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Self assessment season

Self assessment season suffers under Covid pressure


With SA season on the horizon, accountants are having to juggle the annual tax return routine with the treadmill of the Covid workload.

10th Dec 2020
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Self assessment season is upon us. With many in the profession experiencing burnout from stress and overwhelming amounts of work, how can accountants pick themselves up and turn their practice around in time for January?

“Anyone else starting to get twitchy?” asked AccountingWEB reader jonibarnes. “It's normally last minute to get a lot of the returns filed for me. This year and I'm sure a lot of you are the same we are behind with our workload due to Covid - mainly furlough related work taking up a lot of time.”

Some readers have actually thrived from the amount of time the pandemic has brought their clients; AWEB reader gainsborough found that “clients were bored at home this year and sent in stuff much earlier.”

“Happily I may actually be able to afford Christmas this year,” agreed bettybobbymeggie.

However, a lot of accounting professionals are overwhelmed with the SA workload; one reader even called to shift the filing date of self assessment to March in a bid to claim back their Christmas: “This is our one chance to regain our Christmas which we have not had for years,” said mikeyban. “Some good must come out of this strange year!”

However hard you’re feeling the stress of SA season, it’s never too late to switch up your strategy. And what better time of year to make some new resolutions? Assessing your situation and planning ahead will allow you to calm your mindset and bring a sense of ease into your work.

Glenn Martin, Owner and MD of Avery Martin (and all-round AWEB legend), will be appearing alongside Brendan Woods, VP of AutoEntry, and Charlotte Ing, Manager of Sagars Chartered Accountants & Business Advisers, in next Tuesday’s AccountingWEB Live Webinar to discuss his self assessment workout plan. 

There are two ways of planning for the tax season, according to Martin: “You either attack it early, put loads of resources into it and try to get finished by the end of October, or you just accept that tax season is going to happen and just do all your tax returns in December and January.”

Having tried both ways over the years, Martin can say from experience that each plan of action has its merits. 

“If all your tax work’s compressed into those two months,” Martin said of the latter approach, “it just means that the other ten months of the year you can do other things.”

On the other hand, getting everything done early means having everything done and dusted without the pressure of deadlines hanging over you.

Going with this slow and steady method, Martin and his team feel prepared as they ever do at this time of year, especially given the unforeseen circumstances.

Martin even explained that he feels his practice is experiencing a usual year’s workload: “This year we’re probably in about the same position as last year. We did manage to get some tax returns done early in the first lockdown, before getting really busy doing a lot of business reports.”

With January usually being such an intense time for accountants, Martin strongly advises going for the early approach when possible.

“You become quite efficient at it,” he explained. “If you’ve got ten tax returns on your desk, you can actually do them quite easily, whereas if you’re just doing one every now and again you’re not as focused.”

With such an increased workload over the course of this year, it’s inevitable that accountants have been struggling to stay afloat. Martin reported a 30-40% increase in workload after the pandemic began earlier this year.

“We engage with [clients] all year round, so we’re doing a lot of extras now that we wouldn’t normally do,” said Martin. “It just means that if you have left all your tax returns till December and January, it’s hard to fit it all in – you might not have the capacity.”

With so much to think about, Martin advised making a decision on when your rule-off date for clients submitting their information is: “Some accountants do tolerate things coming in a week before – we’ve done it in the past but we just don’t do that anymore.”

From now onwards his team are not taking on anymore work, having specified this to clients earlier on in the year.

Join Glenn Martin (formally known as 'Glennzy') on Tuesday 15 December at 2pm to hear our panel of practicing experts reveal the tools that have taken the stress out of their busy seasons and the secret sauce behind their annual routines.