2020 Vision: The profession’s obsession with the Budget

DURING MY TIME in practice, much has changed, although one thing has remained constant: the amount of time, energy and resources wasted on the Budget each year.

I’ll start with perhaps the most obvious area of waste in most firms – tax tables. Every year, practices throughout the UK gear up to print their only piece of promotional literature, a fold up card with key snippets from the budget. What’s wrong with this, you may ask?

Firstly, clients have received these from a good proportion of the other firms in the region. So, there’s no differentiation whatsoever. If you want to go a step above, how about a personal phone call from the client relationship manager about the key points?

Secondly, it’s pretty outdated now. You’re reading this on a website. The budget news is on various websites. And despite your best efforts in getting your tax tables out rapidly, these websites will beat you hands down. Twitter will probably get there even sooner.

And finally, clients really don’t care about tax tables. The workings of the tax system is our problem, not their problem. It’s like a mechanic providing customers with oil viscosity charts.

Time budget

This moves me nicely on to another matter that confuses me every year. According to the Office of National Statistics, there are 38,665 entities that provide accounting/tax services.

To include sole practitioners and unincorporated partnerships, I’ll make a broad-brush assumption that we should double that number, and round down to 75,000. In each firm, there is at least one person who listens to the Budget – let’s say for one hour.

Certainly in my experience, they will then spend a few hours poring through the detail of the budget to find what’s hidden away. Couldn’t this all be done by one technical unit at ICAEW/ACCA, and the information distributed to it’s members? I’m sure that there’s a better way.

If we presume that only three hours are wasted in sourcing a print supplier, designing literature, listening to the budget, and reviewing the detail, by only one person per firm (unusual in larger firms), that’s going to be at least 225,000 hours wasted, particularly when all of the information is on the BBC website anyway!

Combined with the paper, just imagine what 225,000 accountant hours and thousands of reams of paper could do for charity… knowing our industry, a very long and expensive audit report.

Carl Reader is a director of Wiltshire-based firm Dennis & Turnbull, which won the 2013 British Accountancy Award for Independent Firm of the Year-Wales and South West England

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