The four worst clients for your accounting firm

The four worst clients for your accounting firm

Some clients look innocent enough on the outside, but have the potential to turn your business upside down – these are the four types of nightmare clients

Some clients look innocent enough on the outside, but have the potential to turn your business upside down – these are the nightmare clients.

To keep yourself from having to clean up after challenging clients, make sure you can recognise these four troublesome accounting clients.

  1. The “Wink wink, nudge nudge” client

 This client wants to make the best of their tax situation, like anyone. Unlike anyone, they’re willing to cut corners to make that happen. Whether it’s trying to pass off shady deductions or buying into some type of creative tax avoidance scheme, they’re always trying something that’s just that bit too far outside the rules. Worst of all, they won’t tell you – usually because they know you’ll try to talk them out of it – leaving you having to comb through their documents extra carefully to make sure that you’re not accidentally party to something that could put your firm and your reputation at risk.

Defining characteristics: They ask you to push the boundaries when it comes to doing their taxes, say they want to do “whatever it takes” to lower their tax bill, or ask you to do something sketchy they heard about on a advert and get upset when you say no.

How to spot them: They talk to you like there’s a whole world of secret loopholes that you can open up for them, and they don’t understand why you can’t just go ahead and get to work without signing all those annoying contracts.

  1. The “It’s coming tomorrow, I promise!” client.

 Getting slammed with a bunch of documents around tax time is par for the course as an accountant. And you understand that not everyone has their financial documents together, so it can take some time to get organised.

But then there are those clients who just don’t seem to understand that HMRC’s deadlines are non-negotiable. You’re constantly having to chase up after them to get documents, and they may forget to send important things over entirely. What’s particularly frustrating about these clients is that they are often so jammed up with their own deadlines that they expect you to pick up the slack and perform the impossible to get the paperwork that they’ve delayed for months in on time.

Defining characteristics: They’re always busy, every email starts with “apologies for the delayed reply”, they promise they’ll send through the documents you need as soon as possible but they never come.

How to spot them: They come in right before the deadline needing their taxes done yesterday, only they can’t give you any of the information you need for at least a couple weeks.

  1. The “Wait, I’m supposed to keep track of my expenses?” client.

 There are the “shoebox” accounting clients who dump all their paperwork into a box (and then onto your desk come tax season)…and then there are these clients. They either don’t understand or simply won’t keep track of their financials, which leads to all kinds of headaches.

They might mix their business and personal expenses, or want you to be able to make a bunch of deductions for them, but not really know which expenses they want to deduct. You could almost feel sorry for them, because many of them are newer to business and simply don’t understand how important it is to keep track of everything. But when this type of practice keeps going on for years and years, and they won’t hire a bookkeeper to help keep things straight, it can be wearing.

Defining characteristics: They pay for everything (business and personal) from one account, and can’t tell you what kinds of deductions they want, even though they want them.

How to spot them: They look at you like you have three heads when you ask them where their financial docs are, and won’t do simple things to make your life easier.

  1. The “I want your advice so I can refuse to take it” client.

 Sometimes having clients who are a little more numbers/finance-savvy can be great, because you don’t have to worry about translating quite so much for them. On the other hand, some of them can know just enough to make them want to challenge you. And fair enough, education is part of the job, and you’re happy to have conversations about all their different options. But for whatever reason, some clients seem to want you to give them financial advice so they can turn around and do the exact opposite.

Defining characteristics: They’re a little more experienced in business, and they may know a lot about outdated policies or misunderstand the rules just enough to make it annoying.

How to spot them: They ask for some basic advice in your get-to-know-you call, then explain to you why it’s not right for their business.

Most SME clients are wonderful, and honestly, helping make their businesses take off can be one of the best feelings in the world. So, make sure that you spot and avoid the bad ones so you have enough time left over for them. It will save your sanity, not to mention your energy, for people who can really use it.

To get more actionable advice by accountants, for accountants, take a look at more blogs from Clear Books.

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