Small practice owner Susan Rahman reflects on the highs and lows of her self assessment season and the goal of submitting all tax returns by Christmas.
This posting is long overdue even though January was nowhere near as stressful as it has been for the last 20 years, I still felt I needed to slow things down in February, take stock of my business and go on a well-deserved one month holiday.
We only had 14 tax returns to complete on the 22 December 2018. Our aim was to complete all tax returns by the 22 December 2018 hence achieving our Taxathon 2018 goal of submitting all tax returns by Christmas, but with only 14 tax returns to do, my team and I counted it as a win.
Christmas was relaxing and coming back to work on the 3 January 2019 felt different too. The atmosphere in the office was triumphant and we spent the first week congratulating ourselves on what a fine job we had done. The last few tax returns came in within the second week, clients settled their bills immediately and 12 tax returns were submitted by the 15 January 2019.
The no show hippo clients
Now for the last two returns: we decided that snail mail was the only way to get in touch with the last two hippos. We sent out recorded delivery letters and one of the hippos stirred and got in touch. The client’s email address had changed and so she had not received any of our reminders.
The client was irate and chastised us for not knowing her email address had changed, which begs the question Is it really my job to remind you to submit your tax return? Is it really an accountant’s job to provide this level of micro hand holding? Is this what our evangelists thought leaders mean when they say “Accountants need to provide a more proactive service?”
This hippo client managed to make my admin staff and my manager feel as if it was their fault that her tax papers were handed in so late. Of course, we managed to prepare the tax return and submitted it on the 28th January 2019, but would you have done that? Is nagging and reminding clients to give us their papers a service all on its own? Or is it part of the service?
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The very last hippo never did surface and so although we had completed, submitted and advised our clients of their liabilities, there was this nagging toothache feeling at the back of our minds that we did not quite complete the job. The stress was a 1 out of 10, (1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest), but still right up until the very last moment we were hoping our last hippo would drop her papers in. She never did. So, so strange.
The hippo in question is paying me on a monthly basis, I see her regularly at various networking events. She acknowledges our chasing emails and reminders but just does not surface. I know we did everything we could to get those papers in but still in the pit of my stomach there is a small sliver of regret that makes me feel that we did not complete the race. Oh well you can’t win them all.
I loved the challenge of the Taxathon 2018 and fully intend to do it again this year. Last year I was working on hunches and ideas. This year I have a defined scientific evidence and a scientific approach to completing the Taxathon on time. This year my self- imposed deadline is 1 December 2019.
What we’d do differently next year
The Taxathon 2018 was an eye-opener into how I manage my business. I learned a lot about the staff, the clients, myself and communication methods with the clients to get what you want.
What surprised me the most was that when we labelled preparing tax returns as “The Taxathon” those staff that was not directly involved in preparing the tax returns felt excluded and undervalued. When I went on holiday in August 2018 for 4 weeks, all targets were achieved so I had no inkling that a mini-war had erupted in the office. (I only found out last month during our “wash up” meeting).
The staff that were preparing the accounts felt there was no fan fair, clapping or cheering when they completed a set of accounts, even though without the accounts the tax returns could not be completed. This built up resentment towards the staff preparing the tax returns. The accounts staff also felt neglected and under-appreciated by me. Strategies are now in place to address this issue to make sure everyone feels loved in the office!
Many of the clients loved the reminder service even though 50% ignored it until they were ready, but the feedback we received was that they felt that their business was important to us and so were more likely to stay and recommend our services. Our clients said that “they felt loved”. Strategies are now in place to reduce this 50% rate of ignoring our deadlines and increasing ways in which our clients feel loved.
The Taxathon 2018 made me realise that I needed to work on the business and not in the business. (Such a cliché, I know and sorry!). By looking at the business from the outside I could steer the business in the right direction and grow. Strategies are now in place to ensure that I grow as an entrepreneur and grow to love my business.
Current tax return standings
Roll on Taxathon 2019 – our ducks are all lined up, we are ready for you.
- 253 total tax returns to do @01/01/2019
- 239 completed tax returns @01/01/2019
- 2 new tax returns
- 255 total tax returns
- 254 completed tax returns @31/01/2019
- 1 tax return still not done
About Susan Rahman
Susan Rahman, FCA, Managing Partner, runs KWSR, a thriving firm in South West London and she has put together a a secret diary she calls ‘Growing Pains’ about surviving running an accountancy business and sometimes, even enjoying it. In the diary, Susan looks at the day-to-day challenges facing a busy accountant and sets herself a target of a race to finish and submit (and maybe to get paid) all her client's tax returns by the 24th December 2018.