We have been working with accountancy practices, supporting their existing VAT knowledge since 1990 and our Principal Simone Hurst, has previously worked in a busy six partner firm as VAT Manager. This experience, coupled with lecturing on VAT to accountancy practices and running the VATease helpline for many years, means Simone has a very good idea of what accountants want from their VAT advice and the issues they have .

Is it really worth your valuable time researching your Client’s VAT query when afterwards you may still not have full comfort that the answer you gave is correct? Why not pass the query on to us and release your time to do something else?

How to avoid Client misunderstandings in respect of VAT (and other stories).

When Simone worked in an accountancy practice she lost count of the number of times Clients’ blamed the practice when they received additional VAT assessments following the discovery of errors by a VAT Inspector.

Many Clients’ automatically assume that if you have prepared a set of financial accounts you must have checked everything else too, including VAT. A Client may then not be able to understand when a visiting VAT inspector raises an additional VAT assessment because, for example, their till has been incorrectly programmed to zero rate chocolate bars.

To avoid this mis-understanding, explain to your Client at the outset that you will not be looking at the application of VAT in their business unless specifically engaged to do so. Tell them the extent of your VAT checks so they have clear expectations. You may even include a specific paragraph in your engagement letter advising that the technicalities of their VAT affairs are not reviewed as part of the annual accounts completion.

However, you may like to offer them one of our add-on accounts preparation VAT review services and/or download our VATaware™ checklist.

New Clients

Why not get into the habit of speaking to us before you go out to see a new prospective Client? For a charge of £15 plus VAT, we may just be able to give you the hook to catch the Client. VAT is often the last issue to be considered so by talking about VAT, you might be speaking to the prospective client about something different that nobody else has mentioned and really get their attention.

Recharging VATease fees and looking at fees from different perspectives

It goes without saying that you should try and recharge VAT advice fees to your Clients wherever possible. However, there will be some occasions when a valued Client calls you with a VAT question and you know that (s)he expects the answer gratis. You may then be reluctant to call upon a helpline you have to pay for because of the irrecoverable cost involved, (see below for free helpline information) but what’s the alternative? You, or another staff member could research the answer but there’s a cost to that too and are you confident you have asked the right questions of your Client to give the correct advice?

By calling VATease you get the assurance that the advice given covers all possibilities and with a minimum charge of £15 plus VAT per contact (be it phone/email etc.) it doesn’t cost the earth and saves you expending your time researching which may cost more and take up time you don’t have.

If the advice is going to cost a significant amount, perhaps because it comes to light that the query is more complex than you thought, then we will advise you of the reasons why so that you can return to your Client fully briefed.

Maybe it’s time to start thinking about VAT advice fees in a different way….. perhaps you should build in an amount to cover this valuable VAT resource to your costs? After all, what price is comfort?

Working with us

Some of you may have access to free tax and VAT helplines, including HMRC’s own National Advice Service and from speaking to accountancy practices, some of them use the free helpline for VAT queries they believe to be simple and then come to VATease with questions which are a little more tricky. This can work very well but by paying for VATease’s VAT advice, you know we go that extra mile to ensure we have covered all aspects of the query, whilst considering the practicalities. We have a reputation to uphold for VAT advice as it is the only thing we do!

Additionally, if you need us to we can speak to your Client on your behalf to get the full facts; something the free helplines may not be able to do.

So perhaps it really is time to build some of our expertise into your running costs, particularly as this could show that you are taking ‘reasonable care’ in your affairs under the new penalty regime.

If you still insist on calling the National Helpline Service for a VAT query then please remember the following:

When it’s OK to go to HMRC….

Of course, there may be some occasions when an approach to HMRC (to the written enquiries) on a VAT issue is the best way forward and we will advise you of these times and guide you accordingly.

However, we do not recommend blindly sending in a written VAT query for a couple of reasons.

We were once asked to act for a charity who wanted to maximise their grant income after they had sent a perfectly innocent letter to HMRC VAT Enquiry centre asking for guidance as to how they should structure their affairs to achieve the best VAT saving. Next thing, the local Tax Avoidance Officer became involved accusing the charity of illegally trying to avoid paying the VAT due when all the charity wanted was some advice to plan things in the most VAT efficient way. No law against that!

HMRC tend to reject a lot of VAT queries because VAT is a self assessed tax and they state it is up to you as the tax payer to make the decision about your VAT liabilities. Additionally they will often simply state that they will not answer your VAT query because your question is covered in their public guidance. They then refer you to the relevant Public Notice. Therefore, in order to get any VAT advice in writing you must word your enquiry letter carefully so as to pre-empt HMRC’s stock responses. If you are lucky enough to receive some written VAT advice from HMRC, remember you still need to be able to prove you gave full (and correct) facts in order to rely on this VAT advice.

Contact VATease now to find out how we can help

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