So, Self Assessment season is over for another year. How was it for you? Were most of your clients’ tax returns done and dusted well before the 31st January or were you working right to the deadline wire thanks to clients leaving things to the last minute?
Here are some ideas for making things less stressful next year. We have heard of a number of accounting professionals using some of these practices to improve your Self Assessment season and we’d love your thoughts on this too.
Self assessment season: Charge accordingly
Early-bird discounts: You could offer discounted fees for clients that submit the data in good time and in good order – before the end of August, say.
Tiered fees: You could also offer a fee structure whereby the sooner you receive all the paperwork you need, the lower the fee you will charge. Fees will increase each month so that clients who wait until January to submit their data end up paying more.
Late penalties: You could tell clients that you will only be able to offer the same fee as last year if you receive all the necessary data before Christmas. After that, inform clients they will need to pay a premium (e.g. 25% – 50%) in order to have their tax return processed before the deadline.
Self assessment season: Make it very easy for clients to send data
Make sure clients know exactly what data you need from them and how they can send it.
To reduce the risk of inaccurate and incomplete data, provide checklists for clients of everything you need from them.
Using accounting software which allows you and your clients to stay in constant communication will also help avoid people turning up in the last week of January with a bag full of receipts.
Self assessment season: Set your own deadline
Get clients to work to your deadline, not 31st January. Tell them your earlier tax return deadline in all correspondence and don’t mention 31st January – make sure you take your own deadline very seriously to make this work.
Self assessment season: Head off mistakes
Outline to clients what some of the most common tax return errors that they need to avoid are and how to prevent them. Give examples specific to different types of clients.
Self assessment season: Offer in-person support
Offer workshops or even online webinars where you can explain how clients can make Self Assessment easier for themselves (and therefore you!). You can round up key points and any changes they need to know about and it’s also a good chance to let clients ask any questions.
Self assessment season: Review your own systems
Now that 31st January is passed, now is a good time to see how you can improve things in-house:
• What lessons have been learned?
• What could you do differently?
• Can any of your communications or procedures be improved in the light of what you have learned?