Across the UK, more than 11 million people file tax returns. Over the past 10 years, the number of tax payers filing online has increased steadily, with more than 9.24 million Britons filing one last year via HMRC’s online portal.
However some things don’t change. Just like in the previous years, there was a last minute rush for filing the 2015/16 tax returns; the busiest period was 27 January with nearly 50,000 filing their tax return between 14:00 and 15:00.
Many were not that fortunate - 870,000 taxpayers missed the 31 January deadline and were issued with an automatic £100 fine - earning HMRC an additional £87,000,000 in first-stage penalties!
The story has been the same ever since the (SA) regime started in 1997. As tempting as it might be to procrastinate, for accountants who don’t want to suffer the madness of last year, the time to take control is now.
1. Create a list of clients with a history of a late return
Review what went wrong last year. Find out if you missed checking your client’s paperwork. Identify and create a list of clients who are perpetually late. Schedule reminders to go out at key intervals. Ask for the information you need and educate them about the benefits of getting the data to you in time. Maybe if you mentioned the £100 penalty, they would be motivated to file sooner.
2. Give a tax return checklist to your clients
Making it as easy as possible for clients to share all the data is half the battle. This is where a checklist could make your job a whole lot easier. So before you begin a job, create a checklist of everything you require from them. Keep a copy for yourself too. Download this free SA tax return checklist so you can share it with them today.
3. Give them notes from last year’s tax return
Providing notes made during last year’s tax return helps clients understand what they need to provide this year. It will include details such as bank accounts, additional income streams, pension policies, etc.
4. Draw their focus to an earlier deadline
Neither do you nor your clients benefit from the last minute rush. Stop drawing their attention to the 31 January deadline. Instead refer to your own earlier deadline, especially for the ones who have a history of filing late. Tell them their deadline is 31 October (paper returns)
5. Establish a stepped-fee structure
This could motivate clients like nothing else. Consider offering a special deal on fees, based on a stepped fee structure. Meaning they have to pay higher fees the later they provide that information. And stick to it.
While it maybe fair to blame clients for ignoring your reminders to produce the papers in time, quite simply your clients’ leave it to the last minute because you let them do so. And you could change things this year by following the tips we’ve shared in this blog. To make it easier for you, we have also created a free SA tax return checklist for accountants to share with their clients. So if you are looking to breeze through this year, please download it.