Busy with Tax Returns? You lose.

Paul Bulpitt
The Wow Company
Share this content

How was January for you? Get all your tax returns filed? Or are you one of those who breathed a sigh of relief when they extended the deadline?

What I don’t understand is why accountants all over the country were filing tax returns today. If the deadline had been extended by a fortnight, would there have been accountants all over the country forgoing their Valentines dinners to submit those last few tax returns? Probably. Interestingly, the ‘busy January’ phenomenon is one that is common in firms from one-man band sole-practitioners to Top 10 firms with glitzy tax departments.

Well I do know why:

“we’re always busy this time of year” and “clients always give their information to us at the last minute”.

Honestly, you’re only this busy because you choose to be. Clients only give you their information in the last week of January because you let them. There is another way. It doesn’t have to be like this – and certainly if you are an employee in one of these firms, don’t suffer this madness for another year – you’ve got time to make a change now.

No one benefits from this annual rush in January – least of all clients. Clients need to know their tax liability as early as possible. Furthermore, not only do you fail to benefit – you lose. When you’re too busy to talk to clients (or prospective clients) – you lose clients and you lose the opportunity to do chargeable work for those clients.

The situation was perfectly illustrated by a stroke of good fortune we had last week. A colleague of mine (who hasn’t been touched by the January tax return madness) was discussing a basic tax planning opportunity with a prospective client who’s accountant wasn’t really focussed on their client's tax (just submitting their returns). The client took this idea back to their accountant to give them a chance (out of well-intentioned loyalty) but in this accountant’s own words:

“I’m afraid I’m too bl**dy busy with tax returns this week. It will have to wait.”

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank this particular accountant for giving us a new client and some lucrative tax planning work. I make my point again, too busy with tax returns? You lose.


Please login or register to join the discussion.

03rd Feb 2012 20:16

And on the other hand

Swings and roundabouts and depends on the nature of the typical client of the practice.  Our willingness to bust our balls at the very end of January has probably brought us 6 new clients, one of which is a direct result of their existing accountants being unwilling to deal with work that took me around 60 minutes from start to finished partnership + 2 individual SATRs.

You also make the assumption that for everyone, a level flow of work is desirable.  I know this is true for most people, but personally I prefer to spend January working like a lunatic and February sipping cocktails in Jamaica as well as taking time off at need in the rest of the year.  

Thanks (0)
06th Feb 2012 13:22

I think we agree - your ability to do the work for the 6 new clients has taken the work from your competitors who were probably already working all hours just to fulfil their existing workload - which is kind of the point I was making. 

Granted, I make the assumption that more people would prefer not to be quite so busy in January (and that with proper planning they wouldn't need to). I pity the poor employees in these firms who are worked like horses through January and aren't given February off.

Hope you have a great time in Jamaica and I can safely say, I wish I was there!

Thanks (0)
09th Feb 2012 11:05

I tried nagging - didnt work!

I started nagging my clients for their papers way back in October. Still the same clients waited until the very last and I worked 12/7 getting the returns done.

I have asked friends who are accountants how they get the papers in early and their experience of 31 Jan etc. One smugly said they had no problems as they gave a discount if the clients got the papers in by beginning of Nov. Another said they refuse to do the work if the papers arrive in Jan. Those of us who have a small practice dont want our clients to walk so we continue to do miracles.

This year was worse - the reduction in submission time for companies and the refund clients who would normally have been left until Feb.

I wish I could go to Jamaica - I'm now working just as hard catching up on writing the articles I was supposed to do for the understanding John Stokdyk but coundn't.




Thanks (0)