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Almost 5,000 tax returns were submitted on Christmas Day

2nd Jan 2024
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Bright was created in 2021 when Thesaurus Software Ltd. and Relate Software Ltd. decided to join...
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Have you heard that 25,769 tax returns were filed over the 2023 festive period? Not only that, 4,757 of those were submitted on Christmas day! While these figures may be startling, they’re not surprising, as it sheds a light on how much busy season impacts our lives. We hope that most of these submissions were from individuals who chose to do their tax with their turkey, but in reality, it’s likely that there were many accountants out there worried about the impending 31st of January deadline and worked all the hours they could find. 

Whoever decided on January 31st as the Self Assessment deadline has an interesting sense of humour, to say the least. After Christmas, personal finances can be pretty stretched, and in the midst of turkey sandwiches, mince pies, and a period of (what’s meant to be) rest, you’re likely having nightmares about your clients’ tax returns. 

But believe it or not, there are some firms out there who completed their clients’ tax returns months ago. So, while some of you may have been glued to your laptop over the break, they could sit back, relax and enjoy the entire festive period. 

What are they doing differently?

1. They set an earlier deadline for their clients 

Well firstly, they set internal deadlines. Rather than your team feeling all of that pressure come January, why not set a more manageable deadline this year of September or October instead? This gives you and your team enough time over those less hectic months to work at a steadier pace.  

How can you go about this? You could approach clients when the financial year ends and offer an incentive to get their information to you sooner (i.e. a reduced fee) or add penalties (i.e. higher fees) when it starts getting close to the deadline. You could even offer an end-of-year meeting with your clients over the summer when they’re not as busy with upcoming deadlines, and review the past year to identify their current tax positions. For new clients, you could include these new dates in your onboarding comms. 

With our practice management software, BrightManager, you can set your own ‘target dates’, which adds tasks to your to-do lists when the time’s right and helps to change client behaviour. It also ensures you’ve got a clear roadmap for key dates when files are due, dates for reviewing, and deadlines for getting back to clients.   

2. They identify troublemakers 

Next is to check in with troublemakers. This isn’t about pointing fingers, it’s just about alleviating any potential bottlenecks. You most likely already know who’s going to cause you issues, so get to these clients first. Your time is extremely valuable (both working hours and free time), so set your penalties to reflect that and stand your ground when it comes to enforcing additional fees. For example, if a client comes rushing to you last minute that their partner also needs a tax return, then politely state that it’s outside the scope of engagement. 

As well as setting deadlines, confirm how you want to receive data. For example, if you’ve agreed to accept a box full of receipts then confirm that with them, but equally, if they’ve promised to use Dext and have everything provided digitally, make sure that they follow through. 

One of the best ways to identify bottlenecks is by using a time tracking tool. Depending on which tool you end up using, you can track how long is spent on a task, whip up some timesheets that have a time tracker that’s synced to (so it doesn’t have to be so manual), and weigh up the time spent on chargeable versus non-chargeable work. 

In our practice management solution, BrightManager, users can just click on the time icon and start a new time log. You can select the client you’re working on, the type of time being spent (for example, admin work, a call, etc.), hourly rate and any other details you like. The timer ticks away in the background while you work, and you can generate invoices from your logged time too. You can go into the timesheets to see how much time is being posted for each client and identify the most and least profitable clients. So, you may find that one particular client (or a group of clients) always has more time posted to their job compared to other clients at a similar fee level. Identifying client trends this way is the first step to resolving the bottleneck. 

3. They don’t work harder than they need to 

Efficiency is always important, but during busy season it’s essential. That’s why a cloud tax solution can help make completing clients’ Self Assessment Tax Returns a faster, more streamlined process. Here are three ways our tax and compliance solution, BrightTax, can help.  

  • Only complete Partner Self Assessments once. There’s an automatic link between Partners in the Individual Tax Return and Trust Tax Return (SA100 and SA900) and Partnership Tax Returns (SA800). This saves you from processing the same data twice. 

  • Consolidate multiple UK property or Capital Gains schedules by squishing your workload with consolidated entry. This option is available on UK property and Capital Gains schedules and is a huge stressbuster when you’ve got a pile of properties or capital gains to enter. 

  • Efficient online filing to HMRC. File Self Assessment Tax Returns to HMRC, completed and approved, through BrightTax. This includes Individual (SA100) including SA302, Partnership (SA800), and Trust (SA900) Tax Returns, including Scottish rates. 

Want to learn more? 

We’ve got a live webinar on the 9th Of January at 11:00 am to show you the ins and outs of how your firm can best prepare for tax season. If you’d like to attend, you can sign up via the button below. Can’t wait for the webinar? Take a look at our guide in the button below. 

eleanor vaughey



 Written by Eleanor Vaughey | About Bright




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