Are we too good to our clients?
If there is one date of the year when you can guarantee the same or similar posts on Accweb that is 1 Feb. This date brings relief for all accountants of personal clients having worked the usual miracle and submitted all returns by the deadline. Its funny how those clients who have the messiest records are always the ones who leave it to the last minute.
Every year members ask how others get clients to deliver their stuff to them on time and whether you take up any suggestion or not the same always happens. Burning the midnight oil to save the client's £100 penalty. Last year (2016 submission) I did just that. I worked a 7 day week for most of January and submitted my final return at 11.30pm 31 Jan.
The return was for a client who had come to me late, I took pity on him but then on the final submission day he proceeded to go back and forth by email asking questions and remembering details. I remember being so tired by the end of it all that I could hardly find the 'submit' button on Taxfiler.
This year I vowed never again and as I've said under some relevant Any Answers comments I threatened my lot with financial penalties plus said that I couldn’t guarantee submission of their personal returns by the deadline unless they sent me their stuff by the end of Sept.
The more long standing ones took heed and yes.... I did get some in sooner but the same old same old and some recent clients ignored me /forgot what I had said and still sent in either at the same time as usual or later.
This thought of 'am I doing too much/am I too good to my clients' was brought home to me at a networking meeting that I go to once a month. It's one of those groups where only one per profession can attend. No... it's not BNI, does not push you to introduce clients to members, does not force you to announce how much business you have put other members way but has the same format of a lunch (or breakfast) and a one minute presentation on what you have done businesswise since the group last met.
At the last October meeting my one minute told of how HMRC's computer had suddenly gone down unexpectedly yet again for now the 3rd time; this time on 30 Sept.
30 Sept is the final submission date for EU Sales Lists. Last year that date fell on a weekend (a Saturday); supposedly a non work day. I had asked this client to give me their figures a number of times and they finally arrived on the Weds pm before the deadline. Enough time ... and then HMRC's computer went down for three days. I told the meeting how I kept trying to submit and finally achieved my goal at 6pm on the deadline day. HMRC later announced that they would sort it out with their EU compatriots should any returns not have been gone through because of this problem.
After I finished my one minute rant the woman who was the local area bank manager said: 'In my experience of local accountants most would not have bothered and let the client take the hit' and there was a murmur of agreement amongst the other members. In this case the client's 'hit' would have been £2K. But her comment stayed with me and was remembered this 31 Jan.
Some years ago I worked at a firm whose policy was a strict 'first come first served'. It didn't matter who shouted the loudest. There was a list of clients per date of delivery and this was strictly adhered to. I try to do the same but it does not always work out that way. But it is unfair that those who submit figures timeously (or for whom you do the VAT returns so the accounts can be done with no waiting) have to go to the back of the queue until those later ones who have submission deadlines have been sorted.
Its 5pm Friday and I've just received a text from a client who wants me to find him his UTR and write a letter confirming his self employed status as he is starting a new job on Monday – he says he's lost it in a move. What shall I text back in reply?