What if I were to tell you there’s a world class tax expert out there, he’s local to you and he doesn’t charge for his advice? He knows EVERYTHING there is to know about tax, whether it’s income tax or capital gains, or inheritance tax or even VAT – he knows it all and he’s saved himself a fortune in the past so he can help you too!

Does it sound a little bit too good to be true? You know what they say: if it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck… it’s a duck!

This is something I’ve chuckled over, groaned over and ranted over with my fellow accountants. It must be our equivalent of GPs having to hear “I’ve googled it…” when their patients turn up with unusual symptoms. For us it’s “the man in the pub” who has dispensed some tax advice and for some clients, he is more credible than we are.

Fairly frequently, a client will query the tax treatment of an aspect of their finances. It might be whether they can claim for mileage or meals, or whether there is VAT on travel or whether they have to pay tax on the house they just sold. And the initial answer is always “It depends” because tax is never simple and different circumstances will lead to different outcomes. This is all good and normal, and I love it when a client engages with tax and actually wants to know the whys and wherefores of their tax situation.

Occasionally, however, a client will insist that some of the advice I have given is wrong, or not the most tax efficient, or that there is a way of paying no tax at all. Invariably, they base this opinion on what someone else has told them. At this point I prick up my ears, because tax rules change all the time and if there’s a new one out there that applies to me and my clients, I want to know about it. And then I slump back down again, because it turns out they have been listening to that all-knowing tax expert I told you about in the beginning: the man in the pub. I suspect there must be one in every pub and he knows just enough to be dangerous.

It’s good to find out about tax, and sometimes a casual conversation in the pub can throw up a golden nugget of useful information, so please carry on doing it. Just remember that the man in the pub probably isn’t trained or qualified, doesn’t have to do regular CPD and doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. Ideally, check everything with an accountant or tax specialist but if you still want free tax advice, a more reliable source than your man in the pub is the HMRC website: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs