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Blurred sprinters

On your marks: The SA race is on

4th Dec 2017
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With less than two months to go until the self assessment deadline, accountants are already feeling the strain of the annual client chasing event, or in more favourable cases celebrating their dwindling tax return pile.

This week, AccountingWEB members revealed on Any Answers their current tax return standings. As with most years, the main culprit preventing accountants from enjoying a restful January is client wrangling. But to make the annual rush more manageable, a number of proactive practitioners have already taken a sizeable bite out of their tax returns.

Practitioners starting earlier

Ireallyshouldknowthisbut, for example, has completed 70% of their tax returns. Since last year, the AccountingWEB regular has pushed forward their season to avoid working “silly hours” in January.

Last self assessment season, the member noted how they had already filed the majority of their tax returns before the end of the year. While they currently have more left than they usually would, the member expects to be in a similar position again this year. But that still leaves the latecomers in January.

AccountingWEB columnist Glennzy is also on course to be mostly tax return free before Christmas. “I did most of mine early so only have a few left to do.” But he expects to be “chocka busy" inputting March and April year-ends and current year into Xero.

In a September blog, Glennzy reported that he was ahead on his tax returns because he started early with the easy ones in May and June. Instead, Glennzy has reserved his stress-free January to work “on the business instead of just in it”.

Elsewhere, AccountingWEB member Marks has filed a third of his tax returns, which puts him ahead of his position this time last year. 

Here are the current AccountingWEB SA stats (30/11/2017):

  Filed Out for signature In Progress Not in
I really should know but 196 24 46 53
Marks 82 10 50 94
Mr Awol   25 41 108
Rhino 83 450 50   350
Lionofludesch   5 7 7

(Other AccountingWEB members submitted their current stats but the members listed offered a more complete outlook of their figures. Where the figure was not given, the space has been left blank.)

Panicked by some of the member’s stats accountantccole thought they were the only one with over hundred left to do. But with a flipchart full of post-it notes already stuck to the wall and a plan in place, the AccountingWEB member still felt confident about their current workload: “I think we are ahead of last year and the team is getting quicker and stronger so feel more in control than last year.” 

Client chasing still a problem

But despite technology like e-signatures that should theoretically speed up the client sign-off process, accountants such as Manchester Man are still seeing clients take longer to sign and return accounts.  

The outstanding list of tax returns did not surprise Lionofludesch, the AccountingWEB member who started the thread: “Same old names on it, I could've photocopied last year's list.”

Accounts12, who is already wishing the days away until February, has more staff than last year but the stress from clients remains the same. “No matter how many times I repeat myself to say let's try and get it done before Christmas so you know what you need to pay, apparently, that is just not enough of an incentive to make the time to get their records across to me!”

Same story every year

When AccountingWEB had previously charted the biggest burden of the self assessment season, client chasing would always top the January grief list. Clearly, many members are on track to experience similar frustrations.

It is the same story every year. In February, AccountingWEB member Kate R perfectly encapsulated the cyclical, Groundhog Day nature of the annual event: “Had a few [clients] who blamed me for not reminding them, but after umpteen years of SA they know when the deadline is.”

AccountingWEB veteran and SA onlooker David Winch, who specialises in litigation and forensic accounting, neatly summed up the next few months: “It's the time of year when I am especially glad that I don't do accounts preparation or tax return work.”


How do you compare? How many tax returns do you have left? Are you going to have a restful Christmas or are you on course for a stressful January? Share your current standings below. 

Replies (13)

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By David Plastow
04th Dec 2017 15:45

Filed - 65
Out for signature - 1
In progress - 10
Not in - 16

Thanks (0)
Replying to David Plastow:
Richard Hattersley
By Richard Hattersley
04th Dec 2017 16:33

Thanks David. How do these figures compare to previous years? Sounds like you're in a good position. Are you pushing ahead?

Thanks (0)
By Essex FCCA
04th Dec 2017 18:47

Filed 190
Out for signature 15
In progress 58
Not In 180

More clients are in the Self assessment system due to changes in the tax on dividends compared to previous years. this alone has probably added 50 to the total.

Thanks (0)
By mkowl
05th Dec 2017 10:11

Filed 20%
In 40%
Usual suspects 40%

However 31st March corporate year ends almost all done so should (!) have time available. Always come in the 3 days between Christmas and New year to make a dent in the pile when the office is empty and the desire for a turkey sandwich has gone

Thanks (1)
By paullacey007
05th Dec 2017 10:22

Filed - 165
Out for signature - 12
Still to do - 97

Half of the to do's are simple directors and dividend income which we have most of info for, so just chasing the rest!

Thanks (0)
Hancox and Co
By Hancox and Co
05th Dec 2017 10:31

72% done
12% in progress
16% still to come in
(1% = 7 tax returns)
Pretty similar to previous years; except organic growth means back in 2014, 1% used to be only 5 returns!

Thanks (0)
By johnjenkins
05th Dec 2017 10:34

I have to admit I like the "silly season". I do a third of my turnover in December and January and love the buzz. Mind you February is an anti-climax so I go away. It also means I can have August off. Obviously this way of working doesn't suit everyone but working long hours for a short period of time really makes me appreciate my business and why I became an Accountant.

Thanks (0)
By Trish Baillie
05th Dec 2017 10:38

Filed 222
Out for signature 27
In progress 24
Unstarted 39 - mostly not in.
More or less the same names as last year with the notable exception on my 4 normal 31 January ones who are mostly now done - now that's quite something!

Thanks (0)
Donald MacKenzie
By Donald MacKenzie
05th Dec 2017 10:52

Submitted 17
For signature 8
Working on it 8
waiting for papers 8
Ahead of last year

Thanks (0)
By Joe Alderson
05th Dec 2017 12:03

I find the major problem for us isn't getting the clients signatures, but getting them to confirm their other sources income and finalising their company accounts. That delays a large number of returns here even though the majority are done before December. We just have such a high volume of clients across the business that there's always a big rush come January.

Thanks (0)
By mfbrown185
05th Dec 2017 12:27

Progress to date:-
136 filed, 22 out for signature, 42 still to do (last year I had 38 still to do at this time)
Ltd company 31/03/2017 - 3 still to complete (same 3 as last year - yawn)

Thanks (0)
05th Dec 2017 12:59

Filed - 22
WIP - 2
Out for signature - 1
Not in but chased - 16

Thanks (0)
By Ian McTernan CTA
05th Dec 2017 13:51

Just under half left to do, which is about normal for the time of year.

Couple of major clients always leave it until January to get done due to year ends so I expect to be working every day in January as usual and there will be the usual late arrivals that will end up paying a late filing penalty- which they seem happy to do, every year.

I have to admit I love the cash flow as SA and CT payments and VAT all due in January!

Thanks (0)