Self assessment season was worse than last year for 35% of practitioners, according to the latest data from AccountingWEB’s ‘What Would You Do Differently?’ survey.
In association with Digita Thomson Reuters, AccountingWEB launched a survey exploring how practitioners coped during January’s tax rush, and the results so far paint a familiar picture.
The latest feedback reveals 41% filed 26-50% of tax returns in January, while 18% of respondents scrambled to file 51-75%. That’s 69% of respondents filing 25% plus of tax returns in January.
The main culprit for the heavier January workload is clear: it’s lazy or late clients. So far, 86% of the respondents blamed clients for their January grief.
Similar results emerged in an Any Answers thread documenting the AccountingWEB members’ tax return spread. One accountant filed more than two-thirds (68%) of their tax returns in January.
The survey also found practitioners will spend more time chasing clients next time (47%). Charging premium fees for latecomers is another popular countermeasure, but the number planning to do this is the same as in 2014 - 38%.
Content seriesView full content series
To combat the late stragglers next year, 32% of respondents plan to sack deadbeat clients. In the Any Answers thread, one member put the case for a client purge: “Unless you get them to change that behaviour pattern, the same clients will leave things to the last minute again next year. When I have had enough of this, I ask the client to find someone else to do their accounts.”
Some respondents plan to implement new practice systems next year. So far, adopting e-signatures (22%) or automating client chasing (20%) have emerged as firm favourites among practitioners looking for software to streamline next year’s efforts. And in spite of the apparent difficulties suffered by a third of respondents, 50% of the total group have no plans to change their practice systems to alleviate the stress.
Among those who successfully spread their workload during the year, Red Five relied on a mixture of better organisation and chasing clients earlier to minimise the January hump: “Once the 31 May P60 deadline is out the way (for part employed clients) I have no clients that need to wait any longer for anything, so I hound them to get the info to me,” he said. “I am pro-active and will drive to them to pick up records, or set up a meeting in a coffee shop for a catch up. No emails saying 'drop your records at my office when you can be bothered' type stuff from me.”
And with so many struggling to break the tax season’s hold on their annual work schedule, perhaps practitioners should look again at the ideas of quarterly online reporting to HMRC; uncomfortable as this might be for clients, could it help practitioners spread the accounting and efiling load over the full year?
Do these findings match your experiences? Take part in the Thomson Reuters Digita tax season survey and help us to identify and deal with tax season workload blockages.