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A business man running | AccountingWEB | Take action to end self assessment mistakes
istock_Nastasic_businessman-ruinning

Take action to end the yearly self assessment mistakes

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Getting to the end of the tax return headache should be a spur to action. Philip Fisher encourages accountants to learn from this year’s mistakes and find easier ways to handle future self assessment seasons.

1st Feb 2024
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1 February is a red-letter day for many accountants but even after the tax deadline has passed everything may not be quite as rosy as it seems.

After drowning in tax returns and many sleepless nights, the first few days of February are usually spent in a bit of a daze and when you finally come around, there could be some nasty surprises waiting. 

Can you even remember anything that happened in December or January? It might come as a crushing blow to discover that the wife/husband has left you and taken the kids but, more annoyingly, also the Aston Martin and the dog.

On the basis that nobody was checking those final tax returns, some client might be preparing to sue you for a six-figure sum due to errors that would have been avoided if they had just submitted their information on time.

It wouldn’t be the first time that a couple of partners, your best members of staff and your PA have all handed in their notice, exhausted and sick of being on the wrong end of temper tantrums.

To add to the fun, you might also need to have a chat with the bank manager to request an overdraft extension in order to fund the cost of overtime and temps.

Then, just when there is nothing else left to go wrong, it might dawn on you that while helping all of those ungrateful clients to avoid £100 fines and interest charges for underpaid tax, you forgot to file your own return.

However, those problems are all in the past – or are they?

Post self assessment tips

It is amazing how quickly accountants forget. They go through torture for weeks and weeks, swearing that they can’t face this again, then sit back and make the same mistakes the following year.

Therefore, while you might prefer a week or two in bed, or if things are going really well, the Caribbean, this is the moment to grasp the bull by the horns and end the perennial cycle of pain and potential disaster.

Here are a few tips that really will help to make things better, if only you can rouse yourself and take action.

First, send out all of those fee notes for the panic jobs as soon as possible, remembering to charge premiums for those bad actors (not the TV variety) who caused all the agony in the first place.

Next, follow-up the fee notes with letters informing the worst offenders that they will need to find new advisers next year. We all know that it is the same small group of clients that give us hassle each year, while the vast majority behave impeccably. It is also those clients that haggle over fees and then take ages to pay.

It isn’t just the clients. Some of your staff have been worth their weight in gold but others will have made mistakes and should be given an opportunity to pursue careers to which they are better suited. However, I bet that you keep them on because you can’t face the hostility or disappointment that comes with delivering bad news, not to mention the dreaded subject of recruitment.

Lastly, lay down the law for next year. Develop a new, firmer policy focused on earlier deadlines. Notify your clients of these today and then stick to them.

There are two other approaches that almost always prove more popular.

  1. Do nothing and live to regret it for the umpteenth year in a row.
  2. Retire and sell your practice for next to nothing. After all, who wants to buy a bunch of private clients who cause trouble and pay minuscule fees but only after a fight?

Enjoy your rest and then take action. It may be painful but you know it makes sense.

Make strides with your post self assessment plans at the Festival of Accounting and Bookkeeping. Take time away from the office and focus on your practice strategy, ensuring that you avoid making the same mistakes next year.

Replies (11)

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By FactChecker
01st Feb 2024 17:48

Unfortunate typo in the photo label ... istock_Nastasic_businessman-ruinning
No idea what Nastasic means or why he's ruining things - but presumably not intention of the article?

Thanks (4)
Replying to FactChecker:
boxfile
By spilly
01st Feb 2024 22:12

Nastasic is the photographer and would have described the image themselves. Who knows, perhaps the ‘businessman’ works at HMRC and is indeed ruining things.

Thanks (2)
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
02nd Feb 2024 09:37

Your business files tax return without the client paying their invoice (sorry "fee note")

Wow.

My SA debtors list has one entry - return not filed.

Thanks (5)
paddle steamer
By DJKL
02nd Feb 2024 12:09

"It isn’t just the clients. Some of your staff have been worth their weight in gold but others will have made mistakes and should be given an opportunity to pursue careers to which they are better suited. "

I always more took the view that if staff made mistakes that was more a reflection on the firm (Lack of reviewing work/supervision, mistakes in training etc ) than on the staff.

Thanks (4)
Replying to DJKL:
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By Ardeninian
05th Feb 2024 09:24

Absolutely agree. Horrified reading that sentence. Having worked for years in a training practice I understand the importance of having robust reviewing procedures. A firm that pins the blame on its juniors rather than allowing the partners to shoulder the blame and repair any damage with the client is not one I'd want to work at in any case. Sort your training out, support your juniors and make sure difficult work is tackled by someone sufficiently senior.

Thanks (4)
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By Mr J Andrews
06th Feb 2024 10:56

Much preferable - and I find it easier - is to order the 'worst offenders', with a backside covering letter, well before the deadline. Telling them to find a new advisers unless they provide what I need by mid December seems to do the trick.

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Replying to Mr J Andrews:
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By Andy Reeves
06th Feb 2024 12:25

Mid-December is far too late. Those client records will most likely be incomplete and it will involve lots of chasing to get everything else, some of it over Christmas when your emails will be ignored anyway.

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stonks
By WinterDragon
06th Feb 2024 17:02

"Can you even remember anything that happened in December or January? It might come as a crushing blow to discover that the wife/husband has left you and taken the kids but, more annoyingly, also the Aston Martin and the dog."

Wait... you guys/gals have(had) spouses and Aston Martins?

Thanks (1)
Replying to WinterDragon:
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By FactChecker
06th Feb 2024 19:20

.. not always our own (but the dog's a keeper)! ba-dum :+)

Thanks (2)
Replying to WinterDragon:
the sea otter
By memyself-eye
07th Feb 2024 11:14

Aston Martins, plural?
I found one was enough!

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Replying to memyself-eye:
stonks
By WinterDragon
12th Feb 2024 15:36

But how on earth did you cope with multiple spouses? One girlfriend brings me enough trouble!

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