TV channel for your practice?

Many practitioners harbour an obsession with Google page rankings. In fact, many pay a fortune to maintain a page one listing. They may like to reconsider their options.

As of December 2015, YouTube attracts more visitors than Google. Why, you might add, does this matter? It matters because it illustrates a trend towards seeking information in a video, rather than a text format. My research points to a readiness to watch and listen rather than watch and read. The former suits our drift towards passive engagement with data rather than the active, pouring through text activity to which we are accustomed.

Consider these stats:

Today, I entered the following search criteria in Google: “accountants UK”, there were about 35,300,000 results. I then entered the same search terms in YouTube, 96,400 results. On the first page of the YouTube results only two videos were posted by firms actively promoting themselves as accountants in the UK. And a quick reminder, YouTube is regularly attracting more visitors than Google.

In my opinion, these numbers point to opportunity: why aren’t more accountancy firms posting promotional videos to YouTube?

The classic response to advertising your firm’s presence on the internet is a website, most firms have a website. A growing number of firms also have a FaceBook page. Very few firms have a YouTube channel. The phrase is well-chosen, a YouTube website is called a “channel”, basically a page where you list your video offerings; I like the idea that we can all have a TV channel, one that we can dial to from any browser, and that provides viewers with compelling ideas and information that helps to solve tax-payers problems in a video format.

And I’m not saying that websites or FaceBook have had their day, far from it, what I am suggesting is that a YouTube channel for your practice may be a worthwhile add-on to your online promotional activity.

I am building a Landmark YouTube channel, and I am going to increase the number of branded videos that we offer to firms on a variety of tax and business development issues. I will use the channel to promote the ideas introduced today and eventually, will provide help and support to build practice YouTube channels, if required. It is also worth mentioning that YouTube channels can be monetized… More on this in future posts to this blog.

As a bonus, video content can also be uploaded to your website or FaceBook page, ironically, this will also stimulate the Google algorithms and lift your Google page rankings.

Take a look at our new video offerings for accountants; they can be branded for your practice and add interest to your website. The service is called TaxBox and the first video due for release 1 July 2017, will answer the question “How will I be affected by Making Tax Digital?”.

Data carousel

My guess is Making Tax Digital will go ahead as planned. The present election hiatus, that places civil servants in “Purdah” for the duration, and the relevant legislation in suspension, has side-lined the issue somewhat, but I expect the “washed-up” parts of the Finance Bill 2017 to be reinstated.

I think we must assume that self-employed businesses (including landlords) with turnover in excess of the VAT registration threshold will need to register for MTD and be prepared to upload relevant data from April 2018.

As HMRC have advised that this upload process will have to be facilitated via the use of recognised accounts software my concerns are to identify how, as a practitioner, I will support clients to fulfil their MTD obligations.

I use Xero for bookkeeping purposes and VAT filing, and TaxCalc to convert Xero TBs into statutory accounts and tax returns – both filed via the TaxCalc software. As far as I can presently ascertain, both Xero and TaxCalc are developing API links with the, MTD personal tax accounts; in fact, TaxCalc are developing a simplified cash book add-on, I assume clients will be able to use this to replace their spreadsheet solutions to bookkeeping?

The clock is ticking.

Post election, we will have less than 9 months to unscramble which piece of software is going to act as the MTD upload engine, let’s hope that the software providers are not in purdah and that the MTD solutions are produced in good time.

I would be interested in receiving comments from practitioners on how they are approaching this dilemma – thoughts?

Tax videos for your website

 A number of practitioners have contacted me since I sent out my previous missive on the new tax video service I am launching. Be reassured, the videos are NOT me wittering on about tax in front of a camera!
They follow the same format as the video link below: words and graphics on-screen, with a professional voice over (female voice) and sound track (sound track is optional).
You can also add a 50 word audio intro that we would spool at the beginning of the video – only available of you choose the TaxBox Plus service.
Take a look at the video link below to see what it will look like.

Criminal Finances Act 2017 – are you prepared?

My good friend, David Winch, has posted an authoritative update on the changes that practitioners should be considering following the admission to the statute books, of the Criminal Finances Act 2017.

The goal posted have well and truly shifted and firms will need to consider the tax advice given by their staff and principals with some care from now on. David states in his blog:

The Act creates, at sections 44 to 52, a new offence of failing to prevent the facilitation of tax offences.  This new offence may be committed by an organisation such as a limited company or a partnership (but not by an individual).  The essence of the offence is that where an individual has committed an offence which has facilitated a tax offence by another, then the organisation with which he is connected (typically his employer) may be prosecuted for its failure to prevent the individual committing his offence.

For example if an employee of a bank or a firm of accountants facilitates a tax offence by a customer or client then not only will that employee be liable to prosecution (as he is now) for his criminal conduct in facilitating the tax offence but the organisation will be liable to prosecution for this new offence.  In this way the government intends to hold organisations to account for the criminal misconduct of their employees and other persons acting on their behalf.

Under existing law the organisation would only be liable to prosecution if the ‘directing mind’ of the organisation were engaged in criminal conduct.  Because employees who commit tax evasion facilitation offences are typically not at the most senior level of the organisation which employs them the organisation itself is not currently at risk of prosecution.  The Act changes that.

The new offence is modelled on the s7 Bribery Act 2010 offence of failing to prevent bribery.

As with the Bribery Act offence, guidance will be issued to assist organisations to set up appropriate procedures to prevent tax evasion facilitation offences by their employees and agents.  Key principles are likely to include risk assessment, prevention procedures, due diligence, staff training, and monitoring and review.

I recommend you read David’s post in full. It is available here.

Damage limitation

I added the following article to my weekly blog service for subscribers today. Feel free to copy, edit and post to your website. While we wait for the politicians to work out their differences – a hard or soft exit – it feels like it’s stating the obvious, but should we be talking to to Brexit vulnerable clients now? Trimming the sails before a threatened storm (even if it doesn’t materialize) may mean the difference between capsizing or reaching port in one piece. To be honest it’s hard to see how any of us are going to be unaffected.

The article follows:

The phrase “in-limbo” comes to mind when describing the present outlook for businesses in the UK. What will be the outcome of the June election? What will be the outcome of the withdrawal from the EU?

There is a possibility that will all be affected. If not directly involved in trade with Europe, we may be part of the downward supply chain.

What to do?

First of all, damage limitation planning may be appropriate. If part of your export sales are with Europe, or with firms who supply goods or services to Europe, there is an increased risk that your future prospects may be negatively affected post Brexit. Accordingly, you could:

  • See what opportunities there are to seek out new markets outside the EU.
  • Collaborate with customers who are dependent on EU sales to make joint approaches to non-EU markets.
  • What government assistance is available?
  • Take a fresh look at investment decisions to see if it would be more prudent to retain liquidity, or reduce borrowings to meet any future financial challenges.

It would also be illuminating to prepare realistic financial forecasts based on various what-if criteria.

There are compelling reasons for being prepared and the present hiatus may be that quiet period before the storm that gives us the space to do just that. Businesses that have concerns should face their anxieties head-on, and we can help.

If you would like to tap into my weekly blog copy service, sign up here…

Affordable tax videos for your website

According to a recent post by Liraz Margalit Ph.D. on the Psychology Today website:

Whether it’s YouTube, Vine or integrated content, video has quickly become one of the most impactful ways to speak to an audience. According to a recent study by Usurv, if you want visitors to your site to share and interact with your content, delivering it via video is the best way to go. Consumers are 39 percent more likely to share content if it’s delivered via video, and 36 percent more likely to comment and 56 percent more likely to give that video a coveted “like.”

She follows on:

Videos are processed by the brain60,000 times faster than text. Think about the heavy lifting your cognitive system has to do when reading an article vs. watching a video clip! Humans are hardwired to avoid demanding cognitive strain, so this tendency toward “laziness” will, more often than not, invite us to choose information that is easy to process over the form that makes us put out a lot of effort.

However, it would seem that text still has a part to play if visitors are intent on control: if they want to sort the wheat from the chaff and take from content what they need to solve their problem or otherwise satisfy a need.

There is no doubt, that if your website visitors are browsing without a great need for specific information, they may be drawn to videos on your site rather than ploughing through blocks of text.

In our opinion you should have both, video and text.

I have decided to offer quarterly videos on topical tax issues that you can stream from your website, YouTube or other video platforms. Watch the video that follows to see what is on offer.

Blowing of trumpets

Empathy is defined as – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. In a therapeutic situation this is quite a useful skill, and one that should be honed if you truly want to understand what is going on across the other side of the table.

This is not a facility that we naturally develop and use as tax advisors. After all, we offer advice on tax issues.

But should we? In conversation, we are drawn to respond as soon as we realise that we have an opinion. Being specialist advisors, this is what we are paid to do, sit forwards and wax lyrically, about how smart we are, and usually with language that defies comprehension.

Empathy is the ability to place yourself in the others position: what are they thinking, how can I help. In an advisor client relationship, surely, this is the nub of any interaction? Who is this person and what are their problems, anxieties, why have they decided to come and see me? And then, how can I help and communicate this response once the client/prospect is clear that you understand what they are trying to say.

Generally speaking, the business community assumes that an accountant is qualified to do their job. In some respects, any time you spend trying to reinforce that assumption is wasted. So next time you are meeting a client after time has passed, or meeting a new prospect, make your first task asking questions; what you need to discover is what are their perceived problems. With that knowledge, you can then start a conversation about providing solutions.

Provide a solution and two magical events occur: your client will feel understood and amazed that you have a cure for his concerns, and, you can bill for your advice, which you should do whilst the tears of appreciation are flowing…

Give-aways and reception

Two ideas for spreading the word about the services you offer: how do you say thank you to clients and prospects, and how interesting is your reception area?

I visited an accountancy firm recently, and spent a rather tedious ten minutes (my fault, I was early) thumbing through out of date magazines (House and Garden!) and practice brochures that read like the fine print on my washing machine instructions. It reinforced my belief that a waiting room is also a place where you can intrigue visitors with the range of problems you are adept at solving. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, I mused, if the first thing that waiting clients or prospects said when you welcome them in your reception was: I didn’t know you offered that service, or I didn’t know this Making Tax Digital change would affect me, what do we need to do?

Only minor changes are required. What about a video loop setting out current tax challenges and opportunities? Or a range of brochures that set out in easy to read, accessible language the sorts of issues you can help tax payers and businesses deal with?

I can’t help with the video loop, at least not for a couple of months, but I can offer a range of client-facing booklets for 2017-18. Take a look.

The PDF booklets can be added as downloads to your website, printed and displayed in your reception, or emailed to new clients and new prospects as a way of engaging their interest in the services (problem solving solutions) that you offer.

Brand reinforcement and self-promotion should be tackled fearlessly, but with regard to the needs of your customers.

If you have other ideas for dressing up your reception, add a comment to this blog post…