Ask accountants to name their most irritating client queries, and it’s likely that most will put clients getting advice from their ‘friend down the pub’ somewhere near the top of their list. However, a digital equivalent has started to take the place of this annoying drinking buddy, as more and more people are heading online to answer their questions about tax issues. But if you’re finding yourself turning to Google for advice more often than your accountant, make sure you don’t forget why you hired someone to manage your accounting issues in the first place – and why you still need them even with the internet at your fingertips.
Whilst Google might be more reliable than a ‘friend down the pub’, there’s no guarantee that what you find will actually be relevant to you. Moreover, even if it is relevant, how confident can you be that you have the accountancy expertise to ensure you have accurately understood the information you’ve found online? A good comparison is googling medical advice: rather than simply relying on whatever you’ve read on a website, it’s almost certain that you’ll go to a doctor for the reassurance of a professional opinion. It should be the same with searching online for accounting information – run anything you find by your accountant to be sure that it’s up-to-date, relevant and accurate.
An even better idea is to develop a relationship with your accountant which results in them becoming your first port of call above Google. Think about how much contact you currently have with your accountant: if you currently only speak with them at year-end to discuss accounts and tax issues then do all you can to change this. A good accountant will be happy to foster this kind of relationship with their clients. If they’re not, it could be time to find someone more modern in their approach to handle your accounts.