The festive period is upon us!
But, for most UK based accountancy practices that means only one thing…
The self-assessment period is upon us once again!
January is the time when lots of accountants are at their busiest working to complete tax returns before the deadline at the end of the month. It’s also a time I’m sure many accountants dread simply because it is so busy.
It is worth noting though, not all practices suffer this January rush…
I have a number of members of my coaching & mastermind programme where January is ‘just another month’. In fact, a few of them even make a point of going on holiday throughout January – isn’t that something to aim for!
Anyway, last month I ran a great spotlight session call with my clients where we were all sharing tips and ideas for making the self-assessment season more manageable.
It was great because there were clients from Ireland on the call who had just finished their busy period and had fresh lessons to share with the UK clients who are just about to hit the busy period.
There were also other clients from around the world on the call and it was interesting to note that although circumstances in each country are different, often the challenges are the same.
The shared consensus from the clients on the call was that smaller clients are usually worse to deal with at this time of year.
So, one question was raised that if going forward, with all of the changes and advancements in technology and the opportunities we have to work with our clients, is it worth keeping these smaller clients who only want their tax-returns done and aren’t interested in any of our other services?
For clients who are on Xero, QuickBooks or another similar platform, most of the information is already there, so this is less time consuming and less of a potential problem.
But often some clients want to delay sending information over so that their tax bill is delayed and so is the bill from their accountant!
As we spoke through these issues during the call, we discussed how we could help ourselves get ahead and more effectively manage the volume of returns that have to be filed.
Everyone had different little snippets to share, meaning everyone (including me) came away from the call with some different ideas and practices that they could implement to help during this busy season.
Some of the biggest tips that were shared between clients on the call were:
1. Be organised
One of the most crucial things many clients felt helped them during the self-assessment period was requesting information from clients as early as possible.
We know when the deadline is each year, so why do so many practices leave it till September or October to start requesting information from clients?
Request it as early as possible, and where you’re able, automate the requests that go out to save you and your team even more time.
Being properly organised and planning ahead will save you hours down the line (but there will still always be the lastminute.com clients who ignore everything till January!)
2. Appoint dedicated chasers
The biggest time vampire during self-assessment season is chasing clients for info.
Any time that accounting team members spend chasing clients for information etc is time that could be better spent on actually completing the tax-returns.
A great way to cut down on this is by appointing dedicated chasers, who are preferably non-accounting staff. This frees up more time for the accountants to concentrate on working on the tax-returns themselves instead of administrative tasks chasing up clients for information.
3. Implement a surcharge system
During the call, one of my clients in Scotland mentioned they implemented a 20% surcharge if information is given to them after the 31st October. They said this has worked incredibly well as most clients don’t want to be penalised in any monetary way.
Why not consider implementing something similar with your clients? I bet you’ll be surprised just how many people get the required information to you before the penalty charge date!
You’d have to build this into your letters of engagement as well and ensure clients are aware of this when signing up.
4. Set weekly targets
Setting weekly targets is another way to help keep organised and on track during tax-return season. Setting targets of how many returns to complete, or something similar is a great way to motivate your team and keep track of how long tasks are taking to complete.
It’s best to keep targets visible, so team members are always reminded of what’s expected of them and what they’re working towards. Putting targets for each team or team member on a whiteboard that’s visible in the office is a great way to do this.
It’s also important to hold follow-up meetings to discuss whether targets have or haven’t been met and the reasons why.
If targets aren’t being met, perhaps you need to think about ways to better support your team members so that they can reach their targets.
Equally, if targets are consistently being met, perhaps it’s time to think about upping the target numbers for team members.
Do you have any tips, advice or tricks to share about how you stay sane during tax-return season? Or, will you be implementing any of these tips into your practice?