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How many reminders do clients need / warrant?

How many reminders to send clients before you get to you've told them and it's down to them?

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I seem to be having more difficulty than usual in getting either approval to returns sent, or information to even start them this year, and not just the usual culprits. I wonder whether part is the extension to the deadline by HMRC so they've relaxed a bit?

I still have a small chunk of clients where I have sent the return to review, or a questionnaire, and at least one reminder, and am getting complete radio silence. 

Next week will have to be some phone calls to chase up, but then I think enough's enough. They have been asked, & chased for a response, so they'll have to live with the consequences...or am I being too harsh?

Replies (52)

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By Jo Nokes
16th Jan 2022 14:47

Initial request for info in September, and one reminder email. Similarly, having sent the return for approval, one reminder. I used to send more, but figure it’s time to take a minor step back.

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By williams lester accountants
16th Jan 2022 15:55

We use Accountancy Manager, so all reminders are automated and as we get closer to the deadline, these become daily reminders! We also send text reminders too if we are really close to the deadline.

Without AM, this would not be possible, so automation is such a valuable tool for us in this respect.

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By Truthsayer
16th Jan 2022 16:16

I have an initial request in April, then a reminder in November, a further one in December, and a final one in January. After that, it's their problem.

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Replying to Truthsayer:
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By SXGuy
16th Jan 2022 16:52

Same

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Replying to Truthsayer:
By Paul D Utherone
16th Jan 2022 18:34

That's pretty much where I am at I think. I have asked and reminded, so there has to come a time when they get what they get and I can rest easy that it's not for the want of trying.

So phone calls this week in case emails ended up in junk boxes because it was flagged as spam in talking about tax, then that'll do and the late evenings can end

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Replying to Truthsayer:
By Paul D Utherone
16th Jan 2022 18:34

That's pretty much where I am at I think. I have asked and reminded, so there has to come a time when they get what they get and I can rest easy that it's not for the want of trying.

So phone calls this week in case emails ended up in junk boxes because it was flagged as spam in talking about tax, then that'll do and the late evenings can end

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By legerman
16th Jan 2022 18:49

Did my final reminder at the beginning of December saying paperwork had to be in 31st December in order to guarantee submission by the deadline. Still waiting for 12 to come in including 3 subbies, who are normally straight in at the beginning of April. Figure that the grants may have something to do with it!

I may send out another reminder this week, now that the deadline for penalties has been extended but then thats it. They won't be done until early February though, unless I have some spare time at the end of January.

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By bettybobbymeggie
16th Jan 2022 19:49

Yes mine are particularly sleepy this year, but doubtless it's to do with the extension. Feet up for another 6 weeks I guess, and thankfully the 28th is a working day.

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By the_drookit_dug
16th Jan 2022 20:33

Bending over backwards for them just reinforces bad behaviour.

When I was in practice, I remember feeling the pressure to get returns for the usual culprits over the line, fearing being the first one to fail to get them in on time where others had always succeeded in the past.

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By Winnie Wiggleroom
17th Jan 2022 08:25

Automated reminders using AM throughout the year, but we also call them this month once or twice depending on a number of factors.
1. What we know about the client
2. The current workload
3. The size of the fee and whether or not they pay monthly already or not (yes we are in business to make money)
4. How long they have been with us - if they are newly self employed we would be more inclined to chase them but if they have been doing it for years they are of course well aware of the deadlines and have no excuse.

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By Calculatorboy
17th Jan 2022 09:26

I dont wet nurse clients, theyve been in business long enough , engagement letter states one April reminder.

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
17th Jan 2022 09:56

Depends, but 3 or 4 is normally the max, then I do a "you have not worked to our deadlines, so we offer no guarantee of filing, but will work on your file when it shows up" style email.

Normally hey then either go and darken someone elses door, or sheepishly arrive with profuse apologies and don't expect us to file before deadlines. Either one is a win. Keep on and on at them gets you nowhere.

We did trial auto-reminders but the slow customers seems to just ghost those (ie just to junk) so you are not really anywhere forward. I have found the personal touch works much better.

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Johny Fartpants Picture
By johnny fartpants
17th Jan 2022 10:37

To reply to your questions.
1. How many reminders do clients need. It depends on the client. Most need none or one. Some will need many many more.
2. How many reminders do they warrant. It depends how far you want to stretch to keep the clients. This is the key to how you deal with this.

My engagement letters require the client to provide me with their information by end of September. I do an email reminder in late November. I will call any in mid-January (when I have finished all other returns from the worthwhile clients) if they still haven't responded to the November email. Nothing more. This year I will have no calls to make i.e. everyone's books are already in.

This method loses a lot of clients in the short term but pays off longer term. Do yourself a favour and lose the time wasting clients.

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Replying to johnny fartpants:
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By bettybobbymeggie
17th Jan 2022 10:47

johnny fartpants wrote:
Do yourself a favour and lose the time wasting clients.

Yeah what he said. I already have my client list in Excel with the "to be culled" marked in red.

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By KTS
17th Jan 2022 11:41

Similar - letter of engagement has cut off point. Letter in April requesting the information says that any received after the cut off point will not be guaranteed to be submitted on time. Its generally the same ones every year so if a client who usually gets their papers in early hasn't I'm likely to give them a call to check if there is a reason and note it for potential reasonable excuse but outside of that I don't issue reminders at all as I've never found they help speed up the ones that are always late.

If I have time before the end of January I will contact any who will respond to me pushing them making it clear that obviously we won't be able to guarantee meeting the deadline now but we might be able to at least avoid the late filing penalty if they get the details to us immediately. Others I know I'm just wasting my breath and by chasing I'm putting the onus back on me not them. If you do chase them though it might be worth pointing out that the deadline hasn't moved and its only the penalty that will be waived. The tax still needs to be paid and there will be interest charged if its late so the quicker you can calculate the tax the lower the interest will be.

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By AndyC555
17th Jan 2022 11:52

Overriding all the frustration of slow/lazy clients, there is the fact that they are our clients and we always do our best for them. Most of my clients are directors where we also act for the company so there's likely to be a bigger on-going relationship which we have to maintain.

Even so, where it's a case of information requests not having been replied to, I've started sending an email stating that as I have not heard back from them, I am assuming that they no longer wish assistance with their tax return.

It's amazing how such a stark statement galvanises clients into action. Once they realise they aren't going to get any further reminders it focuses them.

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By more rain
17th Jan 2022 11:55

Any tax return that goes out in December or January has a sentence at the end of the covering letter along the lines of - if the return is not filed by 31 January there will be a £100 late filing penalty.

As curtesy I would follow up once in the last week if they are a usual suspect.

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By Catherine Newman
17th Jan 2022 12:55

There is a solution to this which I have used-file a provisional return on 31 January. Either make it excessive so that the client is shocked or just put a "similar to last year figure" and tick provisional.

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Replying to Catherine Newman:
By Paul D Utherone
17th Jan 2022 13:17

I don't think I would be happy filing something with a provisional figure I had come up with, and that the client had not approved.

If there's no reply despite a phone call then any penalty is their own fault & I can rest easy.

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Replying to Catherine Newman:
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By Matrix
17th Jan 2022 15:22

Your clients pay you to do this?

I don’t know why you would submit these from your agent account. Do you get many investigations?

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Replying to Matrix:
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By Catherine Newman
17th Jan 2022 19:04

None. The client is chased up to deliver the goods within the amendment window. They accept or go elsewhere.

I have been in practice since the start of SA. I can now pick and choose what I do leading up to 31 January and either take flak or support.

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Replying to Catherine Newman:
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By Winnie Wiggleroom
17th Jan 2022 15:46

I can only assume you are joking, if not its a terrible idea

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Replying to Winnie Wiggleroom:
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By Catherine Newman
17th Jan 2022 19:05

No. I am legal. I have filed in time and there can be no comeback on me. There are 12 months to file an amendment. I have now done it for 3 years.

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Replying to Winnie Wiggleroom:
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By Catherine Newman
17th Jan 2022 19:29

Please explain why? There is no why.

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Replying to Winnie Wiggleroom:
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By Catherine Newman
17th Jan 2022 19:31

Please explain why? There is no why.

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Replying to Catherine Newman:
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By Catherine Newman
17th Jan 2022 19:01

There is no come back on me. I have filed in time. There is 12 months to file an amendment. If you don't file you could be blamed in spite of all of your engagement letters.

Note I say, I file on 31 January and no earlier.

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Replying to Catherine Newman:
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By Leywood
17th Jan 2022 19:52

The clients haven’t authorised you to file it. So why would you do so, just to avoid penalties for them?

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Replying to Leywood:
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By Catherine Newman
17th Jan 2022 19:57

Yes and so it doesn't backfire on me. I have fulfilled my obligations. I have kept my nose clean and bought space against suing.

Statements are for guidance only anyway.

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Replying to Catherine Newman:
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By KTS
17th Jan 2022 22:28

I’d be inclined to check that with your professional body and your PI insurance - you are submitting a Tax Return purporting to be from your client without their knowledge or approval. Doesn’t the agent submission page contain a bit confirming you have provided a copy to your client or words to that effect? I certainly wouldn’t be comfortable submitting figures for a client without their sign off and I’m fairly sure my professional body wouldn’t look favourably on it

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Replying to Catherine Newman:
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By indomitable
18th Jan 2022 14:38

I'm afraid you haven't fulfilled any obligations at all. You have filed something that the client has not approved. In fact you are doing something that you shouldn't. You act as agent ONLY. You must get approval before you file and the client needs to be aware. If I were you I would stop doing this.

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Slim
By Slim
17th Jan 2022 14:38

I give 3

June - most should surely have everything they need in June
Oct - you need to get it in now or it may not be done
Dec - come on you are ttp

It doesn't really work, the usual suspects are always late and the ones who want to get on with it do it asap. The reminders make no differece.

I think I need to say

Oct - £x + 10%
Nov - £x + 25%
Dec - £x + 50%
Jan - £x + 100%

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Replying to Slim:
By Paul D Utherone
17th Jan 2022 16:43

Had to think about 'ttp' for a second then the penny dropped it's aka 'etu' :)

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By Catherine Newman
17th Jan 2022 19:36

Anybody who thinks I am joking-is your client in time to get a statement (in your client's interpretation- a bill)? No. File a provisional return, you are in time. Don't file any return, you are late and are incurring interest for some clients.

I have done it for a client for several years. It appears to be turning out that his letting agent hasn't applied FICO properly and he could be due a refund for 5 years. The letting agency failed to reply all last week and now they have asked for clearance from my client early this morning, I have had no reply.

If clients are upset with my action, they can try ringing HMRC themselves as one has already found out.

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Replying to Catherine Newman:
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By Matrix
17th Jan 2022 19:14

You didn’t answer my question though. While your clients don’t reply to your emails to provide the requisite information on time, they happily pay your bill for the provisional return on time?

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Replying to Matrix:
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By Catherine Newman
17th Jan 2022 19:27

Yes. A filing penalty is a death sentence to you. Saving penalties is a bonus even if the deadline is extended. The enquiry window is shut. You have fulfilled the requirements. Your client has 12 months to give you the right information and you file an amended return.

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Replying to Catherine Newman:
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By Matrix
17th Jan 2022 19:34

The problem is when we give a greater [***] about the return than the client.

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Replying to Matrix:
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By Catherine Newman
17th Jan 2022 19:37

Read SP Taylor v HMRC. It was me.

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Replying to Catherine Newman:
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By TheNovice
18th Jan 2022 14:56

Catherine Newman wrote:

Read SP Taylor v HMRC. It was me.

Interesting read (the case) however I don't think it's relevant? I think what everyone is questioning is how are you, your institute and insurance provider happy with submitting a return that the hasn't been reviewed by the client?

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By AS44NG
17th Jan 2022 20:58

Letter / email sent to clients mid November with a deadline for providing the information to us by mid December, otherwise no guarantee from us to meet the filing deadline so it's on them after that. That is our final reminder.

We have 9 non respondents to date.

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By Catherine Newman
18th Jan 2022 10:46

Have just researched it-look at SAM121190. I Googled "Filing provisional Self Assessment returns". It was updated on 4 January 2022 so must still be permitted. It means I know I have finished on 31 January except where voluntary class 2 applies.

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Replying to Catherine Newman:
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By bettybobbymeggie
18th Jan 2022 11:15

Sorry I think I have missed the point of this thread...are you suggesting that SAM121190 allows you to submit provisional tax returns on behalf of a client without their prior approval of the return in question?

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Replying to bettybobbymeggie:
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By Catherine Newman
18th Jan 2022 11:25

I sometimes tell clients. We are only talking about 1 or 2. I didn't come up with it on my own. Someone told me. I think it was probably on the Small Agent Forum.

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Replying to Catherine Newman:
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By bettybobbymeggie
18th Jan 2022 11:38

Fair enough. I am 14 stone so I've never been allowed on that forum which explains why I missed it.

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Replying to Catherine Newman:
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By Jo Nokes
18th Jan 2022 11:45

There's nothing in that SA paragraph that would give you the right to file without the client's authorisation. You are supposed to go through the normal procedures, and that means getting formal client's approval, in my view. And to do that just to save £100 fine, well, I think it's completely down tot he client

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Replying to Catherine Newman:
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By KTS
18th Jan 2022 12:24

If you are doing this regularly you need to pay attention to the bit at the bottom “ Where it appears that a particular agent is filing a significant proportion of returns with provisional or estimated figures, you should inform the Compliance Manager.”. The provisional Return is designed to be used where there is a genuine reason why you cannot obtain some of the figures needed in time not as a provision to delay filing penalties. It also doesn’t exempt the Return from being approved by the taxpayer - you are submitting figures on their behalf not in their place so to speak. It is also incorrect where you said above that it stops the enquiry window - it actually lengthens it. The enquiry window starts at the point a final Return is submitted. When you send in the amendments it starts a new 12 months from that date not the date of the estimated Return. It also adds on an extended period up to the next quarter date for any figures that have been amended. Logically if that didn’t happen everyone would submit estimates, wait 12 months less a day to do the amendment and bingo no enquiry window. Doing it regularly will over time raise red flags and it’s likely you’ll get more enquiries with an extended period in which to do them so the logic behind this fails even without the question as to whether it’s ethical.

I see your point about the problems when a Return missed the deadline in your previous case but that was a Return that had been approved by your client and in that case yes the onus is on you. If your client fails to provide you with information and you therefore cannot prepare the Return that cannot possibly be your fault. If you submit an estimated Return without their prior approval and this extends the enquiry window, is attacked by the Revenue as incorrect or any other number of things that can go wrong with that then you are absolutely wide open. No matter who submits the information the taxpayer ultimately remains liable for what is submitted - I wouldn’t be happy with someone submitting information that I’m legally responsible for without my knowledge. That’s without touching on the requirement to retain evidence that a copy of the Return has been provided to your client which is part of the online filing requirements for Agents. If there is a forum that has told you you can do this without client authority it wouldn’t be much of a defence - you are sending information to the Revenue purporting to be from your client which is entirely false and misleading. Someone told me online to do it isn’t really going to protect you.

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Replying to KTS:
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By KTS
18th Jan 2022 12:45

The guidance from my own professional body might help:

"Approval of tax returns
3.26 It is essential that the member advises the client to review his tax return before it is submitted.
3.27 The member should draw the client’s attention to the responsibility which the client is taking in approving the return as correct and complete. Attention should be drawn to any judgemental areas or positions reflected in the return to ensure that the client is aware of these and their implications before he approves
the return.
3.28 A member should obtain evidence of the client’s approval of the return in electronic or non- electronic form.

Exceptions
3.29 Where a return is not reviewed by the client before submission, then, because of the risk to the adviser, the terms of the engagement should make clear that returns are completed on the basis of the information provided by the client and the client is no less responsible for errors in returns which have been prepared
on the basis of that information than if he had approved and signed the returns personally.

Signing tax returns
3.30 A member may sign tax returns in his capacity as liquidator, receiver or administrator or under a personal
appointment as trustee, executor, attorney or director.
3.31 If a member is signing a tax return on behalf of a client, he should carefully consider:
 His legal authority to do so (for example, is a power of attorney required?);
 The process whereby the client will review and take responsibility for the contents of the return;
and
 Any legal implications of signing the return for both the practice and the individual signatory."

So if you are preparing Returns and submitting them without any input from your client you should be filling in box 23 onwards of page TR8 stating that you have signed on behalf of the client and the capacity in which you have done so to make it clear that the client has not approved the Return. Anything outside of that is a fraudulent submission as you are submitting a Return where you are declaring that it has been signed by the client and that you have retained the evidence of that.

Sorry to harp on on this but I am literally flabbergasted that anyone would be submitting figures that have not been supplied by the client, that the client hasn't seen and without any authority to sign on their behalf or confirmation to submit. Especially when doing so has implications for their tax position. As you stated above it was advice given on another forum I'm posting all of this in the hope that nobody else reads your advice and thinks that provides evidence that its ok to do that. If you are a member of a professional body please ring them up and ask for guidance on whether this is ok before you continue to do this in order to protect yourself

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Replying to KTS:
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By Catherine Newman
18th Jan 2022 14:53

In one case, the client was dying and in another it didn't make any difference as the income was less than £4,000. It was a pragmatic approach to both. Note I said 1 or 2 and on 31 January. Someone along the line advised me to do it. It won't be happening this year as the client has now died and the other one, is due a refund and his return and amended return for 2019/20 is going in today.

I am bowing out of this one and getting on with some work.

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Replying to Catherine Newman:
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By KTS
20th Jan 2022 15:59

You have very much missed the point .. whether it affects the tax or not is irrelevant. Unless you are filling in the part that says the Return is signed by someone other than the taxpayer then what you are doing may well not be legal. It’s certainly unethical. If you complete the part about someone else signing this would clarify it as you do not have the legal power to sign on their behalf. The Return is not just a statement or a tax bill it’s a legal replacement for a paper Return. Submitting a provisional Return that your client has approved is fine but submitting one they know nothing about is not. The electronic Return is a straight replacement of a paper Return so submitting something your client has approved is the equivalent of forging their signature on a paper Return. If you think that isn’t the case then contact your professional body and ask them to confirm in writing that this is ok to do. Then ask HMRC for the same. When doing so make sure you spell out that it is not just a provisional Return but one that has NOT been looked at by your client as that bit is very important. They are the only 2 bodies that would matter so someone else telling you it’s ok carries no water and you are wide opened to be subject to disciplinary action for bringing your professional qualification into disrepute at best and potentially sued by your client. As I said if you think the rest of us are wrong then getting clearance won’t be an issue.

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Replying to KTS:
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By KTS
20th Jan 2022 16:35

Typing error .. The electronic Return is a straight replacement of a paper Return so submitting something your client has NOT approved is the equivalent of forging their signature on a paper Return

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Morph
By kevinringer
18th Jan 2022 14:11

Most of my clients are digitally excluded (I'm in rural Wales where broadband means the bit around my middle which I'm sure is bigger than last year) so Tax Returns are printed on paper and sent by post to clients who sign with a pen and post it back. Amazingly, it works and I very rarely have to chase anyone up.

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