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So what do Accountants do?

So what do Accountants do?
Posted by: Tony Margaritelli | Last modified on 11/08/2017

Now this may seem a strange question but I was having a discussion with colleagues recently and someone chirped up with “No Accountants say they are good at getting Accounts right anymore they all want to be Advisers and Consultants, it’s all about adding value”

It has to be said that this came from someone who had never produced a set of accounts in their life and had made a career from telling Accountants what they should and shouldn’t do to earn more money and has long been one of those who preach the gospel that compliance work is dead.

So I thought about the question “What do Accountants do?” I know of very few qualified Accountants who if asked what do you do? Would respond “I’m a Consultant” or “I’m a business advisor” or heaven forfend “I’m a business mentor” 99 times out of 100 the answer is “I’m a Chartered Accountant” or “I’m a Certified Accountant” or “I’m an Accountant” but yet on their website the bulk of the content is about “adding value” and actually very little is mentioned about actual accounting because with modern cloud based solutions the bulk of the accounting is undertaken by the client and thus getting the accounts right is obviously easy. This is of course exactly the line HMRC are taking with MTD and anyone who has actually spent some time preparing accounts will tell you this attitude is fraught with dangers and if you don’t pay enough attention the accounts could very easily end up being reviewed by your insurers as part of a PI claim. 

The perennial cry of Consultants everywhere starts with “show me the numbers” but what if the numbers are wrong? What use is the 5 year or even a 2 year plan worth if the starting numbers are wrong?

At small practice level compliance is still king as accountants everywhere grapple with getting the numbers right, getting the wages and paye right, getting the vat right, then getting the tax right, which is apparently another easy job and can be simply left to HMRC! Well according to them that is.

This is no easy task, well it’s easy to get wrong but getting it right is not easy and without the right numbers all the mentoring and adding of value will be useless and those consultants will easily overlook any failures with expressions like “well we weren’t given the right information at the outset”.

If you want to grow your practice by helping your clients prosper and by becoming involved in more and more of their decision making processes that is a fine and laudable aim but do remember why they became your clients, do remember that if you get their tax wrong faith in your abilities as a Consultant is most likely over as is their faith in your abilities as an Accountant.

If your definition of compliance work is producing accounts, tax returns and calculating tax due is this work so valueless as to not be worthy of mention?

I go back to the question “What do you do?” Accountants get Accounts and Payroll and Taxes right and can build relationships from there. Consultants, Mentors, Trainers, Commentators, or whatever can interpret numbers, well some can but they most certainly can’t get them right to start with, else they’d be Accountants wouldn’t they.

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