As an accountant, you help your clients to set up companies, trusts and self-managed super funds....
As the actions of some at the big end of town are bringing the behaviour and fees of all accountants to public attention, now is a good time to look at the most common fee disputes and how you can help protect your practice against them.
Work Completed that was Out of Scope
It happens to all of us – a client phones and “just” wants some “quick” advice on tax planning or to slip in only 20 crypto trades with no record keeping around them.
Little added jobs or other cases of scope creep result in more work for you, but if you add the fee to a client’s end-of-year invoice without their prior knowledge, it can quickly turn into a fee dispute.
Prevent confusion around what work will be done by clearly outlining everything, including all covered entities and actions with the fees. If you’re asked to quickly provide additional work, let them know you’ll get back to them with a new engagement letter for the additional work.
ChangeGPS has a Fee Proposal with Terms that allows you to easily communicate with clients the work that will be done and for which entities.
Over 38 email templates are included in ChangeGPS to help you explain the value of the work you’re providing.
General Engagement Letters
An engagement letter that only says “preparation and lodgment for year-end tax returns” can quickly lead to assumptions and confusion, as it can create the expectation that everything is going to be included.
Providing a detailed list that includes all entities and actions with the fees can reduce miscommunication with the clients, and also the potential for scope creep.ChangeGPS includes an engagement letter template that helps you make sure all relevant details are included.
Client’s Circumstances Change
Clients won’t always let you know when their circumstances change; however, a strong relationship can go some way towards you being kept in the loop.
Engage with your clients every year. While it’s not required, it’s good practice because their circumstances change every year, and reaching out can be a good way to prompt them to give you that information.
Having agendas for meetings is also a great way to make sure that all relevant information is being checked and updated.ChangeGPS includes a number of annual meeting agendas and email templates to streamline this process.
They Didn’t get a big Enough Tax Refund
Not getting a big enough tax refund can often make clients angry and upset, but sometimes, it is just not within your control. Again, there are things that you can do on a regular basis to manage their expectations and reduce potential disputes.
Be sure you’re setting clear expectations for the tax refund.
Do your tax planning early in the year. This gives your clients time to understand the circumstances and make any necessary adjustments.
And be sure to let your clients know about any ATO changes as soon as possible so they’re not surprised by the impacts when they get their returns.
Basically, it all comes down to good communication with clients and managing their expectations to protect yourself from miscommunication and to limit the chances of a client being put offside.
For more tips and practical advice on how to protect yourself, download our manual with eight ways to protect your practice from fee disputes.
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