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August: A month for reflection

31st Jul 2019
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Jurassic Coastline around Durdle Door

Philip Fisher outlines a number of steps prudent practitioners can take during the traditionally slow month of August.

Unless your part of the profession is very different from that of this writer, business pretty much takes a complete summer break throughout the month of August.

Clients go away, lose interest in major projects or simply take time out to do other things, leaving their professional advisers with that valuable commodity, time to think.

Here are a number of suggestions for ways in which you might take advantage of the extra space.

1) Follow the Parisian example, turn out the lights, lock the door and take a month off. While this may not sound like a positive step, the psychological benefits for you and your staff will be felt throughout the frantically busy few months until the next break at Christmas. As we've often seen on AccountingWEB (and in the profession generally), stress is a huge issue and anything you can do to counter this is positive.

2) Even if you don’t go the whole hog, the school holidays mean that this is the perfect chance to take time out with family and friends.

3) Quieter times in the office could also enable you to bond with staff. Why not chat, take them out for lunch or organise an awayday? This is the kind of small investment that will pay dividends.

4) Think about strategy. It is very easy to toddle along, firefighting without considering the best way to maximise your practice’s performance in the long-term. This is a heaven-sent opportunity. You could even try doing it on a beach or in a pub garden!

5) As part of the strategising, you might wish to think about future mergers, adopting a niche or firm acquisitions or, at the other end of the scale, selling up.

6) On a different level, you could do worse than step back and think about what you want to do with your own career over the next five, 10 or even 20 years.

7) Business property prices are sinking fast, so this might be the opportunity to consider relocation, either moving to a better location, cutting costs or conceivably both at the same time.

8) With little else going on, August could present a good opportunity to upgrade both software and hardware. Implementing fresh systems is always a nightmare but if, for example, a new billing program is going to go wrong, you can manage the downtime much more easily in August than January/February.

9) It is probably the last thing on anyone’s mind but if all of your staff members are sitting around with little to do, why not get a headstart on tax returns? Whether that means sending out reminders, collecting data or preparing returns, this work will be so much easier when there are few other pressures. At the other end, clients might have time to find those errant pieces of information in their own quiet period.

10) With the final PPI deadline approaching, this might be the moment to earn yourself an unexpected windfall.

11) Prepare for a no-deal Brexit. If the government is only getting serious now, the odds are that no reader will yet have even started thinking about preparations for this increasingly likely outcome. On Monday, the CBI issued a list of 200 steps. While many of these may not be relevant for our profession with only three months to go, surely it is time to take urgent action.

Replies (8)

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31st Jul 2019 12:54

''unless your part of the profession is very different from that of this writer business pretty much takes a complete summer break throughout the month ''

Yes very different clearly!

What part of the profession do you work in?

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31st Jul 2019 16:48


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Jennifer Adams
By Jennifer Adams
31st Jul 2019 16:51

My 'list of things to be done next month' includes 4 VAT returns, invoicing, submitting signed accounts, ringing HMRC asking why they havent loaded my VAT clients onto my new ASA as yet although I did the necessary 10 days ago, ringing HMRC asking why they have taken a year to finalise a "loan account "problem although I've done everything for them, incorporating 2 companies, proof reading 4 texts, writing 2 articles for Accweb, planning a guide to Landlord expenses for Tax Insider.
Question... what's a holiday?

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Replying to Jennifer Adams:
By SteLacca
01st Aug 2019 08:15

With two calls to HMRC on your list, I'm not so sure you'll have time in August alone for the rest of your list.

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By Justin Bryant
01st Aug 2019 10:57

Yes indeed. HMRC cause most the stress and unnecessary problems these days. I've just managed to cancel a 150% RTC penalty wrongly applied by HMRC, but only after more phone calls/letters than I care to mention, all caused by HMRC's original idiotic c ock-up.

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Chris M
By mr. mischief
01st Aug 2019 14:25

I never spend longer than 5 minutes on the phone to HMRC, see my recent posts on this topic.

August is very much a dead month for me. I've got more than 50% of my SA returns filed, many of my clients are on holiday. One is selling their hotel for £1.7m, one is trying to get a mortgage and that's about it.

So it is a month of golf, tennis and family stuff. Today I admit has been very stressful, going round in 80 which is my worst score in about 12 rounds. I think I'll stick to tennis for a few days.

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Hallerud at Easter
02nd Aug 2019 20:56

"Business property prices are sinking fast"

No they are not, our rent roll has been increasing through 2018 and 2019 (after a pretty moribund 2014-2017) and increased rents are being achieved at review/renewal. I think your comment needs tempered by taking into account the type of property involved.

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Mark Telford Chartered Accountant
By Mark Telford
04th Aug 2019 14:23

August is pretty much the same as any month business wise.

We schedule/plan work so that it gets done evenly (ish) through the whole year.

Slack off in August and you'll either be too busy tax return season time or you haven't got enough work.

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