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Practitioners make early headway on SA to-do list

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As the weather warms and we step into a new tax year, the Any Answers community looks to get ahead of the inevitable self assessment return rush.

11th Apr 2022
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As sure as the daffodils bloom, the coming of spring brings the advent of a new tax year for the accounting profession, and with it, the work invariably begins to pile up in the perennially stressed accountant’s in-tray.

However, as the tax wheel turns into 22/23, it seems that some in the AccountingWEB community are wanting to make hay while the sun shines in order to reduce the likelihood of yet another stress-fuelled end to the tax year, with self assessment returns becoming a growing priority once again.

Getting ahead

As the dust settled from this year’s busy January, the community was quick to look on to springtime and the upcoming tax season. During a talk with AccountingWEB editor Richard Hattersley in the aftermath of the January deadline, Sharon Pocock, founder of Kinder Pocock, was keen to begin chasing clients in April with hopes of finishing in November as to stop a repeat of this year’s rush, noting that “this outcome is the dream.”

Pocock is not alone in wanting to get ahead of the rush. AccountingWEB user Donald MacKenzie reported in a recent thread their delight in “submitting [their] first self assessment return for 21/22”. 

Others in MacKenzie’s thread were also quick off the mark at tackling their tax return requirements, with users surprised at how quickly some of their clients had begun turning over their tax returns. AA veteran ALISK even felt “slow off the mark” in comparison to other contributors, with their first submission finished at 11:32am on day one of the new tax year.

On the other hand, some users had other priorities to keep them occupied, as our recent Twitter poll showed (below). Also, thanks to unforeseen circumstances getting in the way, some users, such as the covid-stricken Johnny Fartpants, missed out on the relative calm before April, and is now more worried about preparing his firm and clients for the looming arrival of MTD as the "new thing to try to overcome".

And of course, in true Any Answers fashion, some users enjoy being gluttons for punishment, with commenter mkowl saying “I am going to boast about filing my last return at 23:59 on the 31st Jan 2023.”

 

No repeats of 2020/21

Recent No Accounting for Taste guest and founder of Soaring Falcon Accountancy, Alex Falcon Huerta said that she too was raring to get on top of tax returns returns, as the stresses of the year’s prior had given her more than enough of a taste of January panic.

“The Covid year made things way more challenging, as everything was really delayed. We found ourselves doing tax returns up until the 31 of January.” Falcon Huerta said, adding that her firm’s complete focus on simply getting their clients through the pandemic was something she didn’t want to repeat.

“Setting up my accountancy practice, I said to myself that I don’t want to ever experience sitting on deadline day frantically doing tax returns again!”

Because of this, Falcon Huerta said that she and her team will waste no time in getting stuck into tax returns this time round, saying that “we usually start our tax return project early so that April, May, June and July becomes our ‘tax return season’.” This laser focus on completing tax returns in turn frees up January as a “marketing month”, she said. 

Speeding up the process

However, while confident in her firm’s ability to kick her returns requirements into touch early, Falcon Huerta was keen to point out that a lot of planning goes into a smooth self assessment return project. 

“We always look to block February and March out in order to properly initiate the project. We focus on getting simpler tasks, like salary and dividends bookkeeping out the way as soon as possible and begin putting our other priorities in order very early in the year.”

She also highlighted the need to communicate with clients early and explain to them the benefits of having their tax returns prepared early.

“We normally send an email to clients saying that we’re planning to prepare tax returns at this time and by getting their tax returns in as soon as possible, if they’ve got payments on account to make in July, we can reduce or remove that payment.”

This focus on “being in regular communication with the client” and emphasising a monetary incentive is what Falcon Huerta believes nudges her clients into beginning tax returns early.

Concluding our chat, Falcon Huerta felt positive that this year will be different to the previous pandemic panics, partially due to the trust she has in her staff to help her get through what will inevitably be a stressful project. 

“If everybody on the team works together and has tax returns for clients allocated to them, it breaks down the project and ensures that everyone remains accountable and overall, reduces our stress.”

While it is still early days in the tax year, the accounting community seems to be starting in earnest; will it last we wonder?

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