Thinking outside the box

I am often asked for examples of how our Fee Builder client alerts and monthly marketing material can be used to advantage clients and increase your practice fees. This week I was talking with one of my clients who runs an IT company. Here’s how our conversation developed.

His presented problem

Obviously I am not going to reveal my client’s name, lets call him James. James’ presented problem was how to engage with customers who had been wary – during lockdown – of investing in new IT equipment.

I asked if he’d seen my email – a client alert added to Fee Builder in March – that outlined the new “super-deduction”, 130% of cost written off against profits.

In his favour he had noticed the email but had not had time to read it.

My solution

We discussed the new relief for companies and he asked if I could adapt the alert so he could send one to his customers. He had a list of at least ten major clients that he thought would change their no-buy policy with the new tax-wrapper – 130% write off against taxable profits.

I made the changes he requested, took me perhaps 15 minutes.

James paid my bill

I’m a great believer in invoicing when the benefits for work charged is still fresh in a client’s memory. As a well-known development guru observed many years ago “invoice while the tears of appreciation are streaming down their cheeks”.

Within an hour of having our discussion, revising and resending the alert, my bill was paid.

Now waiting to see if the new tax incentive results in more orders for James. Watch this space for a future update…

Lesson learned – there may be more than one use for an idea

I bet that if you turned your mind to it, you could list a number of your clients that may be able to adopt this strategy to increase their sales. If you have our client alert, open it in Word and edit accordingly. If you have no time to do this email me and I’ll send you a copy of the document prepared for James.

Email:bob@landmarkpd.co.uk.

Changing the conversation

During my calls with practitioners, the discussion often turns to the old chestnut, “My clients just want the basics – accounts and tax work – they have no interest in additional services, and more importantly, they are not prepared to pay the extra costs involved.”.

And the cost is always their primary consideration.

This brings any possibility of offering more beneficial advisory services to a dead stop.

The “old” conversation to secure grudge purchases

The verbal agreement you have probably reached with many clients, who are not open to buying advisory services, is that you will prepare annual accounts and tax returns – full stop. Clients no doubt see this as a “grudge” purchase; something required by government that they have to do.

Unfortunately, this focus on past events, what happened in the last trading or tax year, has little to offer to businesses stretched financially by COVID disruption.

So, how do we change this conversation? How do we explain to clients the value and range of advisory services that you offer and how these services could make a positive contribution to their business and other financial goals?

What would the “new” conversation look like?

How do you meet your clients’ needs if you don’t appreciate what they are?

More importantly, how do you convince clients that your interest is in supporting them rather than ripping them off by providing services they don’t really need?

An appropriate starting point would be a fact-find. Are clients going to object if you give them a call, make it clear that it’s a catch-up call that they won’t be charged for, and simply ask open questions – and make notes…

“How are you?” “Are you managing to survive – Brexit, COVID…”

Once you have a picture of their present circumstances you will be in a much better position to appreciate their problems; and flowing from that, how you may be able to help overcome or minimise the effects of those problems.

To establish value you must establish relevance

If you are going to be effective in increasing the provision of advisory services, you must first convince clients that these additional service are going to help them solve specific problems.

For example, if, after a fact-find, a practitioner identifies an underlying cause of concern (cash-flow, solvency etc.,), and more importantly, a solution to the problem, it would be a rare person that refused to take him up on the offer of support.

Accordingly, if you want to increase advisory work you will have to embark on a process to reveal the need and value of advice required. Simple as that.

What is the first step?

You will need to discuss with your practice colleagues the range of advisory services you would like to promote. For example:

  • Digitising accounting records to meet future MTD demands
  • Improving monthly reports (Xero etc.,) to make them relevant to clients’ needs
  • Quarterly or monthly management accounts preparation and review
  • Tax planning

And so on…

The second step

Identify clients to call. This may involve the preliminary distribution of a request that outlines your willingness to call and catch-up with their current concerns as we start to emerge from lockdown.

And then, make those catch-up calls.

Not every client you approach will be receptive, but they will appreciate that you have called out of concern.

And some will be receptive, and some of those will see the benefit and the value of any advice you offer, and in this way engage with the notion that perhaps you do provide non-grudge services that will be of real value after all.

New clients – start as you mean to go on…

Do you really want to take on clients whose primary request at your first appointment is to save on accountancy costs? Experience has probably indicated that these penny-pinchers usually form the 20% of clients that take up 80% of your time; they want everything for nothing.

Offer regular catch-up calls to see how responsive clients are progressing – unless they buy-into formal, monthly or quarterly reviews – and make the point that from day-one what you offer is advice relevant to their needs and any “compliance” requirements will be accomplished as part of that advice.

Step back from the idea that all you do is prepare historic accounts and tax returns.

How Landmark’s Fee Builder program can help

Fee Builder will provide you with a monthly resource pack and strategy outline to move from compliance to advisory based services. For example, the pack for April 2021 addresses the issues raised directly in this blog post and will provide you with fact sheets and ideas to make those initial first steps.

Take a look>>

If, after reading this post, you have more questions than clarity on what to do next, call me: Bob Edwards 07879 896073, or email and I’ll call you back bob@landmarkpd.co.uk.

Meeting the challenges posed by the need to expand advisory services is perhaps the greatest challenge we face as practitioners. Changing the conversation around this topic is the place to start.

All the very best in your endeavours and stay well.

Bob Edwards – March 2021

It doesn’t get much easier than this

Life raft against blue sky

I am frequently quizzed by harassed practitioners, who can see the value in developing their practices, but have no idea what is involved or if they can fit marketing into their blocked out diaries.

Believe me, I have been there.

When in fulltime practice, I had a portfolio of 250 clients and whatever tasks or to-do lists I created, as soon as I sat at my desk the phone would start ringing and staff would be knocking at my door for help with their tasks.

The idea that I could make time to work on the practice was laudable but impracticable.

In fact, it was towards the end of my time in fulltime practice that I started to make sense of what was possible. Ironically, this led eventually to the formation of LandmarkPD and the gradual evolution of development resources for professional colleagues across the UK.

Parking ideas in your Inbox

In discussion with a practitioner recently, it became clear that he could see the value in the marketing materials we were sending him, but really didn’t have the time to act on them; the messages and attachments stayed in his Inbox.

I then explained that the time required to kick-start our strategy was 15 minutes and that the place to start was our scope and implementation notes.

The silence at the other end of the phone reminder me of the old saying “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”.

What is involved in promoting your practice?

Let’s be specific. On 1 March 2021, we advised our Fee Builder subscribers that material had been added to their dashboards to help clients as their businesses started the painful process of emerging from lockdown.

All that was required was to send a copy of a pre-written fact sheet, setting out the likely challenges this would create, to all business clients and business prospects. The fact sheet was written in Word format and would take a few minutes to brand and save as a PDF document to email to clients.

We then suggested that firms draw up a list of say ten clients that it was felt would benefit from business planning support, and call them.

This limited activity would achieve the following objectives:

For clients:

  • The easy to read commentary would quickly advise of the challenges they could be facing.
  • Feel that their adviser was watching their back.
  • The reassurance that they could call on you for help.

For your practice:

  • Keeping clients informed and thus building goodwill.
  • Alerting prospects of issues that their present advisers may not be…
  • The opportunity to expand advisory services.

Like to give this a try?

There is great power in action. There is no need to spend hours ruminating on how you could develop your practice when one hours focussed action will produce the results you desire.

The journey out of lockdown offers professionals a unique opportunity to increase cross-sales and win new clients who are less well supported. All it takes is deciding on strategies to promote, and then promoting them.

The good news, for less than £15 a week we can provide you with the strategies – one a month – plus the resources and implementation instructions to achieve this.

Join our Fee Builder program, give it a try. If you sign up in March we will give you access to March and April’s content – no fees to pay until 1 May 2021.

Email me and I’ll explain how you can take advantage of this offer: bob@landmarkpd.co.uk

Best regards and stay well: Bob Edwards FCCA – March 2020

No time for practice development?

It may well be that you have no interest in developing your practice? We doubt this is true. What is more likely is that you don’t have the time…

What would effortless practice development look like?

Ideally, would it be activity that didn’t take you away from chargeable work? Or if your involvement was required, the time commitment was one or two hours a week?

To good to be true?

To achieve these results you would need a plan; a plan that set out the steps you would need to take to achieve a particular development goal, lets say increase referrals or increase utilisation of your payroll services.

Next, you would require client or prospect documentation that explained the benefits of the service or development process you aimed to promote.

And finally, you would need a willing pair of hands – just a few hours a week – to distribute and follow up this material.

Why bother when you are already busy?

Practitioners provide solutions to problems. The usual problems that firms tackle on behalf of clients are demands to comply with legal and taxation filing and payment deadlines.

Unfortunately, the challenges faced by your clients are constantly changing and simply repeating the delivery of compliance services does not solve these emerging issues. The COVID pandemic is a perfect example of a challenge that requires advisers to up their game and engage on a new level. Merely dealing with compliance needs will not hit the spot.

Which is why responding to these new challenges is so important. They inevitably show up as problems for clients and problems are the bread and butter of responsive firms. They provide the magic bullets for you to consider and shoot down these challenges with strategies to solve clients’ anxieties. Stepping into this wider, more relevant problem solving arena will also make it easier to demonstrate the value of work provided and to charge accordingly.

In our opinion it is necessary to make time to respond to these challenges. If you don’t, your competitors will.

We’ll pay for your time

To demonstrate how you could achieve “effortless” results implementing development strategies for your practice, we would like you to consider the following challenge.

We would like to offer you a fifteen minute call and guarantee that you will hang up the phone with one idea to create additional billing for your practice or a solution to solve a current problem you or your clients may have. If we don’t, we’ll pay for 15 minutes of your time. If you do succeed in implementing the idea or strategy, we will offer you a free pass for 60 days to try out our Fee Builder program. In this way you will be able to roll-out a continuous practice regeneration process without making undue demands on your time.

Bob Edwards FCCA – Founder/Director LandmarkPD – February 2021

COMPLETE OUR CONTACT FORM TO REQUEST A CALL-BACK>>

Tighten your belt

Until the pandemic is brought under control – as a result of the global vaccination initiatives – we are unlikely to experience a rapid return to economic normality.

For many practitioners and their clients the next six months will feel like the last third of a marathon run; watch out for the wall…

Those businesses that are not terminally affected by COVID disruption need to hold their nerve. Most of us will have to settle for flat-lining during this period or planning for manageable losses; but can we be cautiously optimistic once the COVID finishing line is reached?

The end of lockdown

Interestingly, the Bank of England seems to be bullish about the post lock-down period. They expect a bounce-back as consumers cast off their COVID caution and press the expenditure button.

It will be interesting to see if demand exceeds supply and if this activity fuels inflation.

What is clear is that there is an enormous, pent-up desire to be sociable again: to go out for a meal, visit the local for a drink and go on holiday.

Business owners should be planning now for this upturn. Where will they source supplies, re-engage staff or organise cashflow to cope with the increase in funding this will require.

Advisers will need to dust off their “over-trading” notes and point clients towards banks and other institutions that can provide much needed capital.

The end of the “end is nigh” is nigh…

It is probably too soon to declare “I can see the light at the end of the tunnel”, but surely it is not too soon to plan for that eventuality?

Practitioners need to seize this moment and think seriously how they can support clients when the brakes start to come off.

Returning to our marathon analogy, practitioners need to provide the water stations, where clients can receive much needed support to sustain their journey to the finish line. They also need to plan for the next race, and the time to do this is now.

The term hit the ground running is appropriate here. When our economy opens up opportunity will open it’s eyes, for many, for the first time in over 18 months. We should be training clients to be prepared, to be pathfinders, to take advantage of relaxed trading conditions when they arise.

Accessible resources for practitioners

Landmark is not exempt from the challenges COVID has and is presenting. We are actively supplying low-cost, high-value resources to UK firms that are reaching out and supporting their clients during this critical time. We call this service Fee Builder. Find out more here>>

Tax return management – carrot or stick?

HMRC bowed to the inevitable and deferred the issue of the initial £100 late filing penalty for a month. Accordingly, tax payers have a further month to file their returns online for 2019-20 – by 28 February 2021 – without incurring the £100 penalty.

This is a mixed blessing for practitioners, who we are sure would rather get the job done this month.

The word anti-climax comes to mind.

Although the filing deadline remains 31 January, as do any resulting tax payments for 2019-20, the gesture to defer the initial fine, for 2019-20 online returns not filed by 28 February 2021, effectively moves the goal-posts; good news for tardy clients but good news for practitioners?

Firms will have burnt the midnight oil, coping with homeworking and other obstacles, in order to meet the 31 January deadline. As a profession we are used to the end of January ground-rush. This is a rug now removed and the notion that we can relax from 1 February is now taken away for up to four weeks. Unless, of course, all your SA returns are filed…

How do you manage SA returns processing?

There are three schools of thought.

The first is charge a fee based on complexity, but apply no incentive to file early in the tax cycle, or additional fees if information is provided late in the tax cycle.

The latter strategies are described in more detail as the carrot (incentive) rather than stick (penalty) approach below.

Carrot or stick?

To incentivise clients to provide tax return data in the early part of the tax cycle the “carrot” approach would look something like this:

  • Calculate fee payable based on complexity at premium rates.
  • Offer clients a fixed discount if they submit their records before say 31 October in the filing cycle.

Alternatively, the “stick” approach would be:

  • Calculate fees at standard rates based on complexity.
  • Charge client’s additional fees, say 25% more if information submitted after 31 October but before 31 December, and 50% more if information provided to complete returns after 1 January.

In either case clients would incur lower fees if returns were completed early in the tax cycle.

Making Tax Digital

To some extent these musings on SA return management will become redundant once MTD is applied to income tax. It is expected that the formal filing of returns will no longer be necessary if HMRC are successful in pushing tax data to each tax payer’s online tax account. Practitioners will still have a role to play, but this will no longer be a filing responsibility, but a Tax audit to ensure HMRC’s numbers add up.

HMRC’s announcement

The press release setting out HMRC’s agreement to charge no late filing penalty – for 2019-20 returns – for those who file online by 28 February 2021 can be accessed here https://www.gov.uk/government/news/no-self-assessment-late-filing-penalty-for-those-who-file-online-by-28-february

Tax Planning 2020-21

As COVID disruption is creating so many finance related concerns for UK taxpayers this year, will tax planning be taking a back-seat?

More importantly, now that the SA tax filing cycle is completed for 2019-20, will practitioners be able enthuse clients with possible tax saving strategies that they can employ before the current tax year ends 5 April 2021?

What will clients expect?

In our opinion, clients – even those distracted by COVID concerns – will expect you to flag-up any ideas that may improve their situation. However, practitioners will be aware that many clients are unable to increase their costs and so firms will need to demonstrate that any ideas they put forward to save tax must have some residual beneficial financial value. In other words, the cash benefits of taking your advice must exceed the cost of you providing the advice.

Watching your client’s back

If you are committed to keeping your clients informed of possible tax saving strategies, there are two processes you need to undertake:

  • Send clients easy to digest updates on possible tax planning savings
  • Follow up, discuss how specific strategies might be employed before the end of the tax year.

Your follow up calls will include a realistic conversation about your fees for providing the advice. Even if you and your clients fail to identify beneficial strategies, clients will appreciate that you are watching their backs.

What you will need

Firstly, you will need to create tax planning check lists that are relevant and that include an appreciation of the disruption and challenges of COVID. You will also need to identify clients that might be receptive to or benefit from a tax planning review for 2020-21.

As practitioners are always strapped for time, it may also be an advantage to have support staff who can be diverted to administer the process.

Like our help?

The February resources we have created for our Fee Builder subscribers provide three detailed check lists: for individuals, business owners and landlords. The pack also includes a step by step implementation process.

There is no doubt that relevant tax planning advice will always find traction with your clients. COVID has introduced new challenges this year, but the benefits of tax planning advice are still readily available. As professionals, we have a responsibility to offer beneficial advice even if clients decide to pass-up the opportunities we showcase.

Take a look at Fee Builder. For just £55 – your first month’s subscription – you get access to our Tax Planning resources for 2020-21.

Capital Allowance claims support

Capital allowance review service a Landmark practice development partner

Accountants/Advisors have an important role to support their clients during these uncertain times and are no doubt looking to increase cash flow where possible.  Capital Allowances are a tax relief that can help to reduce tax pressures for those businesses facing financial challenges and it is our aim to ensure we help by giving the right support and advice to meet the client’s needs.

Here’s why Capital Allowances requires specialist support

The claims arise due to the complicated nature of the laws governing Capital Allowances and the frequent changes that have taken place over recent years. It takes our specialist commitment and knowledge to recognise all assets that are eligible for Capital Allowances, in particular, those that are inherent within a property. This usually arises from a lack of detailed information available to the Accountant when claims are made. However, we have the skills and technical knowledge necessary to overcome these hurdles and to submit a comprehensive claim to HMRC.

Let us do the hard work for you!

Many businesses don’t take the steps they should because they’re too busy or too uncertain about what to do.  Our team of

  • Property Law & Capital Allowance Experts
  • Chartered Accountants & Tax Experts, 
  • Chartered Surveyors & Valuers

can help and have the right skills to deliver the best approach to Capital Allowance claims. 

Our Process is comprehensive and deals with all aspects of the Capital Allowance claims from start to finish, including 12 months after the claim has been submitted to HMRC, thus taking the risk and responsibility away from you and giving you peace of mind.

Calling in the Property Tax Specialists

We find the most efficient way of assessing whether tax savings can be achieved is through trusted partnerships with advisors. There’s no doubt there are established routines for assessing Capital Allowances and therefore it’s important to stress that we’re not questioning abilities. We look to enhance the level of Capital Allowances claimed by introducing additional disciplines that add value. For example, a survey is completed on the property to identify items that are not visible within the paperwork and sit within Land & Buildings on the Balance Sheet (not Fixtures & Fittings).

Contact us to find out if you are eligible to claim.

What is Fee Builder?

Message from Landmark’s founder Bob Edwards FCCA:

As a practitioner with more time at the coal-face than I can believe, I can pretty much guarantee that COVID disruption has turned the screw on your ability find enough hours in the day to cope with client and staff demands. Which begs the question, while you are throwing fuel on the fire to keep your practice running, who is cutting more firewood?

For the last 15 years I have spent an increasing amount of my time supporting smaller practices by providing “firewood”: ideas, resources and easy to follow instructions to keep firms ahead of their competitors. Fee Builder is Landmark’s wood store. And you can tap into its resources by joining as a subscriber. For an affordable monthly fee you will be able to access the material that Fee Builder adds to your dashboard each month.

While you concentrate on serving your clients and supporting your staff we will provide you with the icing on the cake: new strategies, draft emails, fact sheets and easy to follow instructions to expand client services and make the most of current opportunities.

We are confident you will find inspiration to add fees to your practice income and increase the range of services you can offer clients. There are no long term lock-ins. Bob Edwards, October 2020.

Join Fee Builder here

The best way to learn to swim is to be in the pool. Give Fee Builder a try. Jump in. 

90-day Money Back Guarantee

We are confident that if you actively participate in the processes we suggest you should see benefits for clients and additional fees as a direct result. If you do not, and you can demonstrate that you have followed our guidelines and had no positive results, we will give you your money back. This guarantee applies for the first 90 days after you join the Fee Builder program.

Ethical concerns COVID related client fraud

Aside from my responsibilities as a director of Landmark I still have a small professional practice and I do have clients that are furloughing staff.

Recently, I received an update from my institute, the ACCA, setting out ethical concerns and advice for members regarding CJRS fraud. I found the contents useful and have shared fragments in this blog.

The Legal Framework for CJRS claims

The Treasury Direction under the Coronavirus Act 2020 states that:

‘the person making the claim [CJRS]accepts that:
(a) a payment made pursuant to such claim is made only for the purpose of CJRS and
(b) the payment must be returned to HMRC immediately upon the person making the CJRS claim becoming unwilling or unable to use the payment for the purpose of CJRS.

 

No CJRS claim may be made in respect of an employee if it is abusive or is otherwise contrary to the exceptional purpose of CJRS’.

Examples of areas of concern that may indicate fraud include:

Employer-benefit fraud

  • where an employer purports to place an employee on furlough in order to access the scheme, but in fact has instructed that employee to work, provide services or generate revenue for that employer
  • where the employer does not pay the full furlough entitlement to the furloughed employees.

Employee-benefit fraud

  • where an employer seeks to allow an individual not ordinarily employed by them to be regarded as an employee for the purposes of the scheme, so that the scheme will provide funds for the individual that they are not entitled to.

HMRC has put in place a fraud hotline (telephone 0800 788 887) and an online whistle-blower service based on a structured email form, for employees and the public to report suspected fraud in the furlough scheme.

ACCA advice for accountants

The advice that the ACCA offers for members is reproduced below:

Professional accountants should ensure that clients understand the rules relating to the furlough claim and have systems in place to ensure compliance.

If they become aware that an employer-client is breaching the rules (for example an employee is carrying on work while on furlough), advise the client accordingly and ask the client to rectify the error. A member should keep sufficient appropriate records of discussions and advice given.

If the client rectifies the error (and repays the ‘over-claimed grant’), the accountant is free to continue to act for the client. However, should the client ignore such advice and guidance, the accountant must:

  • cease to act
  • inform HMRC of their withdrawal
  • submit a suspicious activity report to the National Crime Agency (see ACCA’s guidance on making a suspicious activity report)
  • consider carefully their response to any professional enquiry letter (also known as professional clearance letter).

Accountants should also be aware of their obligation on engagements in assisting a client to apply for any other government support measures such as Bounce Back Loans and the use of ‘Time To Pay’ arrangements. Accountants should fully explore what support is available for their client’s actions ethically and within the law. A professional accountant shall not be allowed to be associated at any time with information that they believe to be wrong or misleading.

Have your clients received CJRS letters from HMRC?

The ACCA have also offered advice to practitioners regarding the stream of letters now being sent to businesses asking them to to correct any errors made regarding past CJRS claims.

The ACCA said:

Practitioners will be aware of, or may have received on behalf of their clients, HMRC letters prompting them to correct any errors made on claims relating to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) grants.

HMRC has recently started sending out these letters – about 3,000 per week. These letters will invite the client to declare whether any overclaims were made by them in relation to CJRS grants.

The letters should not be ignored – they must be responded to even if the client believes no declaration is due. A response by letter should suffice for these purposes. Legal or expert advice should be sought before any ‘certificate of tax position’ is signed and submitted to HMRC.

Additionally, it was stated that:

The Finance Act 2020, Schedule 16 contains an amnesty for notifying HMRC of any errors or overclaims within 90 days of the later of any tax charge being payable due to the overclaim and the date of Royal Assent of the Act. As such, the earliest date this amnesty will expire will be 20 October 2020.

The following behaviours should be checked and corrected within the time limits of this amnesty:

  • not being aware that remote staff are working, eg work-related emails being generated or line managers asking furloughed staff to carry out some work
  • technical or computational issues – innocent errors such as where there is misunderstanding of the methods of certain calculations will not be targeted
  • delays in making payment to staff for the wages due from the furlough grants
  • deliberate fraudulent behaviour

This will be the only chance employers have to remedy their position without any penalties being charged so it is crucial that clients respond promptly to HMRC.

Penalties for those who fail to notify HMRC within the ‘amnesty’ period but knowingly received the CJRS grant or overclaimed the grant even though they were not entitled to claim it due to any changes in their circumstances will be based on ‘deliberate and concealed’ behaviour. This could potentially make the client liable to a penalty of 100% of the tax due.

Clearly, clients need to either confirm that their claims are valid or advise HMRC of errors and do this within the 90 day amnesty period.

Evidence of compliance

In the rush to access furlough support grants clients may not have amassed evidence to support their claims. Again, the ACCA offer sage advice on this topic. They say:

It would be advisable for practitioners to start advising their clients that all claims are checked and ensure full records are available supporting the claims. Practitioners will have assisted many clients on submitting the claims on behalf of their clients and while they may have been provided with computations and payroll records, they may not be aware of any other conditions that may have been broken by the client or their staff.

Of course, there is no advice on the nature of the CJRS claims records that need to be kept but this is where the October 2020 resources provided to Landmark’s Fee Builder subscribers may come in useful.

They include:

  • Technical notes
  • Fact sheets for clients with draft covering emails
  • A suggested format for evidencing CJRS compliance

Based on the HMRC’s interest in this area and the ACCA’s response it would appear that as practitioners we cannot ignore this issue.

A new service for your practice?

The Fee Builder resources for October 2020 would provide you with the resources to tackle CJRS compliance and record keeping needs within the requisite 90-day window offered by HMRC.

Sign up now, no financial risk, we offer new subscribers to Fee Builder a 60-day money back guarantee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome back – the power of a phone call

When the CEO of a highly successful accountancy firm was keen to source new marketing content, she signed up to Landmark PD’s Fee Builder programme, it seemed like a match made in heaven.

The platform was specifically designed to provide UK accountancy practitioners with exclusive access to ideas, resources and strategies helping them to maintain and develop the value and range of services offered to their clients.

So, when Heidi Grimes of Ledger Accounting Services requested to cancel her subscription following an initial trial, the decision came as a bit of a surprise to the Fee Builder team at Landmark.

The Problem

Landmark’s founder Bob Edwards got in touch immediately, to find out why Ledger Accounting had not found Fee Builder suited to their needs.

“I was intrigued to be honest as I know the value of the content we provide. Heidi’s email had said the information we provide was not useful as she could already access a lot of the information via HMRC emails,” Bob explained.

“We already knew that she was keen to source useful marketing content for LinkedIn and other campaigning needs, which is why she signed up to Fee Builder in the first place. What Heidi was saying about the value of our resources didn’t make any sense, so I picked up the phone. Never underestimate the power of a phone call.

The Solution

Undeterred by the complaint, Bob sent Heidi the very latest material his staff had just uploaded to the Fee Builder dashboard. This included a copy of client alerts that had been recently added.

Heidi reviewed the content and reversed her decision on cancelling Fee Builder when she realised a vital step in the sign-up process had been overlooked.

“It is now clear to me that due to a misunderstanding, our marketing assistant had not logged in to your site dashboard so we have not been fully utilising the information you make available,” she said.

“Having seen the files you sent us recently, I agree that September’s content is extremely useful.”

Based on the Fee Builder information now received, Heidi was able to inform clients of a new grant scheme that clients could use to pay for much needed business support consultancy work with Ledger.

She said: “I’ve always struggled with making content interesting and personable but if articles are readily available it’s far easier to insert our personal twist into it.”

Based on this new appreciation of the resources provided by Fee Builder Heidi willingly agreed to reverse her original decision and has now re-subscribed to the Landmark Fee Builder service.

The Lesson

Since Heidi’s SME article went live, Ledger Accounting Services received four client enquiries and are now assisting with grant applications to pay for a programme of consultancy work with Heidi’s company.

Bob said: “It’s always gratifying when our material is used and achieves its aim of win-win service deployment for practitioners and their clients.”

Now they can both laugh at the misunderstanding, but there are also important lessons that Landmark can take away from this situation.

If Bob had not got in touch initially, then the company would have lost a customer.

The team has also learnt that it needs to underline how their dashboard works and that subscribers know that they need to log in to fully access all the resources they are paying for.

Find Out More

If you are on the lookout, as Heidi was, for relevant ideas and content to support your service offerings to clients and prospects, why not give Fee Builder a try? The service is low-cost and you can cancel at any time. Take a look.

 

Adversely affected?

Man sitting at dek holding magnifying glass

In a recent article that I wrote for Informanagement Ltd, I discussed recent guidance issued by HMRC that aimed to clarify if claimants of the Self Employed Income Support Scheme grants passed the “Adversely Affected” test. My post is reproduced in full below:

A troublesome aspect of the SEISS scheme is that claimants need to confirm that they have been adversely affected by the coronavirus outbreak in order to make a valid claim.

Will this condition come back to haunt us?

Guidance has been published on the GOV.UK website on this very subject. A summary of pertinent comments included in the guidance are reproduced below:

  1. Adversely affected is typically when your business has experienced lower income or higher costs due to coronavirus.
  2. HMRC expects you to make an honest assessment about whether your business has been adversely affected. There is no minimum threshold over which your business’ income or costs need to have changed.
  3. Keep recordsof how and when your business has been adversely affected.

The guidance then lists a number of factors that may provide evidence that a claim was justified:

  • You are unable to work because you:
    • are shielding
    • are self-isolating
    • are on sick leave because of coronavirus
    • have caring responsibilities because of coronavirus
  • You have had to scale down, temporarily stop trading or incurred additional costs because:
    • your supply chain has been interrupted
    • you have fewer or no customers or clients
    • your staff are unable to come in to work
    • one or more of your contracts have been cancelled
    • you had to buy protective equipment so you could trade following social distancing rules

And then the guidance states that If your business recovers after you have claimed, your eligibility will not be affected.

It is not clear if the same issues will apply to the CJRS as the guidance published refers specifically to SEISS.

It will be interesting to see how HMRC will enforce eligibility for these major grants in the coming months. One thing is clear, when accounts are submitted for 2020-21, this will provide basic evidence of how income and expenses have fared compared to the previous year.

Wonder if HMRC will put two and two together?

Informanagement supply professional firms with regular, updated news-feed and content on tax and business related issues. I am part of the editorial team at Informanagement. If you are thinking of changing your content or website provider I suggest you give Laurence Vogel – the head of UK operations – a call, 08452 722 377.

Overdrawn directors’ loans

A man with glasses

I am still asked to repeat myself when I challenge my remaining director clients that continue to overdraw their loan accounts and then act surprised when confronted with the inevitable tax consequences.

Coronavirus has added to this state of selective amnesia.

Prompted by this realisation, I recently wrote a client alert on this topic that was also made available to Landmark’s Fee Builder program subscribers.

Here’s what the alert said:

TITLE: Directors’ loans – a word of caution

Director/shareholders have a unique position with their companies for tax purposes. Usually, they can decide when and how to withdraw funds from their business, but these withdrawals can have unforeseen tax effects.

Salaries and dividends

If amounts drawn are salaries or dividends the tax implications can be planned for and will form part of the annual tax return submission. Likewise, if directors withdraw funds that they have previously loaned to their company this will create no tax issues.

Overdrawn directors’ loans

If directors treat their company and director’s loan as a private overdraft – the director ends up owing their company funds – then we have a situation where unexpected tax and NIC liabilities can arise.

These tax issues include:

Benefits in kind

A company that lends more than £10,000 to a director is obliged to charge interest on the loan. The rate charged must be at least 2.25% (from April 2020, previously 2.5%) otherwise the taxman will treat the difference as a benefit in kind. This would increase the director’s income tax and the company’s NIC liabilities.

Increased corporation tax

The more significant tax liability arises if an overdrawn directors’ loan account remains unpaid nine months after the company year end. If so, an additional corporation tax payment would be due based on 32.5% of the loan outstanding.

There is no £10,000 tax -free limit when this charge is applied. All of the outstanding loan balance is subject to the 32.5% calculation.

This extra company tax can be claimed back if and when the loan is repaid but not until the accounting period in which the loan is repaid. There are also anti-avoidance provisions in place that will counter any attempts to pay off the loan and then borrow the funds back after a short period of time.

Is your director’s loan overdrawn?

During these difficult times we will all need to manage our finances with care and aim to avoid strategies that create unwanted tax liabilities. If you are presently building up an overdrawn position on your loan with your company please contact us as a matter of urgency so we can devise a plan to regularise your loan and mitigate any tax issues.

Send this to your director clients?

Feel free to copy this material and send to your director clients with my compliments. As you will observe, the text closes with a request to seek advice.

What is Fee Builder?

Fee Builder provides participating firms with monthly resources to market and deliver services to clients and provides weekly client alerts on topical issues. It is a low cost service with no long-term lock-ins.

Take a look…

Opportunity for you and your clients

One of the most reported issues from practitioners – that seems to block clients from seeking the support of their accountants – is that clients do not have the funds to pay for their advice.

Aside from the health impacts, disruption by coronavirus is blocking access to professional advice at a time when that advice is desperately needed.

Which is why accountants need to sit up and take note of the recent offer to provide affected businesses with small grants to cover your advice.

SME grant funding available from September 2020

Please note, initially, these grants are only available in England.

Here is a extract from a local Growth Hub about the funding available:

The government has announced new SME grant funding to support small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) to access specialist advice to help further mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 to build in resilience or address potential new opportunities.

We … administer grants of between £1,000 – £3,000.

These will be available to help SMEs that have been directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic to access professional support covering digital, legal, HR, financial, health and safety, or other consultancy advice, and to purchase minor equipment to adapt or adopt new technology in order to continue to deliver business activity or diversify in response to COVID 19.

Grants will cover 100% of costs, excluding VAT. Once an application has been approved, businesses will be required to make the payment for the support or purchase, and make a claim for the grant.

This scheme will open for applications mid-September.

Contact your local Growth Hub now

We recommend that you contact your local Growth Hub asap.

You will need to find out how and when applications on behalf of clients need to be made (from September 2020).

Clients suffering from the COVID economic fallout being denied access to your advice due to lack of funds is unfortunate; this new opportunity to secure external grant funding to cover your advice should not be ignored.

Details of the LEP Growth Hub network can be accessed here. 

Details of information and allocation to different areas of the UK can be accessed here.

 

How to approach clients

As these grants will probably be offered on a first come first served basis – and assuming the applications qualify – you should probably start gathering details of clients who may benefit from funding.

If you subscribe to our Fee Builder Program we will be uploading resources 1 September 2020, that you can use to help you select and contact relevant clients. This will include details of the scheme written in an accessible format explaining: what is available, listing the services that you can offer and how to register their interest.

This is an opportunity not to be missed…

When 30 days is worth 60 days

We make new practice development material available as part of our Fee Builder program on a monthly basis. We also offer firms that would like to try out the service a 30-day free trial period.

What do you get during your trial period?

During your 30-days trial period you will have access to any resources added during the month in which you sign up. So if you sign up 10th July 2020, you will have access to any material added from the beginning of July.

As we add new resources every month on the 1st of the month you would also, in the above example, have access to resources added 1 August 2020.

If you sign up for free trial before 31 July 2020

Sign up before the end July 2020, and you will be able to access the following:

July 2020

  • Resources to help clients unwind the furlough process
  • Client update – summer statement 8 July 2020
  • Client update – proposed tax changes announced 21 July 2020 (inc. rollout of MTD)

And to be made available from 1 August 2020

  • Resources to promote and support New Business Start-ups
  • Any further client alerts written during August 2020.

We cover all the risks…

To facilitate your access to the above we will set you up with a secure dashboard. When logged in you will be able to view and download material with no restrictions.

To achieve this we will treat you as a fully signed-up subscriber to Fee Builder for 30 days.

If before the end of the trial period you decide that Fee Builder is not for you, you can cancel at any time.

Take advantage of this offer before the end of the month

85% of firms that try out Fee Builder stay on as paying subscribers.

To access July and August resources simply complete the online order form. 

Bonus offer…

Bob Edwards, our founder/director, will also speak with new subscriber to discuss any development issue they want to explore. No extra charges for this call.