Running an accountancy practice is not easy. Especially in the run up to the 31 January tax return deadline. It’s the busiest time of the year where time quite literally equals money. Waste a single second and you might eat into your margins.
Or even worse, a tax return that you thought would take a few days takes you a few weeks to complete. You end up either chasing your clients to file early, or are making sure it's not taking a toll on the quality your employees operate at.
Beating the January rush requires you to be a little ahead of the game. So here’s a collection of some best practices to tackle the 2015/16 season.
1. Plan ahead so that business development doesn’t get left behind when the team focuses on meeting the all-important deadline.
2. Learn to say no. It’s always the ‘yes’ people that suffer from stress. Impose your own deadlines, you can always post earlier than the HMRC's. Manage your clients, don't let them manage you.
3. Completed tax return checklists. Remember as an accountant you must make it easier for your clients to provide you information. Having clients complete a tax return checklist before they schedule their appointment will make the whole process easier. You can download this free checklist to share with them.
4. Track progress. Have good systems in place to know where you are with each client. Keep an eye on completions, and check that your records match those in HMRC’s agent list.
5. Use a document portal. Not only as a place for clients to upload their documentation, but also as a means to get their electronic authorisation for accounts and tax returns.
6. Set fees at an appropriate level. Charge higher fees if data comes in late, but it is better to reward a lower price for early or on-time data.
7. Spread the workload. The run up to the self-assessment deadline is a tough time. Aim to finish about 75% of your annual PTR workload by the end of December, and 25% workload in January.
8. Consider other options. Outsource anything that someone else can do cheaper than your own hourly price/value.
The important message here is: don’t panic. We filed over 3000 tax returns in the 2014/15 tax year. It’s our experience that the seasonal pressure can be greatly reduced if you follow the tips above. Once the rush is out of the way, take stock of what worked, what didn’t and how you can incorporate the best new learnings into your plans next year.
Read other articles in this series to find out more about how you can take control of the tax return season and your practice: