Give me online forms any time!!!

I was sent a form to fill in this week. It was in PDF format and needed to be sent to printer, completed, the firm’s stamp attached, then scanned and sent back by email.

The form was to provide financial information for the purposes of a mortgage and my gripes not only with the form itself, but also the information requested.

There was a tick box to indicate if the business was a sole trade, partnership, limited company etc. So far no problem. However, it asked for the client’s share of the business. Whilst he has a small profit share, he also has a guaranteed first charge share which is a monetary sum, not a percentage.

It then asked for business income details:- the turnover 2 years ago, last year, this year to date and this year projection….again reasonably sensible. The next line asked for profit After tax. Why? The tax can vary significantly even with businesses with the same turnover, dependent on capital allowances etc. For partnerships, as in this case, which is a business with 7 partners, many of them having significant other income outside of the partnership, just how do you arrive at tax on partnership profits? And the next line – dividends paid….not applicable in this case.

For the client was the next section – asking for gross salary, net salary (after tax and NI) and dividends received. No place to record profit shares!

There was then a list of some 10 or so professional bodies for the accountant to tick their relevant qualifications, taking up loads of space on the form. How long have you acted for the client in yeas and months as the next question and then how were you introduced to the client? The latter answer was left blank….I have no idea how they became clients 50+ years ago!

The issue with many paper forms, as in this case, is the space allowed for the responses. There is one box for the company name, and a similar sized box for the address. The business email has a box the same width as the telephone number box yet has to contain loads more characters. It also asks for an Accountants stamp – we do still have such a thing which gets used from time to time, but how antiquated is this?

So – electronic forms….these could potentially have the same issues regarding space available to complete the responses, but this can often be fixed quickly and easily. Forms give the ability to be interactive so that responses relevant to limited companies – dividends and salary in this case – could be omitted from display as soon as the partnership or sole trade box were ticked. The further huge advantage in electronic forms is the data entered is at least legible, compared to some of the handwritten forms, especially where tiny writing is required!

Our new client forms, new employee forms, and many others, are now all online accessible via a weblink.

What is the worst form you have ever had to complete on paper or electronically?

  • Not the worst, but a recent one that sticks in the memory: Paypal registration form with mandatory questions.

    Q1 "What is your business type?", with drop down boxes for sole trader, partnership, limited company, members' organisation, etc.

    Q2 "What is your limited company's registration number?"