In an ideal world, clients would send their self assessment information to their accountant well before the January deadline, says Intuit UK's Bobby Chadha.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world, and clients often have an all too relaxed attitude to this deadline making January one of the most stressful months of the year for accountancy firms. Plus, with the introduction of a £100 penalty for late returns, the stakes for prompt submission have never been higher.
It is often the case that a lack of communication between client and accountant is the root of late submissions. Making some simple changes of practice can make life much easier come January.
It’s crucial to provide clear information from the outset, producing information sheets for clients and detailing the steps they are required to take can be a great way to limit confusion.
Another simple change is setting your own, earlier, deadline for self assessment returns, eliminating the stress of late submissions. Further to this sending scheduled reminders, perhaps mentioning the £100 late submission penalty, could ensure information is provided on time.
Providing incentives for your own team can also prove to be effective in ensuring you beat the January rush, and awarding prizes for team members who manage to complete the most returns is a great way to motivating the team.
What’s crucial is to use this years’ experience to review and refine your processes for next year.
Ways of avoiding the January self assessment panic can range from the technical, where accounting programmes can help clients keep their books up-to-date, to more simple time management solutions.
The important thing is to be well prepared; with the right plan in place (and a ready supply of coffee) the January panic can be a thing of the past!
Bobby Chadha is Intuit UK's product manager for EMEA Accountant Offerings.