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Finding clients for last-minute tax return service

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I'm considering going into sole-practice, and the time of year makes me think of wetting my feet by offering a Last Minute Self-Assessment Tax Return Service.

The idea would be to offer a cheap service (for the sake of winning a handful of clients quickly, and with a view to getting some experience rather than worrying about serious profit) and churn out ideally 10 to 15 self-assessment returns in the back two-thirds of January. (I think a mini-practice could be set up quickly using ICAEW-template engagement letters and micro-professional indemnity insurance.)

However, rummaging up 10-15 new clients is likely to take some work / advertising. (I envision them all to be anxious about 31 Jan, and willing to latch on to the bargain fee - say £100 to 150 for returns with not too much complexity?)

Any advice for how to get the word out there, and get my proposition in front of enough people to win some work?

Replies (32)

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By penelope pitstop
31st Dec 2019 22:16

Pardon me, but this has to be one of the numbest posts since the dinosaurs walked the earth.

So, last minute tax returns in the last 20 days of January at £100 to £150 "with not too much complexity". Oh yeah!

In the real world I inhabit, you are just not going to get the P60 and taxed interest sort of client (the old R40-style) which took you 30 minutes to complete.

What you will attract, however, are the dirtiest, most disorganised subcontractors who cannot find their tax deduction certificates, cannot produce any records of income or expenses, cannot locate their bank statements, cannot remember what they did yesterday, let alone last tax year, and then ask you to "dream up some figures like my old accountant used to" (i.e. ale-swilling bookkeeper mate who propped up the bar down at the local).

The sort of job that would take you a week to bottom out and which probably bears no resemblance to the true position. The sort of job which you ought to charge £750 for in terms of time wasted, but you know you cannot really charge more than £200.

By all means advertise for last minute clients and see what undesirables you attract. I have personally tried my level best to stay well clear of this sort of client. You will literally attract clients who will turn up on your doorstep at 10 pm on 31 January wanting you to move heaven and earth to get their "simple" job finished before midnight. You will end up filing unsigned tax returns illegally because you feel compelled to by your lack of foresight.

And suppose you get 30 subcontractors who come to you on 31 January (eminently possible - do you know the harsh reality of what subcontractors are actually capable of). You are just going to kill yourself. Do you have a death wish.

And who is going to pay for your £250 carpet cleaning bill for the big muddy footprints they leave on your best off-white carpet. Certainly not out of the £100 you have just earned for a week's work.

In my world, the best tax work comes in from well-organised clients who are smart enough to have sent me their information before, say, 1 October.

So, you will be doing a tax return each day. That is real pie-in-the-sky thinking.

Maybe some Aweb readers can dump all of their unwanted dross on you. I am sure there will be many takers who would be prepared to swamp you in no time. I got rid of my last bunch of rotters a few years ago. Best thing I ever did. They expected me to travel 30 miles late pm 31 January each year and bale them out of trouble, and then moan I was overcharging them. Someone else's problem now.

But, ever the optimist, I wish you all the best!

P.S. Which town/city are you located in. You may find some duff clients coming your way soon!

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Replying to penelope pitstop:
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By Monty Cristo
03rd Jan 2020 20:19

Fair enough, clearly from the responses I've been very green. Idea bad. Glad I asked before jumping in!

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Replying to Monty Cristo:
By penelope pitstop
04th Jan 2020 14:48

Your modesty has redeemed yourself.

Methinks we have saved you a lot of grief, for which you should be eternally grateful.

If you want to do this work on the side, get a couple of good clients somehow. Service them to death (well, don't overdo it), be opportunistic and watch the snowball grow and grow. Reputation is all important, as is word of mouth.

The problem I now have is that I have so much work coming in, I am starting to spread myself too thin now. I am at that stage of having to turn work away. Clients do love an accountant who is honest and reliable (that is, apart from bent clients, which I do not touch with a barge pole)

And by the way, are you fully conversant with personal and business tax. In this area you do need to know your stuff. or you need to know where to look for the answers you do not know. On false move and you will lose your foot! so to speak.

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Replying to penelope pitstop:
Helen Froggett-Thomson
By Helen Froggett-Thomson
06th Jan 2020 10:11

Good morning Penelope, was wondering where you were based - if you're turning clients away, perhaps we could help you? :D

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By JoF
01st Jan 2020 01:46

Plus good luck trying to get decent fees from them next year. Oh and getting MLR/agent status/agent authorisations etc in place in time.

Some of the apparently simple tax returns turn into more complex ones when you really start to dig into the paperwork.

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By lesley.barnes
01st Jan 2020 00:29

You won't have time to set up as an agent with HMRC and then to set yourself up as the clients agent with HMRC. If you are a member of an institute you also need to get permission from your governing body to practice. You really don't want this type of client anyway. These tend to be the most difficult and time consuming tax returns to do rather than the simplest. The simple tax returns are filed by the tax payers themselves. The late clients are the most price sensitive and no matter how good a job you make they will still moan at the price. They are also the one's who you will struggle getting payment from unless you make them pay upfront. Be prepared to pay their fines as well for late filing if you miss the deadline. Starting out with this group of tax payers isn't a good idea, you will end up out of your depth and demoralised.

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By Tim Vane
01st Jan 2020 01:15

LOL. It’s New Year not April Fools!

Fun wind-up though.

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By Moonbeam
01st Jan 2020 08:44

I heartily agree with everyone's comments here. I would also question anyone who says they want to offer a cheap fee. That implies you are keen not to make any money, which seems the opposite of business-like to me. Why would you value your time and effort as less than your competitors would value their time and effort?
I wonder if you really understand the harsh realities of the business world. Just marketing when you need 30 clients will take a lot of hard work. Those of us who've felt the chill wind of getting a practice up and running know only too well how threadbare the cupboard can be in the early years.
Stick with the day job and do a lot more research on things. Having money in your bank account each month is truly a luxury compared to running a startup practice.

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By Moonbeam
01st Jan 2020 08:45

.

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RLI
By lionofludesch
01st Jan 2020 09:13

There's a good chance most of your target market won't have written their books up yet.

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By bernard michael
01st Jan 2020 09:26

Why bother to play silly b*****s? Haven't you got anything better to do?
I've already turned away 2 in Dec as being probable PIAs I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy

PI insurance yes/no ?
HMRC authorisation codes yes/no ?
Exchange of courtesy letters with previous accountant yes/no ?
ETC............................................

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By SXGuy
01st Jan 2020 09:40

As a side note. Just heard a new advert on the radio this morning. Tax return filing only service from £329.

Im either under charging or there really is some mugs in the world.

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Replying to SXGuy:
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By B Roberts
02nd Jan 2020 10:52

SXGuy wrote:

As a side note. Just heard a new advert on the radio this morning. Tax return filing only service from £329.

Im either under charging or there really is some mugs in the world.

Yes, I heard that to (it was either on Talksport or Smooth !) - from "EY"

I wonder how many are actually charged £329? (also, it didn't say if this included VAT or not).

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Replying to SXGuy:
By Charlie Carne
03rd Jan 2020 11:04

SXGuy wrote:

Im either under charging or there really is some mugs in the world.


Do you charge less than £329 to prepare a tax return? If so, I'd suggest that you are, indeed, undercharging. I know accountants who charge more than that just for the provision of a registered office address.
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Replying to charliecarne:
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By SXGuy
03rd Jan 2020 20:23

If you are asking whether I charge less than £329 to file a tax return purely on the basis of someone handing me figures to file, then yes I do.

If on the other hand your asking if I charge less than that to go through all receipts, invoices, bank statements, pension details, include allowances available, calculate capital allowances, tax calculations, prepare accounts then no I do not.

This was a submission only service, meaning the client provides the figures. No checking, just fill and file. If anyone is charging more than £329 for that I seriously question their morality.

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By Matrix
01st Jan 2020 09:49

In answer to your question, I would set up a Facebook page and advertise on local groups, although there do seem to be regular accountants with a loyal following and recommendations on these groups so you would need some luck and also to be quite pushy. As others have said you would only attract the dross, so the cost conscious clients whom none of us want.

This assumes that you have the requisite knowledge,
PII, practising certificate, agent codes and software already. I can’t see the cost of these being less than £1,000 so I would not set up your practice lightly. Why don’t you read up on all starting up posts on here, work out how much you want/need to charge and who is your ideal client and set it up properly from April?

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By Accountant A
01st Jan 2020 11:05

Monty Cristo wrote:

makes me think of wetting my feet

Stand nearer the toilet.

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By Slim
01st Jan 2020 15:54

Surely you’d charge a premium for last minute returns? Not discount them.

What happens when a self employed tradesman comes along with a bag of receipts? It will be very time consuming and for £100-£150 why bother?

Also if they don’t get the information and answers to you in time they will probably blame you as you specialise in last minute returns.

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By memyself-eye
01st Jan 2020 17:00

Go for it, but make it really last minute. Ask for nothing until Burns night is over.

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By alltaxedout
03rd Jan 2020 09:58

This has got to be one of the best posts and answers I’ve seen in a long time. A true reflection of our profession and clients. Hilarious

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By Glenn Martin
03rd Jan 2020 10:10

As others have said this is a badly thought out plan.

You may as well walk around with a sandwich board advertising for [***] clients.

The logistics of it will be a nightmare and only worth considering if you are charging premium fees.

If you want to setup a side hustle start now with the view to signing up clients from the new tax year.

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By L Haldane
03rd Jan 2020 10:41

Is this question for real ?

I'm struggling to decide whether the OP is arrogant or just plain stupid !

Hat's off to Penelope Pitstop for having the patience to pen a sensible reply to such a rediculous question.

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By itp3e
03rd Jan 2020 14:05

O/ T but......

The QuickBooks advert on today's accounting web email states that one of the benefits of open banking is "increased inefficiency" . Whooda thunk. Freudian slip or what?

"We explore the benefits of Open Banking:
Increased efficiency"

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By Red Leader
03rd Jan 2020 15:08

You've got competition at the bottom of the tax barrel:
https://taxscouts.com/
Saw their ad on the side of a bus a few days ago (London area).

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Replying to Red Leader:
RLI
By lionofludesch
03rd Jan 2020 15:12

Red Leader wrote:

You've got competition at the bottom of the tax barrel:
https://taxscouts.com/
Saw their ad on the side of a bus a few days ago (London area).

What ?

The Boy Scouts are filling in tax returns now, are they ?

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Replying to lionofludesch:
By Red Leader
03rd Jan 2020 15:22

lionofludesch wrote:

Red Leader wrote:

You've got competition at the bottom of the tax barrel:
https://taxscouts.com/
Saw their ad on the side of a bus a few days ago (London area).

What ?

The Boy Scouts are filling in tax returns now, are they ?


Well, they are "prepared".
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Replying to lionofludesch:
Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
03rd Jan 2020 16:39

Cub Scouts always do their best
Think of others before themselves
And do a good return every day.

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Replying to Red Leader:
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By bernard michael
03rd Jan 2020 15:28

Red Leader wrote:

You've got competition at the bottom of the tax barrel:
https://taxscouts.com/
Saw their ad on the side of a bus a few days ago (London area).

Must be working well for them they had £177000 in the bank in the last accounts

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Replying to bernard michael:
By Red Leader
03rd Jan 2020 16:23

Look at the debit balance on retained earnings.

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Replying to Red Leader:
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By MC1
03rd Jan 2020 18:24

Yup and note 8 and also a related company's accounts make interesting reading too!

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Replying to bernard michael:
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By Slim
03rd Jan 2020 18:25

I assume that’s investors funds.

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By Cat's whiskers
04th Jan 2020 21:55

You can have all my last minute clients - I'll be glad to see the back of them, then i can go skiing in January

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