Tis The Season: Avoiding Stress Amid Tax Return Chaos

18th Dec 2020
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January means only one thing: Tax return season. Take a look at our tips to manage the stress.

Making efficiencies

With the 31st January looming, it’s that time of year again when tax return mayhem takes hold. Clients certainly have a habit of leaving everything to the last second, making it one of the most busy, stressful periods for accountants.

But really, it doesn’t have to be this way. There a number of things you can try to alleviate the pressure whilst ensuring your accountancy practice runs like clockwork. And give yourself a few less grey hairs come February.

Encouraging clients to begin their Self Assessment tax returns early, and using good accounting software like Xero, will make life easier all round. Effective practice management software should also be used to automate tasks wherever possible, helping you keep on top of workflows. Not only will this reduce stress, but it’ll free up your time for spending on more value-added services to clients.

Where the pressure comes from

According to Gov.uk website statistics, in 2019 small and medium sized enterprises accounted for over 99% of the 5.9 million businesses in the UK. Furthermore, 4.5 million of these had no employees at all, making the business very small indeed. When this is the case, dealing with tax is an extra pressure when there are never enough hours in the day already.

Record keeping for these SMEs is also something that can easily fall by the wayside. As you’ll undoubtedly know well, this can mean accountants are presented with very late records that aren’t exactly in order.

Whilst this is all understandable, and we can certainly sympathise, this all puts massive pressure on your team to chase records, get them in order and file everything for your clients on time. And of course, there’s the sheer volume of people needing your firm’s services at this time of year too.

Tips for managing stress at your practice

When everyone’s busy and tempers are fraying, there are a few simple tools you can use to manage stress amongst your team. Being on the ball and spotting when issues are starting to escalate is essential; the sooner a problem is identified, the sooner it can be tackled. Let things fester and stress levels will quickly rise.

1. Communicate well

Good communication between both clients and colleagues is vital at any time, but never more so than during tax return season. With COVID-19 bringing financial havoc for many businesses this year, there’s likely to be additional stress around the inability to pay. Open lines of communication will mean that clients can feel comfortable in speaking up about their worries. Its shores up your firm’s reputation of being caring and knowledgeable - plus it means there are hopefully no nasty (stressful) surprises for you later on.

Don’t wait until you’re in “putting-out-fires” mode to put things right - instead, be in a “preventative” mode. You know your clients, and if you know there’s likely to be a problem with their tax return payments this year then ask them the right questions pre-emptively.

Consider your own processes too. If you find your staff are overworked during tax season then you may want to adjust your workflow processes. This may also be true if clients are giving you a headache over deadlines, fees or similar. The fact is that only by being clear and communicating well with your clients and other staff members will you be able to get through tax season with your sanity (vaguely) intact.

2. Avoid using buzzwords

It soon becomes apparent when clients and co-workers are starting to feel the heat. But if a situation is becoming tense, it’s important to avoid using buzzwords or jargon. Use plain English, particularly with clients who may be struggling with tax-related terminology. Blinding them with science, even if it seems obvious to you as their accountant, is likely to make things worse.

When stressful situations with clients arise, even the most professional of us can feel defensive. As accountants, we’re often expected to be right first time, every time. So when clients challenge or question us, our defences go up. But when the problem is there in front of you, this is not the time to talk about who is right or wrong. It’s about cracking on and fixing the problem.

3. Take a deep breath

Sounds a little clichéd perhaps, but there’s really nothing better for calming down. Head somewhere quiet for a few minutes, take a deep breath in through your nose and let it slowly out through your mouth. Repeat five or six times and hopefully you’ll start to feel more in control.

Hint: if you want somebody else to calm down, never actually tell them to calm down. Instead, keep your voice calm and even, and suggest you work together to figure out the solution.

By reassuring your clients that you’re in full control and will sort out their tax return issues swiftly, they’ll soon feel you’re on their side. This will take the heat out the situation more quickly. Instead of only focussing on the challenges you’re looking to solve, work out a way in which you can pull together and prevent problems arising next year. After all, there’s always next January.

Don’t let R&D Tax Credit claims add to your burden

Your plate is pretty full right now, but this is important - it could be worth thousands of pounds for your clients.

R&D Tax Credits are awarded by HMRC to help companies pay for their innovative research and development projects. Worth as much as 33 pence for every £1 of R&D expenditure it’s a highly lucrative tax incentive that many companies will want to benefit from.

But claiming isn’t easy, even for the most experienced of accountants. This is why it’s so important you work alongside a specialist R&D funding consultancy like us at Myriad Associates.

See our recent blogs below to find out how we can help your clients achieve the R&D funding they deserve - without the hassle.

Contact us

Don’t add to the stress! To discuss anything about R&D funding or how we can work alongside you, call Myriad Associates on 0207 118 6045. You can also send us a message - we’ll be pleased to offer our advice.