with, or do they fob you off with an answer you only half understand?

The choice of accountant is really important because, when the chips are down and you are sitting in front of the Tax Inspector, you both need to be sure that you can totally trust each other.  I need to know I can trust my clients not to open their mouths and totally contradict earlier statements (yes it does happen) or start blaming me as a scapegoat – trying to ruin my reputation, and the client needs to know that they have been fully briefed, expertly advised, and confident their accountant is performing at their peak when needed.

If you don’t feel you can be totally honest with your accountant, and also don’t feel they are being completely open and frank with you, then change to one you do feel comfortable with.

An accountant is not for life!  You can change at any time.  The only thing to watch is changing constantly, because that signals to the Tax Office that you are perhaps being less than frank with each new accountant (remember each time you appoint a new accountant, a form goes to HMRC to advise them).

Lastly, if you are very happy with the service, the answers, the extra’s you get from your accountant all year round – do them a big favour and tell your friends.  I always reward existing clients with a cash windfall based on a % of their annual fee each time they recommend someone to me.  Perhaps your own accountant offers something similar – have you asked?

Finally, however you do it, make sure you get your 2008 Self Assessment filed before the 31st January 2009 or penalties and the wroth of the mighty HMRC will come tumbling down on you shortly after – and trust me – you don’t want that – ever.

As always, please feel free to ring me on 0800 047 0731 if you would like to discuss anything before the deadline hits – even if you just have a question – I won’t charge you, it will be my pleasure to help.


Ray Stewart
I am a qualified Certified Practising Accountant having passed my final exams way back in 1981. I actually can’t believe that was 37 years ago!! Anyway, I am now in my 60’s and I have been running my own business since May 1983. And before you ask, no, I have never regretted a moment of it! Part of the membership requirements of my professional body now dictate that I spend quite a lot of time on “CPD” - continuing professional education (one of their better ideas) - and over the last two years I decided to study business growth and marketing. I have learnt such a lot and that knowledge has radically changed my old “accountants” approach to business. It has made such a difference to the way I work and operate I feel that I just have to pass on this knowledge. It is simply too powerful to hold back!! - but I will try and do it in simple terms rather than expecting you to spend hours, as I had to, working through the difficult language that trainers seem to use to pass on their concepts. I hope you find the blog a useful resource and interesting place to visit as the months pass. I will do my best to keep up the flow - but if there are any topics you would like me to cover, then please let me know. Ray Stewart
Ray Stewart
Ray Stewart

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