For many accountants, this could be the best week of the year. After all the hurly-burly of the tax return season, there should finally be an opportunity to relax, even if one or two dilatory returns still need to be completed and submitted to HMRC.
Readers can reacquaint themselves with family members that they had almost forgotten, sit in front of the TV and remain awake for more than two minutes or start planning a much-needed break in the sunshine.
However, there should be a much more pressing issue for anyone who cares about their practice and bank balance.
Unless you and your staff are well-organised superstars, there has to be every prospect that billing got set aside throughout January and, in some cases, for considerably longer.
While creating invoices is hardly the most thrilling exercise, without doing so you will not get paid. Therefore, you and your staff should now be dedicating yourselves to churning out bills by the dozen and sending those out to what one hopes will be grateful clients save from penalties by your sterling efforts.
All being well, a significant proportion will pay by return, while others will put you into the normal run of settling bills.
In other words, this is how you get rewarded for going through the hell of December and January and coming out on the other side alive, if not exactly kicking.
Indeed, for some practices, 25 to 50% (or even more?) of the year’s turnover and perhaps all of the profit will be generated in one, relatively short, billing run.
Before entering too deeply into this process, it might also be worth considering some of the wider implications of completing tax returns for clients.
In many cases, the process will have gone as smoothly as could reasonably be expected, with data that was correct and complete provided at an early date. In others, there will have been a few minor hiccups, perhaps the old missing receipt or invoice. This is to be expected.
However, the generally accepted belief throughout the profession is that about half the work and almost all of the problems are created by a tiny proportion of clients who are generally also those that feel no compunction about arguing over fees and delaying payments.
This might be the moment to consider appropriate action, given that you and colleagues are probably feeling very tired and quite short tempered.
There are two possible courses of action, which are not exclusive to each other.
First, should you be charging a premium for additional work or late delivery of input paperwork? In reality, most accountants have quoted a fixed fee and probably not included appropriate clauses in their engagement letter, which would permit such action.
Secondly, are there any clients that are more trouble than they’re worth? This is the moment to ask since the feeling of desperation will still be fresh in the mind. Otherwise, six-to-nine months down the road you will almost certainly have mellowed and end up putting yourself through the wringer again with exactly the same nightmare clients as this year.
So, the game plan should be: evaluate, bill, sack and then turn off the lights and go on holiday.