SA season: What would you do differently?

Was the busy season better or worse than previous years?

Didn't find your answer?

I don’t think you need me to remind you but a week has now passed since the self assessment deadline. Hopefully enough time has passed for you to now analyse this year’s tax season.

So, how was it for you? Was it better or worse than previous years? What would you do differently next year? Or what did you do this year that helped lessen the January stress?

Throughout this year’s season some AccountingWEB members kept track of their outstanding returns like Ireallyshouldknow who had completed 70% of their tax returns before December.

I was so taken by some of the early tax return filings I even questioned whether the January busy season was a myth, only to retract that pronouncement a few weeks later.

So, are you still finding January bulging with last minute clients? A couple of years ago, John Griffey shared his month-by-month stats which showed that 42% of his firm’s SA returns were filed in January. Does that spread still reflect your firm’s busy season?

Replies (8)

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By gerrysims
07th Feb 2018 11:39

I'd stop talking about a tax 'season'. There are nearly 9 months to file UK tax returns ! In France we have about 6 weeks. Get over yourselves and get organised, all this talk of a season perpetuates the culture of lateness and stress.

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Replying to gerrysims:
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By MJShone
08th Feb 2018 08:44

So how do you go about getting all your returns done in 6 weeks? Do you have staff and, if so, do they work on an annual hours contract? Do you take on extra staff fort he 6 weeks? Are your clients good a providing info, or, as well as doing returns do you have to chase them at least half a dozen times during that 6 weeks?

What do you do for the rest of the year - advisory work?

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Replying to MJShone:
By Wanderer
08th Feb 2018 09:04

Speaking with a Canadian CPA recently, they have calendar tax year & filing deadline of 30 April. He mentioned that the 6 weeks to 30 April was equivalent to our Januarys.

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By Matrix
07th Feb 2018 12:49

I am having to prepare a set of accounts each day at the moment since my organised clients gave me their books in January for Oct/Nov/Dec year ends. Next year I will start these accounts in January as soon as I receive the records and not prioritise disorganised clients' tax returns over relationships with more valuable clients.

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By Tornado
07th Feb 2018 17:01

In my case it might be better to ask what have I done differently this year that has improved the situation and I think the most significant action I have taken is to persuade many of my smaller, 'simpler' clients that they do not need to submit Tax Returns any more, not with my help anyway.

When I say simpler, many of these clients are often more time consuming than more complex clients and much of this is down the constant meddling by HMRC with code numbers and other actions that prompt clients (quite reasonably) to ask what is going on.

I have come to the point I no longer want to spend hours on the phone to HMRC trying to sort out petty matters for effectively no fee.

This is not the fault of the clients involved but it still does not mean to say that I should work for nothing doing something that is not very rewarding.

Where HMRC have taken people out of the SA system (or at least will not issue any further Tax Returns) I have gone along with this and added to that a number of other clients who have opted out by application and who should just about be OK without submitting Returns or by submitting them themselves.

Whilst this goes against the grain, as I generally like to help people as much as I can, in the end I am quite pleased that I will now be able to concentrate on more rewarding tax and accounting work and HMRC can sort out the endless queries from the simpler clients instead.

There is also the other aspect of this in that every client is a potential 'enquiry' candidate, will require AML procedures and myriad other similar formal duties. As I see it now, with certain clients leaving, this is not a loss of assets but a welcome reduction in potential problems.

HMRC want to deal more directly with taxpayers, so I am going to go with the flow on this one and let them, although most of those who are ex clients are unlikely to have grasped the concept of what a Personal Tax Account is, or ever will.

The result, therefore, has been to concentrate on cost effective work only and this has considerably reduced the workload without significantly reducing income. Most Returns were submitted within two weeks of 31st January this year with a couple of habitual stragglers who leave things to the last minute, but are not particularly phased by the £100 penalty.

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Replying to Tornado:
By Matrix
07th Feb 2018 17:28

I also have many clients taken out of SA this year by me or HMRC. Have you resigned or how will you service and charge these clients?

Some of mine may need to come back or someone will need to check P800s and tax codes. The former means I don't want to disengage, but the latter means that I would be working without the usual tax return fee.

I may need to come up with a fee to charge to sort these issues out, although I also would prefer to focus on more lucrative clients.

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Replying to Matrix:
By Tornado
07th Feb 2018 17:46

I have disengaged as many of these clients as I can. I can see no future in representing them and I have issued final invoices. I have no particular interest in checking P800's, simple assessments and the like, as in my experience they all contain errors of some sort.

There are a couple that I know will need to submit Tax Returns at some point in the future, mainly for Capital Gains, but there is no need to submit Returns until then. I will keep these few on retainers and carry out quick checks each year to assess the situation.

What I did not mention before is that for several years I have deterred the 'it will only take 10 minutes' clients by setting a minimum fee of £500.00 plus VAT. This has worked well and any that took it up seem happy to pay which generally makes the work profitable. Bearing in mind that it can take 2 hours of non-productive time to just set up a new client when all formalities are taken into account, the charge is reasonable.

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Replying to Tornado:
By Matrix
07th Feb 2018 17:58

Thanks, the retainer is a good idea. I will offer that so I remain their agent. I don't particularly want to check the codes etc either but I don't think anyone is going to set up a personal tax account since there is a reason that these taxpayers appointed an agent in the first place.

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