Take action to end the yearly self assessment mistakesby
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.
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.
- Do nothing and live to regret it for the umpteenth year in a row.
- 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.