Save content
Have you found this content useful? Use the button above to save it to your profile.
woman boarding train | accountingweb | SA season close - lessons learned

All aboard the next tax season


The next couple of months are a great time to impact what the next tax season looks like for you and your clients. Dan Farthing looks at the lessons learned from the last self assessment season.

6th Feb 2024
Save content
Have you found this content useful? Use the button above to save it to your profile.

With 31 January now passed, the industry tends to breathe a collective sigh of relief with another tax season out of the way.

Despite the efforts of HMRC to make things harder for everyone by reducing their support-line offering to taxpayers – plus changes in legislation that bring more people under the self assessment regime each year – the accounting world manages to achieve great things.

There have been lots of improvements that the industry has made to try to make January a little less painful than it has been in previous years and although there are some exceptions, the consensus across the profession is one in support of each other to embrace the continued improvements rather than berate others for “still doing tax returns in January”.

Same old questions

Over the years at RiverView Portfolio we have made progress in implementing strategies with our clients to bring forward as much of the work as possible to earlier in the year and make the box-filling exercise just that, the formality. But it didn’t prevent the last week of January being full of the usual questions, and based on some interactions I have had with others in the profession it was a similar story for most…

“Just checking in to see if my tax return has been filed?”

Yes, it was filed in June last year, you’re all good.

“Just checking in to see if my tax return has been filed?”

You gave us the information last week which we’ve been asking for since April. We’ll probably still pull a rabbit out of the hat for you as expected.

“You mean I have to pay that by Wednesday? I’m surprised!”

The payment date is a bit like Christmas rather than Easter – same date every year.

“What if (*insert overly elaborate scenario*)? Would that reduce my tax?”

But did you actually do that or are we just making things up now?

“I’m doing my own tax return but could I ask you a quick question?”

I offered you a fixed fee to ask as many questions as you want but you decided to do it yourself…

February reflections

I guess we have to expect this. HMRC has an ability to write in a way that, even when you have done something right, you feel like you have done something wrong. Our role as accountants (as well as saving tax) is to share knowledge and give our clients peace of mind.

I tend to find February a time of reflection – what worked, what didn’t, what could we do better. 

So what’s been working that may be useful to you?

Forecasting work

We’ve done a lot more forecasting with clients over the past few years both from a perspective of payments on account and getting those right, but also what it is that clients want to achieve.

We’ve worked on a three simple steps approach with clients that involves identifying their:

  • income needs (the minimum requirement)
  • the realistic (they don’t just work to pay bills) 
  • the ambition (where they want to be). 

This has been a useful exercise in getting a clear picture about where tax bills will be and opportunities to achieve efficiencies where they can.

Centralised and systemised chasing

Like many practices we made the mistake a few years ago of being relaxed about chasing clients – “It’s fine, it always comes in in the end”. We’ve all been there, but it needed to change.

We systemised the chasing and started it much earlier. Also, for consistency, we kept the chasing centralised with our admin team to reduce the chance that we gave the benefit of the doubt to someone as they had “always done it that way” which loosely translated to giving us the information late.

It was also about scheduling the work to suit capacity across the team but more importantly where clients had key events – funding applications, mortgage renewals and so on.

Sacking clients

This one can be difficult to implement, but we all have the “repeat offender”. Despite your efforts they absorb a lot of time with little output and put the strain on your service when you want to be helping most.

Life is too short not to enjoy working with someone but also where someone isn’t getting the full value out of the service. This applies to both of you.

Remember it’s a relationship – it should work both ways.

Replies (0)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

There are currently no replies, be the first to post a reply.