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Choosing & working with an accountant

Choosing an accountant
Choosing an accountant

The first thing to decide is what you want from an accountant. Are you looking for a quick clean tax job, or the full professional advisor experience? How much advice do you need, and how often do you want to be able to contact him? Do you want to communicate by face to face meeting, post, telephone or email? Do you want an accountant in the next street or would you rather he lived in the next galaxy? Do you want the accountant you meet to do all the work herself or are you happy for her to delegate the routine stuff to an oik? Is it important that your accountant should be a woman or can you make do with a man? By far the best way to get an accountant is by personal recommendation from another girl in the business whose judgement you trust.

Types of accountant

Accountants come in a variety of flavours and packaging but the basic categories are qualified accountants, unqualified accountants (including some who have invented their own qualifications), turf accountants and book-keepers. Which you should choose depends on whether you are the kind of person who entrusts their health to a qualified doctor or whether you’re happy to take your chances and swallow down a few of those tablets the vet prescribed for the cat.

Qualified accountants are helpfully organised into tribes:

  • Chartered Accountants can be distinguished by the letters FCA or ACA and they are to be found in High Street firms of Chartered Accountants, in the Yellow Pages (between abattoirs and acrobats) and in the boardrooms of businesses up and down the country.
  • Certified Accountants, who confusingly also call themselves Chartered Certified Accountants, live in the same kinds of places though there are fewer firms of Certified Accountants. They too have their own letters after their names, FCCA or ACCA.

The chartereds and the certifieds like to glare and stick their tongues out at each other, and historically the brighter people tend to join the chartered tribe. But for an escort it probably doesn’t matter which you choose.

  • Then there’s Scottish Chartered Accountants, who can be recognised by the letters CA. The few I’ve met seemed OK.
  • Next up it’s the members of the Institute of Chartered Management Accountants (FCMA or ACMA.) Nice guys and great if you want to explore activity based costing. Some of them also do tax work.
  • Then we get the Chartered Public Finance Accountants (FIPFA or something like that). They are responsible for the fine state of the NHS and local government and you probably don’t need their unique skills to deal with your tax.

By now you’re probably wondering why some accountants have an F. It’s accountant speak for mature. It stands for fellow and the fellows (many of whom are women) are more experienced than the associates.

A few others you might come across are:

  • Chartered Tax Advisors (CTA) tend to be highly specialised and some of them are lawyers in disguise.
  • Irish Chartered Accountants – brilliant if you live in Ireland
  • Accounting Technicians (MAAT or FAAT) – Probably best not to trust a boy to do a man’s job
  • Taxation Technicians (MATT or FATT) – ditto

And now the golden rules. Anyone who simply calls themselves an Accountant invariably has no qualifications. So the safest bet is to look for someone describing themselves as a Chartered Accountant or a Certified Accountant.

Why use a qualified accountant

You can’t call yourself a chiropodist unless you have a professional qualification in chiropody or podiatry. But anyone can call themselves an accountant: and anyone does. That means there is a thriving business under-class of unqualified accountants. They claim to be qualified by experience and because they stick to what they are good at, and have lower overheads than high street accountants, they can offer a cheaper service. There are undoubtedly some very good unqualified accountants who know exactly what they are up to and provide an excellent service; but there are a lot of cowboys and without the reassurance of a professional qualification it’s hard to tell the difference.

Although there are a large number of accountancy qualifications in the UK all the recognised accounting bodies supervise their members and have the same basic requirements. If you use a qualified accountant you know he’s passed rigorous exams to get his qualification and has to do hours of courses every year to keep up to date; you know he has to have professional indemnity insurance to cover the risk that he gives you bad advice or is negligent in handling your affairs; and you know if anything goes wrong you can complain about his behaviour to his professional body.

And to quote an inspired, and possibly apposite, 1980’s advertising slogan “It’s easier to sleep with a Chartered Accountant.”

Who to avoid

Any accountant whose office has an atrium or a fountain.

You should expect to pay for his advice not his corporate status symbols. And statistically he’s more likely to go bust anyway.

Any accountant who talks about IR35 or suggests you form a limited company.

Yes I know, they’re hot topics in tax planning circles, but they have no real place in tax planning for sex workers.

Any accountant who tells you anecdotes about his other clients.

He could be telling his next client all about you.

Any accountant who says he can do everything for under £100.

If that’s all he thinks he is worth then he’s probably right!

Any accountant who hints at payment by barter.

Apart from the obvious problems, maybe he’ll be tempted to accidentally steer you into an HMRC tax enquiry: ‘it’s going to take a lot of time and work to deal with this, but don’t worry it won’t cost you a thing.’ It has happened!

Any accountant who claims to be the author of this site.

I wrote this, I have a wooden leg and I’ve retired and no longer practise.

Any accountant who can’t talk to you in plain English.

Yes tax is complicated, but there’s no excuse for pretending it’s some dark art that can only be vouchsafed to the initiated.

Any accountant who can’t promise to complete your accounts and tax returns within 30 days.

If he’s not fussed about getting work done promptly aren’t you entitled to wonder whether he’s fussed about getting it done properly?

Any accountant who once worked for the Inland Revenue.

This is the best possible training for being totally devoid of commercial sense, and you can guarantee he knows almost nothing about VAT.

Any accountant who is really, really dull.

Boring accountants deserve to be driven out of the profession IMHO.

Anyone with the words ‘Turf Accountant’ above the door.

He’s a bookie.

Any accountant who tries to sell you a pension or some ‘gilt-edged equity linked corporate maximum single premium guaranteed tracker bond’

You’re in the wrong building – he’s a banker.

Accountants’ fees

Any accountant worth his salt will want to begin your professional relationship by setting out in writing exactly what you’ve asked him to do, how and when he’s going to do it, the basis on which his fees are calculated, and when you have to pay him.

The traditional method of charging is by the hour. Since you probably have only a very hazy idea of how long it’s going to take him to do your accounts and tax and review your tax position, that’s not a very satisfactory method of quoting for your work. Increasingly accountants are tending to give you a fixed price for doing your work, although you will still find a lot who will say something like “I could give you a fixed price but you’ll probably end up paying more because I’ll need to factor in the risk that it takes longer than I expect.” I’d say that is a cop-out and a cover for lazy thinking. An escort’s accounts and tax return need to be completed with care, but it’s not rocket science. It’s perfectly possible for an accountant to say something like “if you let me have your records before the end of September and they’re complete and look like this, then I’ll turn the job round inside 30 days and the fee will be £450. But if when you send me your books they’re not as agreed then I’ll give you a new price and you can either ask me to proceed or you can take them back.”

I would also beware of the accountant who says his fee will be in the range from £300 to £500. He thinks he’s got permission to charge you £500 and will probably send you a bill for £450. But you’re probably hoping to get charged £300 and expect to be charged about £350. Whatever you ultimately pay, one of you is going to feel cheated.

Finally, when getting a quote from an accountant watch out for VAT. Many accountants will quote something like £350 plus VAT. That means you are actually going to pay £420.00. So unless you are VAT registered make sure you get a quote inclusive of VAT.

And remember, you can get tax relief on accountants’ fees (unless they relate to a tax investigation which results in you paying extra tax) so the taxman effectively contributes about 29% towards the cost of your accountant (basic rate tax 20%, class 4 NI 9%.)

Accountants4escorts

To help you find an accountant you can rely on we’ve put together a directory of Accountants4escorts and we’ve checked that they are all professionally qualified, properly insured and experienced in looking after the tax affairs of sex workers.

4 comments

  1. Andy says:

    Not all of us who have endured the route to qualification use the letters or want to pay the ridiculously high subscriptions or the forced upon us ‘Continuing Professional Development’ course fees. We keep up to date with the essential tax and accounting ones to but, to make up the associations’ stipulated hours, would have to do others which are inappropriate to what you need.

    In my experience, there are some bloody fine unqualified accountants and equally some god awful qualifieds (they can regurgitate stuff for exams but not use it).

    In short, you should get recommendations from others around you. Ask them who they use and about their fees, ability, personality, etc.

    Aside from this, the article provides sound advice.

    • Jolyon says:

      Thanks for your comments, Andy.

      I entirely agree, there are indeed some excellent unqualified accountants and equally some awful qualified ones.

      But the difficulty for anyone seeking a good accountant is where to look. Personal recommendation is undoubtedly a great starting point but it is difficult to assess how good an accountant is at his job – sure you can assess his efficiency and customer service, but it’s not so easy to tell if you’ve had good advice. Instructing a professional adviser is for most escorts a scary step into the unknown, and for that reason I would certainly recommend reducing the risk by sticking with a qualified and regulated accountant. Yes, she may miss out on a damn good accountant, but there is less risk of getting someone unsuitable, and more likelihood of redress if things do go wrong.

      I am no longer in practice, but if I was I think I’d be viewing my professional subs as a marketing expense – part of my brand management, and a way of reassuring potential clients.

      I have to say as well that I’ve always found the Tolleys CPD seminars pretty good value for money at just over £500 for 10 afternoons of tax and accounting updates – not forgetting some superb cakes.

  2. It is a shame that you judge being a “qualified” accountant on if they can remember a certain amount of accountancy. It’s why I always recommend to any business to meet accountants before hiring anyone. This way you can really get a feel for them and maybe ask them some questions.

  3. Jolyon says:

    Hi Stafford & Co
    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on this section.

    I’m not quite sure why you have the idea that I think being qualified is synonymous with being able to remember a certain amount of accountancy. That really isn’t my view and I’m disappointed if my scribblings on working with accountants have given that impression.

    I entirely agree that anyone looking to instruct an accountant would do well to meet and sound them out first. Part of what I wanted to achieve in this section was to give anyone with no experience of using accountants some tips on who to approach – you have to remember that many escorts or sex-workers are very nervous about taking this step. There are some real horror stories about escorts being judged, sniggered at, or sent packing by high street accountants.

    Jolyon

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