Self assessment: How was it?

You've filed your last tax return, breathed a sigh of relief and put your feet up on your desk - it's finally all over for another year. 

But before you shut the office door firmly behind you, why not take a few moments to reflect on this year's tax season and share your triumphs and frustrations.

Has everything gone to plan? Or did clients show up at the last minute with their shoe-boxes and carrier bags full of crumpled up invoices and receipts? Did you experience any of the niggles with SA Online, and did your software system stand up to the punishment you threw at it?

Typically at this time of year, we find that members like to vent all emotions they've bottled up for the past few weeks and sharing their self assessment war stories. Face it, nobody else but other accountants are going to be interested.

We've seen a torrent of queries go through the Any Answers section throughout the busy season raising all kinds of practical, technical and technological issues.

In November and December, members debated the safety and legality of sending clients tax information and returns via email.

And in the past week or two, whether or not HMRC would accept digital signatures rather than physical originals was raised again.

Now the deadline has passed, members are sharing their experiences on the Sole Practitioner's blog and there's a similar thread underway in Any Answers. Go ahead and vent all you like (that's what the site is for), but this year, with support from Digita, we're looking to take a slightly more constructive approach. What can you learn from your tax season torments so that you can make things run more smoothly next year?

There are just two questions in the online survey and we'll be compiling the results into a free expert guide summarising accountants' experiences this year and the lessons learned. It will also include ideas and suggestions to help you prepare for self assessment season in January 2014.

SA: What would you do differently next year survey

Comments
nigel's picture

You know it's February when ...    1 thanks

nigel | | Permalink

... you get two calls within 5 minutes of each other from CPD suppliers wanting to sell you their 2013 seminar programme. Just let me catch my breath first!

What would I do differently..........?

markabacus | | Permalink

Generally this year went well, no major system problems at this end or HMRC's for that matter.

Last return went down the line at 18:30, 5.5 hrs to spare ;-), didn't help that the client only emailed me his info, despite chasing for weeks for it at 23:35 on 30th.

So what would I do differently, maybe inform clients if I haven't got their info by 31/12 they'll be a January surcharge! Then again I bet I don't.

Ah, a weekend off just hours away :-)

 

self assessments    1 thanks

kiritkumar | | Permalink

Did not come across any problems filing any returns this year. Last return was filed at 9.30pm last night and was accepted by HMRC which was nice to see. I would have thought the gateway would be very busy after 9pm but overall all went smooth.

taxhound's picture

WHY?    1 thanks

taxhound | | Permalink

I sent two tax returns out to a husband and wife last Friday.  I rang the client on Monday to make sure they were on their way back to me.  Husband said he would book the day off on Thursday to come in and give them to me.  He turned up at 3.00pm yesterday.

Why can some people just not bear to allow HMRC to have the return half a day earlier than they need?  Why could he not have taken Monday off work?  And why did he have to wait until yesterday afternoon to come in when he had the whole day off?

HMRC - good news and bad news    1 thanks

daymar | | Permalink

HMRC - good news and bad news!

Good news - online sytem worked well with no failures and we received email acknowledgements promptly, including at peak times on the 31st.

Bad news - we spent 3 days on and off trying to get through to the Payment Support Services to agree a payment plan for a client self assessment return filed on Monday 29 January - and only got contstant messages saying they were busy or often just an engaged tone. The one time we got through on to their queuing service with the message thanking us for "continuing to hold and an operator will answer your call as soon as possible" we held on for an hour and a half (at 0845 rates) before giving up. So we have now missed the requirement to agree this before the payment was due - ie midnight 31 January. Am I being cycnical to think they stopped this service as a deliberate ploy?.

Kathryn15's picture

Extension to 15 February    1 thanks

Kathryn15 | | Permalink

I have just been informed that a very disorganised individual (not a client), who had left his return to the last minute as usual and discovered that he had misplaced his user ID and password on January 30th, phoned HMRC and was advised it would be no problem to give him an extension to the normal tax return filing deadline!  He now has until February 15th to submit his 2012 tax return.  I was certainly not aware that this was an option or I would have requested it for a genuinely ill elderly client who has not managed to provide me with any information and has just accepted that he will have a penalty and perhaps interest charges.  I think I will be appealing when the penalty notice is issued!  

Getting better each year

orchardacc | | Permalink

My experience this year was very good and i am not a fan of HMRC, but i must say they have been very good in the last few weeks. Every time we made a call and request for a client's PAYE records to complete their tax return, we get it by fax with an hour. This really helped doing the director's tax returns who had few employments before setting up their own company.

We had most of our work planned out evenly over the year, but i have always left all directors tax return to do in January. This year, i didn't realise how much we had to do and ended up doing over 120 tax returns amongst other accounts. Although they don't take a lot of time to complete but still was a pain.

For the new year, my plan is to complete the directors' tax returns the same time when the company account is completed.

It is always our principle, we DO NOT take records from any client after the first week in January and we definately don't take on any new clients that needs tax return completed in January.  

chrisrei's picture

No probs filing tax returns

chrisrei | | Permalink

No probs filing tax returns

However, BillPay run by Santander was really slow on the night of 30 Jan

In the feedback I suggested that PayPal would make life easier

Then I remember who operates PayPal

Doh!

Got an email at work on the morning of 31st January apologising for problems with BillPay

 

Paul Scholes's picture

Best year so far

Paul Scholes | | Permalink

Over 90% of work cleared by 31 October so no panics or rushes this year.  The real benefit is that you can use your December/January to do other more valuable things, not put off all the non-tax stuff, do planning, go skiing or just switching off the pc and going for a walk.

@markabacus, try 5 July rather than 31 December.  3 months is more than ample time for someone to get you their info, if you say 31 December people will work towards that rather than when they could easily have done it 9 months earlier.  It works.

try 5 July

markabacus | | Permalink

Paul - Wldn't disagree, one p/ship with y/e 31/7/11 after chasing since last May [both have PAYE as well] del'd his records 4/1/13.

Still not had HMRC e-mail acknowledgements for final two days

Michael King | | Permalink

Agree that the experience is generally getting better each year, but very annoyingly, I didn't get the customary HMRC e-mail acknowledgements for the few Returns submitted on 30th and 31st - and STILL haven't received them. A lot of folk are reporting this problem so I'm obviously not alone. HMRC seem to have actioned repayments that some of the Returns indicated and their website shows all of the Returns as having been received. Does anyone know if the e-mail acknowledgements will ever be sent out now? I use PTP - but not sure if it is down to the software used or just simply HMRC overload.

Systems

stephenfarra | | Permalink

HMRC systems were efficient this year and Agents helpline answered calls within two rings and made a good effort to be as helpful as possible. Usual clients leaving things to last minute and picked up some nice new ones as other Accountants turned them away
Now for a rest.................

Guarantees and Penalties

Tony Kensington | | Permalink

We had the best January to date, the team in the pub by 6:00 on the 31st, no late nights or weekend working. However still 4 clients coming in next week with details, but you can't help some people as per earlier posts.
Our success is down to not offering a discount for bringing in your records by 31st October and then not providing a guarantee of on time filing if records, complete or otherwise are brought in after Christmas, even at the non-discounted price.
To improve things for 2013 returns we tell clients that If they cannot help us to help them then perhaps they should seek alternative advisors, life is too short for non-ideal clients.

carnmores's picture

maybe i shouldnt go skiing in january

carnmores | | Permalink

but all was done after a fashion , including the one i remembered aafter a drunken diner at 1135pm on 31st, obviously refreshes the parts .........

Every day in every way I'm getting better and better

gary_taylor | | Permalink

It may take five or six years to train a client when to produce information for the tax returns but I am getting there. HMRC systems as far as they go worked well for me.

My only gripe, which I have recorded multiple times on the feedback at the end of the return, is that there is no HMRC system for recording simple partnership returns. Every year I therefore have to subscribe for commercial software. I understand that the more complicated partnership returns would be difficult for HMRC to standardise as an on-line solution but the simple returns should be achievable.

There must be many thousands of small husband and wife partnerships that would use an HMRC on-line solution. For me a commercial on-line partnership solution costs approx 30% of the fee that I charge for the whole accounts preparation and submission exercise. As I don’t feel it appropriate to pass this directly onto the client it makes hours of work on the partnership not very rewarding.

carnmores's picture

you need to change your partnership software then

carnmores | | Permalink

i filed 5 partnership returns using absolute top up ,  er thats a fiver each , hope your charging more than £20

HMRC receipts

marvells | | Permalink

I use FTAX which in the main works fine for me.  I did however file a return on 30th and although I got the FTAX success email almost immediately, I still haven't rec'd a HMRC receipt.  As this is new territory for me, I don't quite know where my client stands.  Are you able to help?

Yes please to HMRC online partnership return

Charles Butcher | | Permalink

gary_taylor wrote:

There must be many thousands of small husband and wife partnerships that would use an HMRC on-line solution.

Yes! I'm half of one of them.

marvells wrote:

I use FTAX which in the main works fine for me.

I have used Ftax for the last half dozen years because AFAIK it's the only cheap solution for partnerships that will run on a Mac. Doing all the calculations inside a PDF file is very clever but I find it clunky and quite hard to use, considering how simple my tax affairs are. For instance, some years the process of importing from last year's return works properly, and sometimes it doesn't. This year it didn't.

marvells wrote:

I did however file a return on 30th and although I got the FTAX success email almost immediately, I still haven't rec'd a HMRC receipt.

Same here for one out the three returns I submitted. I received a confirmation from Ftax themselves and the return showed up on the HMRC website. I assume the problem is that same one that others have mentioned above.

ACDWebb's picture

So far as I am aware

ACDWebb | | Permalink

if you use third party software and it receives a success report from HMRC then storing that is your proof. The HMRC email just says:

"Thank you for sending the SA Trust submission online.

The submission for reference ********** was successfully received on dd-mm-yyyy and is being processed."

It makes no reference to the year submitted and is real no proof. If you're not sure take a screenshot of the HMRC Online page for the client showing receipt.

JAADAMS's picture

I nagged...

JAADAMS | | Permalink

... and I mean nagged (!) and still there were the stragglers.  In the end just one did not give me his accounts and hence was not submitted. Serves him right to be fined.

But clients did seem to leave it until later this year

Would giving a discount get them to deliver earlier? Do you give discounts?

 

mr. mischief's picture

Reverse discounts work!

mr. mischief | | Permalink

My approach and results:

1.  On 25 September a letter went to all clients who had information to come in for the 2011-12 return.  This covered 58 tax returns.  The letter said they would have a 20% price variation - minimum £50 - on 1 November if I had not seen the records by then.

2.  I sent a further notice by e-mail on 29 October to the no shows.

3.  I waited until 17 November, then sent out the 20% variation letters to the 7 clients who had still not showed up, covering 11 tax returns.  This letter also said that the 20% increase would become 50% (minimum £100) on 21 December if they had still not showed up.

4. On 27 December I sent out 1 letter to the single remaining client who still had not brought records.  She turned up on 10 Jan, paid the fee including the 50%, and we filed on 17 Jan.

The orignal 58 returns covers about 20% of my total SA returns for the year.  Apart from three consistent deadline chasers, I find that clients who have been through the above process once transform themselves into early filers.

It was a good job this lot was sorted before the final week, because I was still filing returns on 31 January for new clients, and clients on "handover" from previous accountants who had not made good on promises to file the 2011-12 return before handover.

Tax Return

HUGH W DUNLOP | | Permalink

Light hearted note.(or urban myth?)

A colleague claims that he got a call from a recently widowed friend who had found a tax return in her late husband's papers. She asked if he could help her as she had never filed one.

He files the return, and when she thanked him asking how much she owed him he said 'For a friend, let's make it fifty' She gave him a pound coin, and told him to keep the change.

Stress the benefits of foresight?

Charles Butcher | | Permalink

As a two-person partnership with a long record of filing returns on 30 January, can I suggest that you stress to clients that people who send you their data well ahead of time will have a better idea of how much tax they'll have to pay?

I was seriously not looking forward to this year's tax bill. When I finally got round to filing, however, I found that for various reasons I don't have to pay anything this month. If I'd got into gear last April I would have known this all along. (I know I probably should pay something, but that's another story).

I'm sure you all have clients who you advise throughout the year, so they won't have surprises like this. But you must also deal with small businesses who you can't advise properly until you get a pile of paperwork at the end of the year.

mr. mischief wrote:
Reverse discounts work!

They would work for me. As does the threat of a £100 fine from HMRC.

Paul Scholes's picture

Unfortunately they are not all like you Charles

Paul Scholes | | Permalink

Believe me I've tried every sort of carrot & stick, from peace of mind to money saving/costing to baseball bats and there will always be a significant minority that will ignore them all.

As I say above however, when I write to them on 6 April, with reminders May & June, to impress upon them that our deadline is 5 July, the majority just comply and move heaven and earth to get me the info by then or call me to ask for an extra week or two.  So last year I think we had over 80% of the info in by the end of July.

The bonus is that for some, who had been late every year, the first year they managed 5 July it was a real relief and they could enjoy their summer without the constant nag "must get Paul my stuff soon"

ccassociates's picture

31 Jan

ccassociates | | Permalink

This year I took 31st Jan off. My last return was filed at midday on 30th that was for a client with a May 11 year end. I had one crisis client who came with his records on 21st Jan but did not give me the final piece of info till 29th Jan and he is the same every year.

We managed to use the "Moira Stewart" approach and push for 30th October and pressing home the new penalties regime.

We also resigned as accountant for four clients who are notoriously late and incomplete every year on 1st December after telling them we would do so if they did not get their records in by 30th Nov. We had accountant exchange requests on 30th Jan for two of them, which I responded to by email the same day, however they are all still on my gateway list and none of them have filed.

Next year I am aiming to take the week commencing 27th Jan off and fly off to somewhere hot with no phone and no email.