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遗嘱认证与会计师的关系(双语)

文章来源:未知    日期:2016年10月24日   【字号:


  税务一直被认为是会计师的专属领域,实际上,律师也会提供税务服务。开放的遗嘱认证市场为会计师事务所增添了新的机会,会计师也有了更多和律师交流学习的机会。与律师相比,会计师对于客户的财务事务了然于胸对于进行遗嘱认证是一个强大的优势。对客户而言,有会计师参与的遗嘱认证无疑会给他们增加更多的信心和底气;对会计师而言,遗嘱认证会提供他们一个自然而然的参与到下一代的事物的理想桥梁。
  
  English version:
  
  Probate:beyond death and taxes
  
  Rachel Willco ,20July 2016
  
  翻译:Yitta,Kun
  
  Death and taxes,as the saying goes,are the only certainties in this world.For accountancy firms they are also a business opportunity to explore:the market for probate services has opened up,allowing them to add another string to their bow.
  
  It’s now almost two years since ICAEW became an approved regulator and licensing authority for probate services after the Legal Services Act 2007extended the provision of “reserved”or regulated legal services to appropriately qualified individuals who are not solicitors.
  
  The move could not have come at a better time for those firms facing dwindling audit revenues as a result of changes to the audit threshold.To date,ICAEW has licensed 200firms to provide probate services,double its initial,perhaps conservative,estimate.
  
  Given the obvious synergies to those firms already offering estate administration services –currently representing around a quarter of ICAEW’s 10,000-strong membership –non-contentious probate has long been the missing link and a source of frustration among some accountants that the largely administrative process it involved had to be passed on to a solicitor.
  
  Many firms also believe they can often supply the service to both client and non-clients at a considerable saving compared with banks and lawyers.
  
  At the same time,being able to offer a cradle-to-grave service to clients combining IHT planning and probate sits comfortably with a desire among practitioners to reaffirm their position as a one-stop-shop for business advisory services.Many firms have already bitten the bullet –they see probate as a natural adjunct to their private client services.
  
  “Getting someone else involved has meant extra fees for clients and a disruptive process at a time when people are going through a bereavement.It’s attractive to just do everything through one person,”explains Peter James,ICAEW’s head of regulatory affairs.
  
  “I have clients I’ve acted for since I became a partner in 1983,”explains senior partner Martin Muirhead.“You understand their business and their affairs.Probate gives you the ideal bridge to become involved with the next generation.It’s a natural extension of tax and clients have the faith that they’re using someone who has been their trusted advisor for generations and can fulfil a holistic role.”
  
  Price Bailey partner Charles Olley agrees that intimate knowledge of clients’financial affairs gives accountants the upper hand when it comes to probate.“To walk away from that on death seemed inefficient,”he says.
  
  Despite concerns about stepping on the toes of solicitor clients,particularly where they benefit from referral arrangements,most accountants say they have seen no noticeable difference in attitude nor the level of referrals from solicitors since becoming authorised to conduct probate.
  
  For James,the key is for firms to think long term.The Legal Service Act gives ICAEW firms the opportunity to set up alternative business structures (ABSs),bringing together solicitors and non-legal professionals to develop a whole host of other legal services on the coattails of probate.“You need to look at what your firm will look like in five years’time.If your relationship with a law firm is because of a relationship with one partner,would it make sense to ask that person to join your practice?That’s something that couldn’t even be contemplated five years ago.”
  
  “Accountants always claimed tax was their domain and now lawyers do tax,”Muirhead says.“There’s a blurring of boundaries between the professions.Once you have a relationship,clients come to you for everything.So we have more opportunities to refer work to solicitors than ever before.It’s actually helping us build relationships with solicitors.”
  
  In reality,few firms are managing to generate huge fees on the back of probate alone.According to a survey by training provider SWAT,the majority of respondents are generating fees of between ?1,000and ?10,000per authorised principle from probate and estate administration work,and a quarter of respondents admit that the fees generated are less than half what they had predicted.
  
  Perhaps more worryingly,8%of respondents to the SWAT survey said they had failed to generate any revenues in that area,begging the question,is a probate licence worth the effort?
  
  James stresses that focusing on revenues from probate alone misses the wider business opportunity that it can present to firms.“In itself it’s not a lot of money but it can create hooks into other services.”A 2-3%fallout of probate-licenced firms suggests that it makes sense economically,he says.
  
  Price Bailey’s Olley,meanwhile,says firms that expect probate services to be a quick win should think again.“These things take time,”he warns.“We were appointed a day after we got our licence and despite being completely on top of things it took a year to dispose of everything bar one asset.”
  
  If you’re serious about the revenue-generating capabilities of probate,you need to do more than simply pass exams and wait for their clients to die,warns Jane Mather,a divisional director at SWAT.“Firms need to have a planned strategy for implementation and marketing.You need to inform staff and we need to raise awareness of the fact that accountants offer this service.”
  
  The sensitive nature of probate may make some practitioners reticent when it comes to pushing their services.And they are right to be wary of our collective reluctance to discuss dying and bereavement;only 35%of respondents to a survey for the Dying Matters Coalition had made a will and just 7%had discussed what sort of care they might want if they were unable to make their own decisions.
  
  The fact that 8%of respondents to the SWAT survey had managed to generate fees of between ?50,000and ?100,000per authorised principle shows the business potential exists.But realistically it is going to take some time before the general public realises that a solicitor isn’t their only option for probate work,says Graeme Hills,head of the legal practice and a partner at Duncan and Toplis Probate Services,sister organisation of the accountancy firm of the same name.“We definitely need to educate people.It’s up to firms to push that.Some clients have no idea,”Hills says.
  
  Any firm considering a probate licence should conduct a feasibility study addressing who in the firm will be licensed and the way the business will be structured,and should be realistic about the regulatory aspect of becoming licensed,a process Hills describes as “quite detailed and complex”.
  
  At the same time,the skills implications of a probate service line should not be underestimated,and not just in terms of finding enthusiastic personnel who are willing to do the exams.“You need to make sure you have adequately skilled people to do it and enough of a flow of probate work to maintain the skills of the people involved,”Muirhead says.
  
  Although Hills thinks it is too early to say how much the firm’s investment in probate will pay off,his advice is clear:“If you’re going to do it,do it wholeheartedly.Be prepared for a slow income stream but the benefits are there for the long run.”According to the SWAT survey,40%of respondents expect significant growth in probate work over the next five years.
  
  The practical issues proffered by probate work certainly keeps the work interesting –from sorting out gun licences and pets to the complexities of overseas property.
  
  At Price Bailey,Olley says he has even ventured into the domain of second-hand car sales as the firm looks to sell a vintage Alpha Romeo on behalf of one probate client.
  
  "This is an opportunity for accountants to develop a continuing relationship with a family particularly where they have a good bedside manner,”explains Clive Stevens,chairman and head of taxation at Kreston Reeves,which became licenced by ICAEW for probate in November 2014.
  
  The firm has three partners and 15support staff in its probate team.In its first year it generated billings for probate work of around ?350,000from a standing start.But probate isn’t for everyone,he warns.
  
  “There’s a psychology element to it.If you’re an emotional person and don’t like dealing with people at a vulnerable time,don’t do probate.”
  
  中文版:
  
  遗嘱认证:超越“死亡”与“税务”
  
  正如俗话所说,死亡和纳税是在这个世界上唯一能确定的事。它们对于会计师事务所来说,也是一个值得探索的商业机会:开放的遗嘱认证服务市场将为会计师事务所增添新的机会。
  
  从2007年的法律服务法案(Legal Service Act)放宽对拥有适当资格的个人(非律师)的“保留”或管制法律服务的规定之后,ICAEW成为遗嘱认证服务的合法监管机构已经差不多两年了。
  
  此举的出现对于那些因审计阀值变动而面临审计收入萎缩的事务所来说是一个大好时机。迄今为止,已授权200余家事务所提供遗嘱认证服务,超出了最初保守预估的两倍。
  
  由于已经在提供房地产管理服务的公司(目前约占在ICAEW协会的10000强成员的四分之一)所产生的显著地协同效应,长久以来,无争议遗嘱认证对一些会计师来说都是缺失环节和挫折的来源,因为,在行政过程中,该服务不得不大程度地转嫁到律师身上。
  
  许多事务所也相信,与银行和律师相比,他们能够以更低的收费为客户和非客户提供这项服务。
  
  与此同时,事务所能够提供结合遗产税(IHT,Inheritance Tax)规划和遗嘱认证,为客户提供从摇篮到坟墓的服务,这也与从业人员希望重申他们“一站式“企业咨询服务的立场相吻合。许多公司身先士卒,因为他们视遗嘱认证为他们私人客户服务的一个天然辅助。
  
  ICAEW的监管事务负责人皮特·詹姆斯(Peter James)解释说:“第三方的参与意味着客户须支付额外费用,并且对于正在经历丧亲之痛的人们来说也是一种打扰。因此仅由一个人就能完成一系列事务是十分具有吸引力的。”
  
  金士顿·史密斯(Kingston Smith)是首批获得ICAEW遗嘱认证许可的事务所之一,尽管它现在被SRA(小编注:生物信息数据库)授权处理更广泛的法律服务。
  
  其高级合伙人马丁·缪尔黑德(Martin Muirhead)解释说:“我有一部分客户是我从1983年成为合伙人就为之服务的,你了解他们的生意和事务。遗嘱认证为你参与下一代的事务提供了理想的桥梁。这是税务服务的自然延伸,并且这能给客户一种信念,即他们正在启用的顾问是一位历经数代都被信任的顾问,同时也可以实现全局化。”
  
  会计师对于客户的财务事务了然于胸对于进行遗嘱认证是一个强大的优势。皮尔斯·贝利(Price Bailey)的合伙人查尔斯·欧力(Charles Olley)对这一点表示同意,他说:“摒弃此点优势所进行遗嘱认证是一个十分低效的行为”
  
  尽管有担忧表示该转变犹如踩在了律师客户群的脚趾上,尤其是他们通常是通过介绍安排遗嘱认证服务来获利的,但是大多数会计师表示,从被授权进行遗嘱认证服务之后,他们并没有发现律师的态度或者引荐的质量上和以前有明显的区别。
  
  对于詹姆斯(James)来说事务所的关键是要放眼长远。而法律服务法案赋予ICAEW这样的机会去建立可替代的业务结构(ABSs),汇集律师和非法律专业人士,发展一系列遗嘱认证方面的其他法律服务。“你需要看看你的公司在未来五年内将是什么样子。如果你与一家律师事务所建立的关系是因为一个合伙人的关系,是不是可以邀请那个人加入你的业务?这是一些你不能在五年前就设想的事。”詹姆斯说道。
  
  “会计师总是说税务是他们的专业领域,现在律师也提供税务服务。”缪尔·黑德说,“有的专业之间界限模糊。一旦你与之相关,客户会就所有事情来向你咨询。因此,我们也有比之前更多的机会向律师请教工作。它实际上是帮助我们建立与律师的联系。”
  
  事实上,只有很少一部分的事务所预备仅通过遗嘱认证来创造巨额收入。根据培训机构SWAT的调查,大部分受访者表示,每一位被授权进行遗嘱认证和遗产管理的委托人,只能创造一千英镑到一万英镑不等的收入。四分之一的受访者承认,他们所创收入还不到原先预期的一半。
  
  也许更令人担忧的一个消息是,接受SWAT调查的受访者中有8%表示他们在遗嘱认证和遗产管理方面并没能创造任何收入。我们不禁提出这样一个问题,遗嘱认证许可证是否值得我们做出努力?
  
  詹姆斯强调,仅仅着眼于遗嘱认证的收入忽略了它所能呈现给事务所的更广泛的商业机会。“就其本身而言它并不能增加很多收入,但它可以与其他服务相连接。”那2%到3%获得遗嘱认证许可的公司说明了该服务具有经济效益。
  
  同时,皮尔斯·贝利事务所的欧力(Olley)表示,那些期待遗嘱认证服务可以快速见效的事务所需要重新思考。“这些事情需要时间”,他警告道。“在我们得到许可证的第二天,我们就被委派进行遗嘱认证,尽管我们熟练掌握着一切,但我们仍然花费了一年的时间去处置一项资产。
  
  如果你真的重视遗嘱认证的创收能力,你需要做的不仅仅是通过考试和等待客户死亡,SWAT的部门主管简·马瑟(Jane Mather)如是警告道,“企业需要制定具体施行和市场营销的策略。你需要告知员工,并且我们需要提高会计师提供遗嘱认证服务的意识。”
  
  当谈到推动他们的服务时,遗嘱认证的敏感性质可能使一些从业者讳莫如深。他们的警惕是正确的,因为我们这个集体不愿去讨论死亡和丧亲之痛。为临终事务联盟所进行的一项调查显示,只有35%的受访者曾立下遗嘱,仅有7%曾讨论过,如果他们无法自己做出决定,他们可能会想要什么样的照顾。
  
  8%的SWAT调查受访者表示,他们预计每个授权委托人能够创收五万到十万英镑不等,这一事实证明遗嘱认证是具有商业潜力的。但实际上,普罗大众需要一些时间去意识到律师并不是他们委托遗嘱认证工作的唯一选择,邓肯和托普利斯事务所(Duncan &Toplis,与同名会计师事务所是姐妹组织)遗嘱服务的法务主管和合伙人格雷姆·海尔(Graeme Hills)这样说道。“我们一定要告知大众,而这完全取决于事务所的推动,一些客户甚至是茫然的。”海尔说。
  
  每一个想要获得遗嘱认证许可证的事务所都应该进行可行性研究,决定被授予许可证的人选和业务的组建方式,并且对于获得许可之后的监管方面也应当是切实可行的,海尔形容这是一个“非常详细和复杂的”的过程。
  
  同时,遗嘱认证服务方面的技能带来的影响不容小觑,但仅仅去寻找对每一个想要获得遗嘱认证许可证的事务所都应该进行可行性研究,决定被授予许可证的人选和业务的组建方式,并且对于获得许可之后的监管方面也应当是切实可行的,海尔形容这是一个“非常详细和复杂的”的过程。此感兴趣并且愿意参加考试的人是远远不够的。“你需要确保你有相应技巧的人去做这件事,并且有足量的遗嘱认证工作让参与人员的技能水平得以维持”缪尔黑德说。
  
  虽然海尔认为现在判断事务所在遗嘱认证服务中的投入能收到多少回报还为时过早,但是,他明确建议:“如果你要做遗嘱认证,就要做到全心全意。做好收入流缓慢的准备,但好处是长远的。”据SWAT调查显示,40%的受访者预期遗嘱认证工作在未来五年将会显著增长。
  
  伴随着遗嘱认证工作的各种实际问题无疑会使这份工作变得有趣,从整理枪支许可证和打理宠物到处理各种复杂的海外财产。
  
  在皮尔斯·贝利事务所,欧力表示他甚至曾涉足过二手车销售的领域,因为事务所受一位遗嘱认证的客户委托出售一辆阿尔法·罗密欧的老爷车。
  
  “这是会计师与一个家庭发展长久性关系的好机会,特别是当他们有一个良好的对待病人的态度。”瑞斯顿·里维斯(Kreston Reeves)事务所的董事长兼税务主管克莱夫·史蒂文斯(Clive Stevens)这样说道。瑞斯顿·里维斯事务所已在2014年11月获得ICAEW的遗嘱认证许可。
  
  该事务所的遗嘱认证团队中有三个合伙人和15个员工。他们于第一年的遗嘱认证服务当中创造了约35万英镑的收入,而这完全是从零开始的。但是史蒂文斯警告说,遗嘱认证并不适合每一个人。
  
  “遗嘱认证涉及到一个心理因素,如果你是一个情感丰富的人,不喜欢在一个人脆弱的时候去应对他,那么就不要做遗嘱认证。”
 
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