Finola McManus offers some "Practice Perfect" pointers on how to manage your time and keep control of your sanity in tax return season.
Summer is now a distant memory and thoughts are already turning to Christmas. This may mean panic for many practitioners – I can already hear cries of, “I can't possibly think about business strategy or business planning until the 31st January has passed!”
Below are some helpful tips I want to share that I seen used to good effect over the years. They can help you manage your time and feel more in control. They might even allow you to take time off over the Christmas period without guilt or worry!
- The more successful accountancy firms have systems in place to ensure that clients know that they will pay a premium fee if information isn't received by a certain date. This usually motivates clients and, at worst, relieves some of the last minute pain of completing late returns if you know you are being paid a premium for doing so.
- Work out and document how many returns (and sets of accounts to go with them) you need to complete between now and the end of January in the available working days that are left.
- Analyse this list – which is something you will feel comfortable doing as an accountant - into categories showing “Not started”; “In progress but awaiting information” and “No info in yet”
- Ensure this list is updated weekly so you can readily monitor “the score on the doors” and plan how many returns need to be processed in the days remaining days, and what resources you have to hit this target.
- Systems, systems, systems... they remain the key to good time management and dealing with the annual flow of tax returns. Even if you already use some of these techniques, I hope acting on one or two of the suggestions might help you steer a steady course through to January. If nothing else, make it your New Year resolution to put these systems in place for next year so you can have peace of mind going forward.
- You also need to structure your business to ensure your team is trained on these systems and can complete the technical work. It is not the role of the partner and business owner to be burning the midnight oil in December and January processing tax returns! If this happens, you need to take stock and think about whether you are a technician with a job, or truly a business owner. Acknowledging this difference will push you towards changing your business into what you want it to be in the future.
If you have any specific questions on these suggestions or any other practice management issues then please e-mail me at [email protected]
Finola McManus is a chartered accountant and former senior partner, who now runs her own consultancy service, Practice Perfect.