How was January for you? Get all your tax returns filed? Or are you one of those who breathed a sigh of relief when they extended the deadline?
What I don’t understand is why accountants all over the country were filing tax returns today. If the deadline had been extended by a fortnight, would there have been accountants all over the country forgoing their Valentines dinners to submit those last few tax returns? Probably. Interestingly, the ‘busy January’ phenomenon is one that is common in firms from one-man band sole-practitioners to Top 10 firms with glitzy tax departments.
Well I do know why:
“we’re always busy this time of year” and “clients always give their information to us at the last minute”.
Honestly, you’re only this busy because you choose to be. Clients only give you their information in the last week of January because you let them. There is another way. It doesn’t have to be like this – and certainly if you are an employee in one of these firms, don’t suffer this madness for another year – you’ve got time to make a change now.
No one benefits from this annual rush in January – least of all clients. Clients need to know their tax liability as early as possible. Furthermore, not only do you fail to benefit – you lose. When you’re too busy to talk to clients (or prospective clients) – you lose clients and you lose the opportunity to do chargeable work for those clients.
The situation was perfectly illustrated by a stroke of good fortune we had last week. A colleague of mine (who hasn’t been touched by the January tax return madness) was discussing a basic tax planning opportunity with a prospective client who’s accountant wasn’t really focussed on their client's tax (just submitting their returns). The client took this idea back to their accountant to give them a chance (out of well-intentioned loyalty) but in this accountant’s own words:
“I’m afraid I’m too bl**dy busy with tax returns this week. It will have to wait.”
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank this particular accountant for giving us a new client and some lucrative tax planning work. I make my point again, too busy with tax returns? You lose.