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I have just analysed the 2014/15 self-assessment returns that my firm completed according to month filed: -

1% Apr

5% May

9% Jun

7% Jul

6% Aug

6% Sep

8% Oct

7% Nov

9% Dec

42% Jan

I would emphasise that the January bulge is due to client procrastination, rather than our own! 

I knew January was particularly busy this year but this is quite an eye-opener.  It seems that clients are leaving it later and later each year.

Do other firms have a similar spread?

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By GW
01st Feb 2016 11:27

Ours

April 2%

May 0%

June 1%

July 3%

August 4%

September 3%

October 6%

November 11%

December 9%

January 61%

A new problem this time round was the number of clients who took months to approve the returns after we prepared them, how do others deal with this?

 

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01st Feb 2016 11:39

completed being sent for signing or filed?

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01st Feb 2016 11:47

Slow approvers

I say to them:

"Please approve these accounts by return e-mail, or let me know of any queries.  Note that as we are now within 60 days of the filing deadline, and there are numerous reasons not to leave filing close to the deadline, I will file the accounts and tax as they are on DATE in the absence of a response from you.

Note we will then have a further year to file a re-submission, if necessary.  However:

1.  This may incur a price variation, and

2.  Re-submissions increase the likelihood of an enquiry by HMRC."

This works about 90% of the time.  This year the date was 15 January, I filed 5 on that date.  I sent the above note out on 15 December and got about 20 approvals to file in the following 5 days.

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02nd Feb 2016 14:35

mr.mischief, you are acting illegally if you file......

......without their positive authorisation. There is no legal entitlement to assume they approve their returns if they fail to respond!

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01st Feb 2016 11:50

Of those on time (signed & filed)
 20152014Apr0%2%May1%0%Jun2%2%Jul7%3%Aug1%2%Sep2%3%Oct9%8%Nov3%7%Dec10%12%Jan64%60%

We do have more lates this year - either still no contact or they've resigned themselves to it.

We always get that slight blip in October, as some clients still pick up on the paper returns deadline (even though all but one of our clients we submit online).

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01st Feb 2016 11:57

SImilar

Similar

April                 -           2%

May                  -           3%

June                 -           4%

July                   -           4%

August              -           0%

September        -           3%

October             -           8%

November         -           3%

December          -           4%

January             -           68%

Dates shown are dates approved and submitted. All bar two tax returns were approved electronically (I use Iris Openspace).

In my defence I always plan January to be busy with SATR’s. I’m busy all through the year, just the mix of work changes in January.

Mind you, this year was busier than usual – my fault/issue, I’ll look to have around 50% minimum completed by Christmas next (tax) year.

The missing 1% is for those not yet submitted.

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01st Feb 2016 12:26

.

This is based on filed dates so work would have been performed earlier:

 

April 4%

May 4%

June 13%

July 5% (my holiday)

August 9%

September 11%

October 12%

November 12%

December 10%

January 19%

 

Jan contained a lot of quick directors returns, no large ones, plus probably 3-4% for December returns.

 

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01st Feb 2016 12:40

Not as bad as I thought

These are based on when the tax returns were prepared, not necessarily submitted.

April 4%

May 11%

June 10%

July 8%

August 8%

September 9%

October 7%

November 10%

December 11%

January 22%

January definitely felt busier than just 22% though. I might compare these to the previous year, when I get a chance.

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01st Feb 2016 13:13

DAMN YOU SUBJECT LINE I HAVE NO TIME FOR YOUR SHENANIGANS

Lee11_1989 wrote:

These are based on when the tax returns were prepared, not necessarily submitted.

April 4%

May 11%

June 10%

July 8%

August 8%

September 9%

October 7%

November 10%

December 11%

January 22%

January definitely felt busier than just 22% though. I might compare these to the previous year, when I get a chance.

I think this is what I would want to aim for, steady with more to do in January.

I'd give you my stats, but as a lowly employee I can't access them easily.

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01st Feb 2016 13:01

Target

I measure ours by the date that they are ready for the client, and we were 27% in January this year.  I'm sad enough to have records going back to 2007 and this year we did 44% in December and January which is pretty much the norm.  Worst was 2013 when we did 64% of returns in the last two months.

That prompted me to set some targets for month by month completion, and that's worked reasonably wel in reducing the last minute rush and we are taking things a step further for 2016

I'm not sure that the saying "what you can measure you can manage" is right in all circumstances but having a monthly target has certainly helped in this case

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01st Feb 2016 13:14

I have three

that missed the deadline entirely - first time any have done so.

One is dead

One is burying the one that died

One has lost all his paperwork

 

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By RedFive
01st Feb 2016 13:38

Dates of Submission
April14.86%May20.27%June28.38%July1.35%August5.41%September4.05%October5.41%November2.70%December9.46%January8.11%

Had quite a chilled out January and picked up a couple of stragglers at quite a nice fee, thank you.

I do not understand this obsession with filing at the deadline. Good luck when it's 4 times per year.

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01st Feb 2016 13:54

boot on the other foot

I came in to work today with 3 emails from subbies asking for their "missing" CIS certificates and payment details.  Fortunately I can reproduce them.  One request was about a payment they insist I made but I know I didn't! 

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01st Feb 2016 14:33

My figures

April 8

May 0

June 6

July 6

August 2

September 2

October 6

November 2

December 8

January 60

I'm going to ask, chase and nag with the aim of not doing any accounts and tax in December and January.

 

 

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01st Feb 2016 15:19

and the winner is...

Red Five.

@Redfive Do you have a lot of refunds?  Or just very keen clients?

I was feeling pretty smug with nearly 25% by June [most of the July' will be June completed], but your have nearly 2/3rds in. 

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By RedFive
02nd Feb 2016 15:30

Front loading

ireallyshouldknowthisbut wrote:

Red Five.

@Redfive Do you have a lot of refunds?  Or just very keen clients?

I was feeling pretty smug with nearly 25% by June [most of the July' will be June completed], but your have nearly 2/3rds in. 

I'm basically a pain in the arse[***] with my clients and won't take any excuses. Once the 31st 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. 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.

Tell them better to know your tax bill early and plan for it, rather than submit and have to pay at the last minute. Lots of taxpayers think they have to pay it when submitted so once re-educated then it's not such an issue.

I only have 2 CIS refund types, so nice guess, but no cigar.

I also have about half my client base on fixed monthly fees which is mostly small director only Ltd's so I can get all their tax returns done early doors. Again, why wait until the following January? To be fair at the last count I only have approx 80 tax returns as still growing my sole practitioner business.

Of course this thread may come back to haunt me when I double in size over the next couple of years!!!

My own is always first, and always will be. Practice what I preach :-)

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02nd Feb 2016 17:42

P11Ds

RedFive wrote:

ireallyshouldknowthisbut wrote:

Red Five.

@Redfive Do you have a lot of refunds?  Or just very keen clients?

I was feeling pretty smug with nearly 25% by June [most of the July' will be June completed], but your have nearly 2/3rds in. 

I'm basically a pain in the arse[***] with my clients and won't take any excuses. Once the 31st 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. 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.

Tell them better to know your tax bill early and plan for it, rather than submit and have to pay at the last minute. Lots of taxpayers think they have to pay it when submitted so once re-educated then it's not such an issue.

I only have 2 CIS refund types, so nice guess, but no cigar.

I also have about half my client base on fixed monthly fees which is mostly small director only Ltd's so I can get all their tax returns done early doors. Again, why wait until the following January? To be fair at the last count I only have approx 80 tax returns as still growing my sole practitioner business.

Of course this thread may come back to haunt me when I double in size over the next couple of years!!!

My own is always first, and always will be. Practice what I preach :-)

What about P11Ds which have a deadline of 6 July?

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By RedFive
02nd Feb 2016 18:49

More deadlines

 

[/quote]

What about P11Ds which have a deadline of 6 July?

[/quote]

OK, clever.........no need to bold type it. I said I have no clients with any further requirement so can file away. Not much scope up here for part employed / self employed clients with p11d reportable benefits.......that I don't do payroll for.

Anyway, that's a deadline and I don't work to deadlines.

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03rd Feb 2016 12:18

Hear, hear!

RedFive wrote:

ireallyshouldknowthisbut wrote:

Red Five.

@Redfive Do you have a lot of refunds?  Or just very keen clients?

I was feeling pretty smug with nearly 25% by June [most of the July' will be June completed], but your have nearly 2/3rds in. 

I'm basically a pain in the arse[***] with my clients and won't take any excuses. Once the 31st 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. 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.

Tell them better to know your tax bill early and plan for it, rather than submit and have to pay at the last minute. Lots of taxpayers think they have to pay it when submitted so once re-educated then it's not such an issue.

I only have 2 CIS refund types, so nice guess, but no cigar.

I also have about half my client base on fixed monthly fees which is mostly small director only Ltd's so I can get all their tax returns done early doors. Again, why wait until the following January? To be fair at the last count I only have approx 80 tax returns as still growing my sole practitioner business.

Of course this thread may come back to haunt me when I double in size over the next couple of years!!!

My own is always first, and always will be. Practice what I preach :-)

Similar stats and ethos to myself.  Except I do have quite a few guys with P11Ds to wait for.

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01st Feb 2016 15:30

Out of curiosity...

Out of curiosity, I have just compared the last three years. We had the best January this year, in terms of percentage, but had more clients this year, so felt just as busy as usual.

Month2014/20152013/20142012/2013Apr4%3%6%May11%10%11%Jun10%12%8%Jul8%8%10%Aug8%8%8%Sept9%5%5%Oct7%5%10%Nov10%7%8%Dec11%15%8%Jan22%27%26%

We have a very consistent August!

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01st Feb 2016 17:10

Dates Submitted

2013/14

Apr 10%

May 7%

Jun 9%

Jul 17%

Aug 4%

Sep 6%

Oct 4%

Nov 11%

Dec 17%

Jan 14%

 

2014/15

Apr 9%

May 10%

Jun 1%

Jul 7%

Aug 3%

Sep 6%

Oct 10%

Nov 14%

Dec 21%

Jan 19%

As a one man band, I don't see how I would cope with 50% or more returns in Jan each year. To be honest I feel pretty burned out after getting through 54% in last 3 months.

I must say that 1st qtr are predominantly clients in receipt of refund (CIS etc), 2nd qtr tend to be where I get VAT returns, annual accounts & self-assessment signed off in one meeting (where possible).

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01st Feb 2016 17:34

Went backwards this year :(

 

Month2014-152013-14April3.1%5.1%May7.0%5.1%June4.4%9.7%July10.9%7.6%August3.5%4.2%September3.1%8.4%October3.5%3.8%November3.1%4.6%December2.2%3.4%January59.4%48.1%   

 

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01st Feb 2016 18:37

Varied

The results can easily be split into two camps:

A lot of 60% (or only 50%) in January and then others spread out through the year. It would be good to know how the "spreaders" manage it.

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01st Feb 2016 18:39

Historically we had a back end loading on accounts and SARS.

We started charging a £100 surcharge on anything coming in substantively after 1 October - I.e. No surcharge for a small missing item, but if they submit the whole of their accounts (for previous tax year) or SAR after then they are penalised.

It's certainly helped to even things out, and made a bit extra in fees in the recalitrent ones.

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By morgani
02nd Feb 2016 10:24

Could be better

We look at how many sets of accounts we complete each month but I've not looked at it in this way before.  We have previously just tried to get an even spread.  2014 was more difficult so we took on our first proper employee to help with the workload.  Now looking to push it this year to get a better even split.  We have also just introduced penalties for late submission of info.

We don't record our split between tax returns and company accounts just on the total number completed.  For us completed is ready for client to sign.

Month201520142013Apr2%3%4%May8%7%5%Jun5%17%7%Jul8%3%9%Aug7%2%12%Sep8%13%5%Oct10%5%8%Nov17%11%3%Dec6%11%15%Jan29%28%31%    

 

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02nd Feb 2016 10:48

Mine

Apr      6%

May     9%

Jun       6%

Jul        6%

Aug      0% (hols!)

Sep     19%

Oct       6%

Nov      19%

Dec      3%

Jan      25%

 

Not so bad as I thought - felt busier in January .I think going away in August and reminding all my clients helped as a lot of work came in when I got back. Still well earned rest time now as far as I'm concerned...

 

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02nd Feb 2016 11:49

Wrong thread

.

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02nd Feb 2016 11:52

The Jan returns were all new clients picked up that month although we still turned away some really late stragglers.

A 0%

M 24%

J 8%

J 18%

A 11%

S 9%

O 6%

N 11%

D 9%

J 4%

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02nd Feb 2016 12:01

percentage submitted to client
April-September 50October   7November 16December 18January   9TOTAL100

These percentages have been adjusted to total 100%. It excludes "no shows".

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02nd Feb 2016 12:17

Could always do better

My own clients (with practice total stats in brackets):

April 3% (2%)

May 6% (5%)

Jun 16% (9%)

Jul 13% (12%)

Aug 12% (12%)

Sep 11% (12%)

Oct 8% (9%)

Nov 7% (9%) - two weeks holiday, so some left until December

Dec 9% (10%)

Jan 15% (20%)

The work would have been done several weeks before in most cases. The figures are based on the dates that the initial returns were submitted, as there were a few that were amended later when clients produced additional information well after the submission date.

I still have one clown who collected his return and accounts on 6th January and, despite two emails reminding him of the deadline, he has not returned the form so I have not filed it. I suspect that he is using the figures to try to get a mortgage and will then come back to me say that the figures are wrong purely because he doesn't like the tax liability. He has enough black marks with me already (including his wife being very rude to my secretary) that it won't take much for me to dump him.

 

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02nd Feb 2016 13:13

Reminders this year?

Sad though this may sound, I've found this one of the more interesting threads recently.

Sometime last month someone suggested that HMRC hadn't sent out (paper) reminders at the start of January as in the past - is this true? I've asked a couple of clients who naturally claim they didn't get one, but that doesn't mean anything!

 

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02nd Feb 2016 13:41

Getting better

We have currently filed 98.1% of the returns on our list. 27.5% were completed in January. I recall this being around 33% a few years ago.

I still aspire to 4% in April and May and then 12% a month from June to August. The difference between 12% and 27% in January doesn't sound much looking back on it but is actually around 100 returns nowadays.

Strewth. 

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02nd Feb 2016 14:38

This year was hell...

I too did this calculation for my clients. Mine hit 59% for Jan submission but they have all been submitted bar one - still waiting for the info - serves him right when he gets the penalty.

Good to see that I'm not the only one burning the midnight oil!

Every year we all say 'never again' and ask other Accweb members what they do to get clients to bring their stuff in earlier. Most threaten although I do know a firm that has a raffle for a Fortnums hamper ie get your stuff in by 31 Oct and go into the raffle. They swear it works!

Up until now I've reminded twice a year and been nice. Husband says its my own fault - I work miracles each year. Next year I'm going to threaten - Girlofwight has the right idea. Their choice - pay me £100 or pay HMRC post whatever date (still to make my mind up on that one).

They have months to submit and they leave it to the last few weeks (days) and this is of course only the self assessment returns there are the 31 Dec company ones to do as well.

What has been God send for my firm is the use of "Legal e-sign". Its been brilliant to be able to send a return by secure email and within minutes get it back signed. 40% of my clients are non local.

 

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02nd Feb 2016 14:51

My own spread is fairly even...

....throughout the year. I remind laggards in November that my terms require delivery of their records by the end of that month or I don't guarantee to meet the January deadline. That works for all but a handful, and I find myself only having to deal with one or two SAR's in the last few days of January.

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02nd Feb 2016 15:33

no shows

One of my stats that seems to be out of line with others, is the % of clients that just don't send me any info by 31 Jan. It's been fairly constant for a few years at 6-7%.

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02nd Feb 2016 17:38

Mine was much higher

Red Leader wrote:

One of my stats that seems to be out of line with others, is the % of clients that just don't send me any info by 31 Jan. It's been fairly constant for a few years at 6-7%.

16%

I'm going to ask Digita if they can enable their software to produce a report of these statistics automatically - if it doesn't do it already.

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02nd Feb 2016 18:22

surprised

petersaxton wrote:

Red Leader wrote:

One of my stats that seems to be out of line with others, is the % of clients that just don't send me any info by 31 Jan. It's been fairly constant for a few years at 6-7%.

16%

I'm going to ask Digita if they can enable their software to produce a report of these statistics automatically - if it doesn't do it already.

My impression from posts here is of practitioners getting this stat close to 0%. I thought my 6-7% was high but clearly not compared to you Peter. Do you feel like an outlier?

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02nd Feb 2016 18:42

I always feel that way

Red Leader wrote:

petersaxton wrote:

Red Leader wrote:

One of my stats that seems to be out of line with others, is the % of clients that just don't send me any info by 31 Jan. It's been fairly constant for a few years at 6-7%.

16%

I'm going to ask Digita if they can enable their software to produce a report of these statistics automatically - if it doesn't do it already.

My impression from posts here is of practitioners getting this stat close to 0%. I thought my 6-7% was high but clearly not compared to you Peter. Do you feel like an outlier?

Yes, and proud of it!

I think it was due to me thinking I might not get any more done if I did get more data! I did finish most of the work by saturday so I could have fitted a couple more in. In the last week I was doing 4/5 tax returns a day.

I am going to be sending emails to clients each month from April and from July sms and/or phone calls. I don't know what I am going to say now but ideally I don't want to plan to do any accounts and tax in December and January.

I had a discussion with Kent Accountant at a Tick & Bash meeting where I admitted I had lost my mojo - well I have got it back with a vengence!

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02nd Feb 2016 18:36

Proactive Approach, Then Sacking

It seems accountants are split into 2 camps. Steady flow vs last minute crammers.

 

I find it helps to remind clients of the benefits of getting their affairs sorted early (whether that means refunds received earlier or just avoiding news of a nasty unexpected tax bill at the 11th hour).

 

What I find most striking about my clients is the fact that the same clients' returns are completed almost the same order each year (early clients remain early, late ones remain late). 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. The most frustrating clients are also usually the ones who leave things to the last minute & expect their accountant to bale them out.

 

I would be interested to hear if other "steady flow" accountants seek to weed out poorer clients or, if they get clients to change their behaviour, how they manage to do this. 

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02nd Feb 2016 21:22

Haven't worked out the percentages yet ...

... just still recovering from having filed 181 on Friday 29 Jan and slightly less on Thursday.

With kind regards

Clint Westwood

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03rd Feb 2016 09:21

Interesting comparison, Jon

I've been away, but when I saw your post it sent me back to our 2013 What would you do differently? research. And guess what? I came across the following stats from you:

April

2%

May

5%

June

5%

July

8%

August

8%

September

9%

October

10%

November

8%

Dececember

11%

January

35%

It looks like that puts you in the going backwards camp - due to the client procrastination diagnosis. But the spread of 2014-15 results indicates that there are ways to manage this - even if it means dumping the laggards. At the risk of inflaming a completely separate debate, could this also be a reason to look at the quarterly reporting idea in new light. OK, clients will suffer agonies four times a year, but for the accountant and HMRC the effect will be a better, more contemporaneous base for calculating the liabilities at the end of the year.

Over the next few weeks we'll be reviewing SA processes again - so thanks for stimulating such an informative sharing of information, Jon. The causes and effects of client procrastination are right at the heart of your challenges, and we'll see what we can do to come up with some remedies.

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03rd Feb 2016 10:38

"dumping the laggards"

Why dump the laggards?

As long as you explain when you want the data by and that you explain how long it will take you to prepare the accounts and/or tax returns (that could vary by month!).

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03rd Feb 2016 15:05

I like the idea of incentivising clients to get their stuff to me earlier rather than later. The Hamper idea looks like good fun. 

Rather than imposing a surcharge for late-comers (which in my mind is a bit heavy-handed and maybe not great for client relations) I offer an early-bird discount. Having said that, I do seem to be getting busier each January and, like Johnny Fartpants, I invariably prepare January Returns at the same date (or thereabouts) year after year for those late-comers, so maybe I need to take a different approach.

Similar to what someone else has said, the use of digital-approval (I use IRIS Openspace) has been a revelation this year. I did work many late nights throughout January, but no more than in previous years, yet my fee income has gone up by 25% for the month. I can't begin to wonder how we managed things when nothing was electronic.

Interesting debate.

 

 

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03rd Feb 2016 15:12

Mojo

Good to hear its back Peter.

I think this year I'll aim to get my arse[***] in gear and get the number of tax returns completed in January reduced. The back end loading has been my own doing really, I'll have to change that.

No shows - I only had 1.

@RL - I see you've had enough time on the Eastern front and have moved back to the West.

 

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03rd Feb 2016 18:44

Great game! (from a sole accountant at steady flow I hope)

Tomorrow I will do the stats but it seems likely that as a one-man band it is just not possible to do lots of returns in January.

I too have the same returns coming in at a similar time each year and just before that I send out the request letters, apart from the fact that the final letters are done in July/August.

Then it is emails, texts or telephone calls depending on how the client prefers to communicate. I normally ask if they would like to book in in a couple of weeks time and it gives them something to aim for. I am always happy to cancel and move the appointment back and some do this a couple of times before the books arrive.

I do tell them that it is not the £100 late return penalty that is of concern but the fact that the fees insurance does not cover enquiries into late returns and that could cost thousands : )

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03rd Feb 2016 19:25

Proportion

I'm a one man band, too, so there's a limit to how many tax returns I can do but that's why people are giving percentages (I've just seen that I didn't state mine were percentages!). 

What is shocking about my figures (and several others) is that 60% of personal tax returns are submitted in the last month whereas only 40% are submitted in the previous nine months.

Given that the vast majority of my company clients have a year end of 31 March it would be interesting to see when these were submitted.

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03rd Feb 2016 19:30

File and be damned

I like your style Mr Mischief!  I was under the impression that one should not file without specific approval from the client.  I do have quite a number who sit on the return, and don't reply as requested, so I have to nag.  I am reluctant to file until I hear from them. But adopting your approach (nice message,by the way) takes the pressure off.  One can happily sit down on 15 January, and press the file button for all the recalcitrants.

My January filings were 31% of the total filed, which I was comfortable with, since they were mainly easy ones to do.

 

What I do wonder is how many requests for information, and how often, do people send out, in the early part of the year (ie from May onwards)? 

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03rd Feb 2016 19:46

I record

I do record when I send requests but in the past I deleted the information once I got the data but I will keep it in future.

I send out emails each month for about three months before I am snowed under and think I wouldn't be able to do their work quickly if I did get the data!

I have a spreadsheet for each client and I have columns headed "Chased Apr-15", "Chased May-15" and I enter the day of the month against the client. Because I may chase more than once in January I may have two or even three columns for "Chased Jan-16"!

I'm going to change that though and do work quicker - or so I say!

I disagree with Mr Mischief's approach. My clients have to give the OK by signing the tax return, replying to my email or sending a text. HMRC say any method is acceptable (even a phone call) but I wouldn't like to be without evidence.

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05th Feb 2016 13:34

Small steady flow stats

Apr 15

0%May 155%Jun 1521%Jul 1524%Aug 1517%Sept 1510%Oct 157%Nov 1510%Dec 150%Jan 167%

Maybe it is easier for smaller practices.

 

 

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05th Feb 2016 15:03

Definitely easier for smaller practices

Looking back I was in the 'quiet January, very smug' camp until about 2008 when tax return numbers were around 250 for the year. We now have three people doing around 600 returns overall and January is anything but quiet. It just doesn't;'t seem to work with multiples.

We could do better but I actually don't mind much. Its the best month of the year to be stuck in the office, working hard and getting a lot of returns out is a bit of a buzz and we do have a high level of billing.

No longer so smug but, frankly, a lot wealthier!

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