Life is tough on the front line of accountancy. For more than five years, our intrepid correspondent has been bringing us news and views from a typical West Country practice.
Practitioner's Diary - Phew! We made it
Our West Country general practitioner successfully makes it to the end of January.
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30 January - Finished about 6.30 today, and I'm not coming in tomorrow so that's it. We have filed everything we can, including more estimated figures than ever before, but there are no more than half a dozen (out of 500+) returns that are going to be late, and most of those are with the client's knowledge. A couple are out in draft awaiting a return call or meeting with clients who have just disappeared off the face of the earth, and a couple are the usual suspects who may well no longer be clients but just resist all attempts at communicating with them.
So a good result, the tax team have done a tremendous job again and kept me out of most of the detailed work. That's probably why it went so well.
Let's have a weekend and get on with something different for a change next month!
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28 January - And don't forget coffee. I usually drink instant, so for January weekends and evenings I get the coffee maker out and bring in some real ground coffee - it makes all the difference when you just can't face one more Return!
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27 January - Second tip - bribery works every time! By which I mean bribe yourself if you're struggling - food works well for us. If we have a good session someone will go and fetch doughnuts or cakes to boost our sugar levels. Give yourself little rewards - finish the returns on your desk and reward yourself with a walk to the cake shop/supermarket/round the block - whatever will give you a break and recharge your tax batteries.
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26 January - And we're onto the final straight, the race is on to get all our returns filed by Friday night - do I mean Saturday night? - No, I've done enough unsocial hours for my ungrateful clients. If they're not here by Friday they've had it!
To make the week less awful I have a few strategies which I thought I would share in case they make you life a little more pleasant this week. Maybe you have some tips of your own you'd like to shares too.
First - try some music. I find putting on a CD or the radio just lifts the atmosphere a bit and makes the drudge seem ... less of a drudge. You may prefer classical or opera, I go for Planet Rock on the DAB radio every time. Rick Wakeman on a Sturday morning almost makes coming in to the office a pleasure!
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23 January - This might be a useful tip if you have struggling corporate clients. A client with a big CT bill for the 31/3/08 year called to say they are on track to make a big loss this year and can't afford to pay last year's tax. I warned them they couldn't strictly claim loss relief in advance but I'd give it a go, and it looks like HMRC have instructions to allow this in the current economic climate. The Inspector replied:
"In view of the current economic climate I will informally suspend collection of the tax due pending the loss carry back claim" but added that this can only be done as a short-term measure and we therefore we have to get the 31/3/09 CT600 filed by 30 April. Shouldn't be a problem in this case.
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21 January - Spotted an interesting thred the other day on UKBusinessForums - 40 social networking websites. The title "40 Social Sites That Every Business Needs a Presence on" is a bit over the top, but it's well worth a look at these and seeing if you can use one or two to improve your online presence.
BusinessZone also has a good article on using Twitter. It's a bit too post-modern for me, but if you're into stuff like Facebook (what ever happened to ICQ? I used to understand instant messaging!)you should have a look at this as another possible promotional tool.
With the ol' credit crunch we're going to need all the help we can get to stay busy over the next couple of years. I suspect a good number of this year's SA clients won't need our services next year - they will either have no money, or will have gone out of business.
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19 January - This year's tax filing season feels like it's all happening in slow motion. Nothing is happening very fast, even simple tasks seem to take for ages, and clients are on an all-time record go-slow as far as providing outstanding information and accounts. We are anticipating submitting more estimated returns this year than ever before. It can't be anything to do with the demise of paper returns because we have filed everything online now for years. Perhaps we're all just getting tired!
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16 January - For the last few years we have resolutely turned work away at this time of year. With the credit crunch in mind and the likelihood that a number of clients will cease trading this year we have been a little more open to newcomers this year - but it's not without hassle. It takes for ever to get 64-8s registered, so we have no access to HMR&C for most new cases, and if the previous agent is uncooperative - often the reason we have been approached - we end up working in the dark, no opening balances, not much prior year data to refer to, etc. And non-qualified accountants and members of the second tier accountancy bodies seem very unwilling to hand over any information if there are outstanding issues or disputed fees - some are still holding out for a fee to provide the handover info before releasing anything. And you can't report them to anyone if they don't belong to any professional body!
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14 January - I can't just be me. How many readers are going round in circles becasue we don't have agent copies of clients SA statements? We usually use half a dozen at least to provide payslips where the client has lost or not received their copy.
And the clients who cannot submit online are a nightmare - we can't view their account online and we don't have a copy statement. So, yes, the statement you have there Mr Client does not agree with our system. But unfortunately I can't tell why without phoning your tax office - if I can get through - and hoping that someone will answer, will have the 64-8 on file, and will know what's going on....etc, Slim chance!
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9 January - Like most tax advisers, I have been wondering just how flexible HMR&C have been told to be following thje Chancellor's announcement in the PBR that taxpayers would effectively be given as much time as they needed to pay their liabilities. I think I have a better idea now.
A client has been struggling to pay his 31/1/08 liability and received a distraint notice this week. He phoned the local recovery office, gave them the sob story, and offered to pay £100 a month. Without any discussion of his means or other negotiation, he was simply told that they could not accept payments over more than 36 months, so he would have to pay £150 a month - to which he readily agreed. The matter was resolved in less than five minutes!
So there you have it. It looks like collection offices have been told to accept offers to settle outstanding taxes over a period not exceeding 36 months without putting up any resistance.
This might be helful information for your clients at the end of this month.
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7 January - A week into the new year seems a bit late for new year resolutions, but I thought I should make an effort. So I have made two resolutions today:
1. To get my CPD organised and planned properly, instead of just booking courses when I see them. I'm going to take a long hard look at all my activities and try to identify where some training and development would be effective - outside of the compulsory tax and audit updating, of course. The challenge then is to fibnd some training solutions this side of London!
2. I will delegate more in 2009. I say this every year, so this week every task and letter will have to pass the "why me?" test. If there's no good reason, someone else can have it!
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5 January - Back to the grind today. Relatively few emails, which was a pleasant surprise, and hardly any mail. We seem to have been away as long as our clients and the Revenue, although the latter have been busy. The postbag contained a notice of the first FULL company tax enquiry I can ever remember getting. Should be a good training exercise for my corporate tax assistant.
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Self assessment, tax returns, credit control - check out our West Country general practitioner's December diary to see how 2008 finished for him.