Friday, June 13, 2008

Tax support from an accountancy firm or independent tax advisers?

I received a letter today (in error I suspect) from an accountancy firm that provides services to other members of the accountancy profession.

Funny that. It's what the Tax Advice Network does too. And we're not an accountancy firm so are not perceived as being in competition with the accountants who refer work to our members. No amount of assurance re a 'non client poaching policy' is going to change that perception. Especially as the fear is not that the accountant will poach the client but that the client will want to move.

These accountants tell me that they 'specialise in high level tax compliance (eg: company sales, reorganisations, employee share schemes, EIS etc) and sophisticated tax planning work (eg: corporation tax mitigation, profit extraction etc), Funny that. Members of the Tax Advice Network provide all of those services too although I would question whether profit extraction and the like is necessarily 'sophisticated tax planning'.

The letter tells me that the accountancy firm has a number of partners who have previously worked at top twenty firms. Is that attractive to smaller firms of accountants? I'm not sure. It's one of the reasons why we allow our users to choose which of our members they want to approach.

These accountants claim to offer a 'very personal service' (is there any other kind?) and suggest that this helps other firms by protecting their clients from larger predatory firms.

Over the last few years I have been surveying smaller firms and asking them what factors are important to them when it comes to outsourcing tax work and engaging with specialist tax advisers. The vast majority wouldn't go to another firm of accountants for fear of the competition. And who can blame them?

That's one of the reasons why I established the Tax Advice Network. We've come a long way in a short time and there's plenty more to be done.

How do I feel about knowing that a local firm of accountants is mailshotting other firms of accountants and offering to provide then with 'specialist tax services'? Delighted! It highlights the issue, reminds people of why they might want or need tax support and - I hope, prompts them to consider more attractive alternatives - like the Tax Advice Network.

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