Licking their wounds after another stressful self assessment season, the AccountingWEB readers recounted their nightmarish deadline days on Any Answers and vowed that things would be different this time next year.
AccountingWEB member Mr Hankey was the first to declare this year’s January as “the worst one” ever.
It culminated the night before deadline day with the frazzled reader driving through the snow at 10pm for a year-end meeting at a client’s house. The client didn’t show much appreciation -- quite the opposite, in fact. The client felt they had done Mr Hankey a favour by keeping their bookkeeping to “a high standard” because this meant the accountant’s job was “easy and straightforward”.
Without a hint of irony, the client said: “I bet you must have some other clients who were a real nightmare.” Grumbling at the fact the client waited until mid-January to provide their records despite asking for them last September, Mr Hankey huffed: “They actually genuinely thought of themselves as one of my better clients, the cheek of it!”
Similar deadline day nightmares reverberated around the AccountingWEB community. Accounts12 spent the final week working “non-stop”. They filed their final return at 10pm on 31 January – much later than their usual 4pm finish time.
Fingers this year were pointed at normally prompt clients moving to the last-minute dark side. Readers Busacrun, Lesley Barnes and Glenn Martin were all left exasperated by clients who “seemingly lost the ability to provide complete records”.
For Neanderthal, their “hell of a day” spent chasing people for late SA adjustments and an unbelievable amount of filing demonstrates that “one cannot have control no matter how well organised”.
And while SteLacca commented that he'd had worse self assessment seasons, the effects of phone chasing approvals and last-minute amendments still took its toll. On deadline evening, he enjoyed an uninterrupted night’s sleep for the first time in a week.
But spare a thought for Penelope Pitstop. Their January started with HMRC issuing premature SA penalties and ended with them preparing an Excel spreadsheet entitled “worst clients”.
While repeated burning of the midnight oil may have taken its toll on AccountingWEB's members, it was at least good news for HMRC. The tax authority reported that a record high 93.68% of tax returns were filed before the midnight deadline. More than 700,000 taxpayers submitted on deadline day, with the peak hour being between 4pm to 5pm, when 60,000 filed their returns. This left some 700,000 taxpayers who missed the deadline.
Not all doom and gloom
But not every accountant suffered a nightmarish January. Ireallyshouldknowthisbut’s plan to get the bulk filed before Christmas came to fruition, meaning January was only their third busiest month.
Others like Daniel_ shaved a modicum of stress from their tax season through e-signatures. “Quick and easy approval of the returns made up for not sending out enough reminders to the usual culprits earlier in the year,” the member gushed.
Meanwhile, Meadowsaw227 gloated that it was their “easiest year by far”. With their last return filed two weeks before the deadline, the member had plenty of times to “dear John” their slow or bad clients.
What would you do differently?
And here lies the final stage of an accountant’s self assessment season. There’s a stereotype that as soon as the final tax return is filed, accountants head off to the ski slopes. But even the February chalet-dwellers use the days and weeks after to plan for next year’s busy season.
AccountingWEB member Busacrun has already consigned clients to the dump list. While Penelope Pitstop started February “sick to [their] back teeth of the same culprits every year” that they’ve vowed to attack them first in April for change.
It’s through reflecting on the previous year’s self assessment season that helped AccountingWEB veteran Marks ease this year’s stress. He chased clients monthly from September onwards (a tactic that he will continue this year but from April onwards), and he also brought on a fourth member of staff.
Goodbye self assessment
Amongst those plotting what they’d differently next year, longtime AccountingWEB reader DJKL bid farewell to the annual busy season. At the end of January DJKL filed his final ever tax return as a practice. He’s bowing out before Making Tax Digital arrives. By April all his VAT work will be as an employee.
DJKL will hardly shed a single tear at the thought of no more late nights or client chasing. Rather than implementing late client-penalty measures, DJKL will empty his home study and store away former client records. As for his final self assessment season, he took it in his stride: “The earth didn’t move,” he said.
Despite a fraught chase with a usually prompt partnership, DJKL ended his busy season forever on a positive note: “Yet again, all lodged, and nobody left behind.”
Was your January the 'worst one ever'? Have you already decided what you will do differently next year? Or have you decided to hang up your tax return hat, too?
About Richard Hattersley
Richard is AccountingWEB's Practice Editor. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.