When should you not trust an ‘accountant’?
“We've passed your request to a selection of specialist companies who will be in touch very shortly to discuss your needs and offer their best quotes. This allows you to get the options you need to make an informed decision and save money….”
Yes, I’d received a sales pitch from a company who claimed they could get me a better deal than I get from my current accountants. I suspect that some of you may have received just such email marketing offers but if you have you probably (as I normally do) consign them to trash and forget about them.
This time, however, I did click. Not that I’m unhappy with M&S – far from it, but having lived and worked in Aberdeen for years I’m not averse to seeing if someone else can do me a deal (sorry for stereotyping Aberdonians!). In case you’re similarly tempted, let me recount what then happened…
After an email acknowledgement (part of which is quoted above), I got a phone call. It was from a girl at a company which is obviously a middleman for all sorts of deals (lots more follow-up deals came by email for other business services – to which I’ve rapidly unsubscribed). She said she’d put me in touch with an accountancy firm who would be just right for my type of business. She didn’t seem to know what a CTA is, but assured me that my account would be handled by a qualified accountant. Unfortunately though they didn’t have any accountants in my area (Ayrshire) but there was a great firm in Warrington (handy) and she’d get someone to call me…
I did indeed get a call. I had looked up this firm (which will remain anonymous) and it looked OK, but a bit of digging on their website suggested that not all their senior management were qualified to the level I wanted (“qualified accountant” seemingly being code for ‘not fully qualified and I’m not able to put any letters after my name). For some reason, there was a lot of blurb on the website advocating the benefits of becoming a limited company.
The man who called was very good and highly professional. He described himself as an ‘consultant’, not an accountant, and to be fair he was not pushy and made it clear that he was not out for a ‘sale’ but rather to give me the best advice. The price he offered for my annual accountants and tax return was very low. He was quite keen that I became a Limited company but when I explained that I had been through all that and did not want to change from being a sole trader, he was very understanding and said he’d get their SME team to give me a call in a couple of days. That was well over a week ago and since then I’ve heard nothing. I do wonder if the low price offered meant that my accounts would have simply been offshored and ‘processed’ rather than properly worked on, as I’m used to with M&S, with subsequent advice and assistance from Steven Mackie as and when required?
My guess is that not only would that have been the case, but that any additional work of any kind would have cost money to make up for the giveaway ‘accounting’ service. I’m sure the firm concerned are professional (albeit I’m not sure how qualified they all are) and would provide me with an annual return and accounts, but the impression I got once it was clear that I didn’t fit their model was that they weren’t interested. So sorry M&S, you’ve got me for a bit longer yet!
Alastair Blair, thePotentMix