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Practice Tip - the worst day of the self assessment year

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16th Jan 2006
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It is, of course a purely personal opinion, but I think today is the worst day of the self assessment year.

There are two weeks to go. There are still people out there who think you can perform miracles and are promising to send their information, soon. There are numerous tax returns back in this morning; all needing checking and filing. There are a pile more still to be chased. You might have worked the weekend. If you did not you feel mildly panicked at the consequence of having not done so, and about the fact that you will be in the office for the next two weekends before 31 January finally arrives. In summary, today everything is still just about possible.

That's really stressful. Give it a few days and some of those possibilities begin to disappear. By the end of this week you know that getting returns finished is more important than starting new ones, filing the ones that are back more important than chasing the ones that are still out there. When only some things are possible decisions are easier to make.

And so what sort of practice tip should be offered on a day like this? Well actually, quite a profound one. It was days like this that made me think about selling my old firm. I realised that I could not face hundreds upon hundreds of tax returns a year for the rest of my life. A new balance had to be found. I think I now have that balance. I still do tax returns (there are five to file this morning) and I enjoy them. But, they no longer dominate life. It may be that you want them to. In which case that is fine. But if this morning you realise that there has to be more to life just make a serious mental note of the fact and promise to come back to this issue.

In the meantime, you have no choice; you must get on with those returns. The option you have is to plan for an alternative next year. That's the choice you can comfort yourself with.

Good luck!

Richard Murphy
AccountingWEB contributing editor Richard Murphy is a sole practitioner chartered accountant but was previously senior partner of a firm for 11 years. He has also been chairman, chief executive or finance director of 10 SMEs. A collection of previous articles by Richard on practice management themes is available in Practice Management Zone

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By mikewhit
18th Jan 2006 18:59

On a point of irrelevant detail ...
"while my oppo fixes his stitch plate" - presumably that is "Sticht plate", named after the inventor, Franz Sticht.

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David Winch
By David Winch
18th Jan 2006 14:00

Long hours under pressure (sometimes)

David (Pedlow)

I do not say that I do not work evenings and weekends or that I suffer no pressure.

When a court imposed deadline is coming up the report has to be completed and submitted, and that usually involves evenings and weekends. When a case is actually in progress in court one has to react to developments and new evidence very quickly, which may involve preparing new advice for one's barrister 'overnight'.

As for pressure, one is always aware that as an expert witness one could face hostile questioning in court from a highly trained and articulate barrister (backed by his own expert) who will wish to demonstrate that one is negligent, incompetent, ignorant, misguided and a person whose opinion is not worth a light!

When I was an accountant in general practice I comforted myself with the thought that the worst that could happen if I fouled up would be that I (or my insurers) would have to write a cheque to make it right.

In criminal proceedings if I foul up an innocent man may go to prison or a villain walk free. How could one 'make it right'?

So why do I do it? Well, I enjoy the work for one thing. For another thing it suits me better to know a lot about a little, rather than knowing a little about a lot. Thirdly, I get to spend a lot of time on each case. I do perhaps 10 - 15 criminal prosecution or confiscation / proceeds of crime cases per year, not the several hundred cases each year that a GP deals with. I much prefer that, but I fully accept that this type of work would not suit everyone.

David
[email protected]

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Richard Murphy
By Richard Murphy
18th Jan 2006 11:05

Changing is not bottling out
David (Pedlow that is)

Did I suggest anyone bottle out?

I didn't say I had bottled out.

I suggested reviewing how one undertakes one's business operations and earns one's living is a good thing. That's quite different. Failing to do so when the pressure is on can lead to the bottle - and that's a quite different scenario. But please let's have no nonsense that change is a bad thing and only those who can work long hours in practice are real accountants. Because it's not true. Practice comes in many shapes and forms and I think people should think beyond the stereotype. And practice does not suit everyone, including some who are doing it. I was seeking to encourage that thinking.

My "off site" email responses to this article suggest a high level of agreement.

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By User deleted
19th Jan 2006 10:10

Oh dear

If David & Richard felt that the last five miles of a marathon is the right time to start a discussion with Paula Radcliffe on the relative merits of cycling and running as sports, clearly nothing I could say would dissuade them!

You expect reasoned argument when you're blocking the light?

Get real!

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David Winch
By David Winch
16th Jan 2006 10:13

I agree

I couldn't agree more!

It took me a lot of years to recognise that (i) I really did not want to be an accountant in general practice, and (ii) I did not have the necessary qualities to make a good living as an accountant in general practice.

Eventually I did something about it - and I am no longer in general practice.

Instead I have specialised in an area that interests me, I do work that I enjoy, and I am more appreciated for knowing in considerable depth about a small field than I was when I attempted to know enough to get by about the broad range of issues upon which a general practitioner might be expected to advise.

In short, what I do now plays to my strengths rather than threatening to expose my weaknesses.

My advice is, general practice does not suit everybody. If it is not your thing - do something else!

David

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