Unique to you?

Unique to you?

As a customer or client we all like to think that we are unique, and when we pay for services we expect both value for money (e.g. cheap) and that the service or goods will be fit for purpose.  Sometimes those two expectations can be accommodated and sometimes they are competing.  The issue is understanding when saving money can cost you more in the long run.

Below are three examples where cutting corners, ignoring advice or delaying acting on that advice resulted in costly lessons. 

Case One
In a recent Taxation Review Authority decision (Case 15/2016 [2016] NZTRA 15, 15 December 2016) the Authority ruled for a taxpayer, and held that a transaction in early 2002 and consequential recording and actions that followed were valid.  The Inland Revenue had alleged that a vendor accountant (who was also the Director of the purchaser) had falsified documents at a later stage (on or after 2007) to gain a tax advantage. 

In part of his evidence the Director acknowledged he has used a client’s legal Agreement for the sale of a business and he had effectively ‘whited out’ the names and amounts and inserted his own.  While we don’t know why he would have done this, the most obvious answer is that he didn’t want to incur costs to have an agreement drafted between himself and his own company – effectively a friendly sale.  I suspect the stress involved on an ongoing dispute, the distraction to the business practice, plus the costs involved has far exceed the legal fees originally “saved”.  2002 to 2016 is a long time in business.

Lesson learned – trying to cut corners really isn’t worth it. 

Case Two*
A number of years ago I attended a meeting with an accountant, his client and their auditor (my boss).  A restructure was required and there was a GST problem with no apparent solution.  I was brought in to establish if a solution could be found.  As the accountant was explaining the “problem” it became obvious to me that there was in fact no problem and the restructure could proceed as planned.  The accountant advised that he had received a formal opinion that the transaction could not proceed without a significant GST cost. 

Now I had a problem, because I disagreed with this opinion.  It didn’t make sense, was illogical and just wrong in law.  It was agreed that I should review the written opinion and look for a solution. 

Within 24 hours the accountant rang to inform me that he couldn’t actually forward me a copy of the opinion because on checking he discovered that it had ‘kind of … wasn’t actually … prepared for this client’.  No, that’s right the advice had been prepared for another client with different circumstances some years earlier!  What was this accountant trying to achieve?  He certainly didn’t save his client money, he had created additional costs and had delayed a significant restructure needlessly.

Lesson learned – even professionals try to cut corners for their client’s – it really isn’t worth it.

Case Three*
I had a client involved in a group tax dispute with the Inland Revenue some years ago.  Having looked into the merits of their case (and the draft test case, which had slightly different elements) and talking to the group lawyer, I recommended that my client accept an offered discounted settlement from the Revenue.  But the client felt strongly that their claim was good, and sufficiently different to the test case underway that they would win.  They also felt that the settlement offer fell short and elected not to accept it.  Shortly afterwards the first court decision was issued, a loss on the test case.  The Revenue withdrew their settlement offer immediately, and my client along with many others were locked into the test case. 

I again urged the client to settle, the test case decision was damning and they would not be able to sufficient distinguish themselves.  Settle was the best option, if just for the sake of removing this distraction from their business focus.  Fortunately my clients agreed.  It was an expensive lesson for them, but at least it was over and life returned to normal.  Now, many years later the final final final appeal on that test case has finished, another loss for the test case taxpayer.  A dispute spanning nearly 20 years.  Image for a moment the penalties and interest, plus the original tax debt that now is owing for those who hung in there, plus legal costs and the on-going stress.

Lesson learned – even if you are right, you can’t always win.  Accept advice and move on, life’s too short.


Reusing advice or documents drafted for someone else is dangerous and potentially expensive.  Relying on yourself, and what you believe should happen in matters personally affecting you, can cloud your judgement. 

Sometimes spending just a few hundred dollars can save you tens of thousands, plus time and stress.  A specialist has the training, background and experience in their field to offer the best support for you in your circumstances. 

Sometimes the answer is obvious and your specialist will save you time and money by telling you so. 

Sometimes the answer confirms your worse fears, or dispels them.

Sometimes the issues are complex and you need someone to make them simple. 

Sometimes you won’t like their advice, and you don’t have to take it.  But it is better to ask, so you understand the implications of your choices, then make an informed decision.

Here at Shellock Consulting we don’t think one size fits all, but we do recognise a simple answer when one exists and we are not afraid to tell you!  Our advice is independent in thought and delivery.  We might challenge your perception of what a solution looks like.  We break complex issues down into individual components and seek simple but effective solutions for our clients.

We provide value for money, but also ensuring the solution or advice is fit for your purposes.

If you want to know more you can contact us here. 

* minor details have been changed protect the identities of those involved

Posted: Saturday 14 January 2017