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Relax: Self assessment season is nearly over

30th Jan 2017
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You need to stretch, unchain yourself from your desk, take a deep breath - and don't even think about tax returns. Self assessment has almost come to an end for another year. It's time to shake off the stress and relax. Here's how you can overcome your tax season hangover.

And breathe. You’ve spent the last few months chasing errant clients and, no doubt, working on a limited amount of sleep. But there’s some good news: It’s almost over. 

Accountants are waking up to a self assessment hangover: A sore head and claiming "never again". Glance over AccountingWEB this month and you’ll find accountants suffering from this self assessment strain. AccountingWEB blogger FirstTab, for instance, wished away January so he could reclaim his inner peace: “January is a month, where my stress level, food consumption, and weight have gone one way, and that is NOT down.”   

Meanwhile, AccountingWEB members have reported last minute client chasing as being responsible for spiking stress levels. With the deadline looming, Kent Accountant had two late stragglers still outstanding. While he said "enough is enough", a fellow member admitted: "Unfortunately I'm one of those idiots that will give up his personal life to get the work done."

Chill out

But those long hours working weekends and evenings are over. As the SA season deadline reaches its final countdown, you should notice some space emerging from the January grind.

Recently, TaxCalc helped accountants recharge and re-energise in a guide aimed at keeping accountants on top of their self assessment game. In the guide, lifestyle expert Rachel McGuinness swears by four principles: Eat smart, sleep well, move more and chill out.

To avoid a post-self assessment burnout, McGuinness recommended having something to look forward to. It’s easy to continue on self assessment treadmill. That's why it’s important to have a light at the end of the tunnel. Celebrate your eased up workload with a treat. Perhaps, you could book something in February with the family or your friends.

Be mindful

But you don’t have to escape your office to find peace. You can find it from within. This is where meditation or mindfulness can bring some harmony back to your work life. Rather than clinging on to memories of those unruly clients or long hours, mindfulness encourages you to accept these issues.

Simply breathe in. And breathe out. Your busy thoughts may try to distract you. Don’t worry if this happens, just watch these thoughts, and bring your attention back to your breathing.

Even drinking a much-earned mug of tea can provide focus to the present moment. What are you doing? Immerse yourself totally in it. For example:

  • Listen to the water boiling in the kettle
  • Feel the weight of the mug
  • Take a sip (don’t just chug) and consciously swallow
  • Be aware of the taste

Apps like headspace and calm can guide you. It takes as a little as 10 minutes to unwind, so it’s worth doing – especially after the last month.  

Stay organised

Alternatively, you may slump into procrastination. You could be burnt out after a busy month. But keep your spirits up. TaxCalc’s stay organised guide, along with tips to consider for next year’s busy season, outlines the art of overcoming that post-self assessment slump.

One method, McGuinness recommended, is the Pomodoro technique. For the initiated, this time management method separates your working day in 25 minute bursts. And it all adds up. You can tackle your to-do list in these short sessions, planning ahead on what the amount of time each task requires.

Take a five minute break once you’ve completed a 25 minute session, and a longer break after you’ve completed four 25 minute stints. This approach should help those who are drained regain their mojo and attack each item on their to-do list. 

You can download TaxCalc’s ‘stay organised’ guide here and their ‘four small changes, one big difference’ wellbeing guide here.

How was self assessment season for you? How have you relaxed after the tax return onslaught? Share your tips below.

Replies (14)

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By mikefleming3028
30th Jan 2017 17:24

Fast forward to 6th April 2018 and we are now having to start the process of completing a years worth of 2017/18 SA returns for submission on or before the 31sy Jan 2019 and at the same time we are now live with MTD and quarterly accounting, no amount of :-
•Listening to the water boiling in the kettle
•Feeling the weight of the mug
•Take a sip (don’t just chug) and consciously swallow
•Be aware of the taste
will serve to alleviate what I predict will be levels of stress that can only be measured by reference to the Richter Scale.
I feel several large measures of a decent Single Malt would do more good.

Thanks (10)
Replying to mikefleming3028:
By Vaughan Blake1
31st Jan 2017 08:41

Yep, the light at the end of the tunnel is the MTD express coming!

Thanks (6)
Man of Kent
By Kent accountant
31st Jan 2017 09:35

Have to say this has been the calmest January for me so far.

February is never a month to relax though - with MTD on the horizon now is the time to start planning and getting systems in place to deal with it.

Personally I see MTD as a huge opportunity to grow.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Kent accountant:
By Tim Vane
31st Jan 2017 10:16

Kent accountant wrote:

Personally I see MTD as a huge opportunity to grow.

I couldn't agree more. Confused punters coming out of the woodwork everywhere and seeking advice.

It seems to me they will come out into the light and meet two types of accountant.

Some will be the type that constantly whines about what a burden MTD is and how HMRC have taken another step down the stairway of doom.

Other accountants will be there with a positive attitude and assurances that all will be well, offering plenty of help to guide them through the transition.

Which ones will catch the new fish, I wonder?

Thanks (0)
Replying to Tim Vane:
By User deleted
31st Jan 2017 11:26

Ever the optimist, most new events are "opportunities". A chance to reflect and make change. Move with the times.

I'd be even more optimistic if I had the confidence that HMRC are capable of developing and administering making tax digital. This Government agency has made a complete debacle of the crossover of Class 2 NIC to self-assessment and, even at this late stage in the calendar, they seem to cling on to the wreckage.

This department is long overdue a root and branch reform and a radical return to common sense.

Thanks (5)
By Ian McTernan CTA
31st Jan 2017 10:50

And the third type of accountant, who will cheerfully take on all that extra work without stopping to consider how much extra time MTD will take and fail to recover their costs whilst giving existing clients terrible service.

Here's the way to 'survive' January. Stop worrying about clients being late. You have reminded them several times. If they leave it until the last minute, it's their problem not yours- they are the ones that end up with the fines.

Thanks (3)
By raybackler
31st Jan 2017 11:09

I'm off to Bath on Friday for a long weekend!

Thanks (1)
Replying to raybackler:
31st Jan 2017 12:00

raybackler wrote:

I'm off to Bath on Friday for a long weekend!

And I am off to my bolt hole in France with my wife next monday following a night of Superbowl. My fanactical son with his wife two kids and his best mate (All Patriots fans) will be decending on us to watch the whole carnival on my 55" TV. Just finished my last client !!!!!
Thanks (1)
Replying to raybackler:
paddle steamer
31st Jan 2017 12:22

raybackler wrote:

I'm off to Bath on Friday for a long weekend!

Catch with that is your skin will be really wrinkly by Monday.

Thanks (0)
By AndrewV12
31st Jan 2017 11:47

Stepping back from it, the main problems for the January self assessment madness

Poor clients
Poor planning by partners, far to ambitious.

Thanks (0)
31st Jan 2017 12:04

Just in case anyone missed it I noticed that the HMRC Beta was taken down a few days ago and I was able to login to my old trusty agents area without the convoluted path that Beta provides. So methinks what hope MTD if their Beta system which has been trialling for at least 2 years is put on the back burner when the chips are down?

Thanks (0)
paddle steamer
31st Jan 2017 12:20


In summary your message has already been lyrically expressed by a large blue/grey bear,

"So just try and relax, yeah cool it
Fall apart in my backyard
'Cause let me tell you something little britches
If you act like that bee acts, uh uh
You're working too hard

And don't spend your time lookin' around
For something you want that can't be found
When you find out you can live without it
And go along not thinkin' about it
I'll tell you something true

The bare necessities of life will come to you"

Thanks (0)
paddle steamer
31st Jan 2017 12:27


Totally of topic, where is the picture?

It looks like Scotland but where?

If it is I can say the person is likely doing the right thing just sitting, weather looks far too calm and bright for good brown trout fishing so probably just as well to sit under the tree and enjoy the view rather than flogging the water to death.

(Now I find out it is Wales)

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By SteveHa
31st Jan 2017 15:15

I actually still have three that haven't even gone to the clients yest (all family members, and Returns prepared a month ago) whilst my boss was discussing with them. I have the client phoning shortly when hopefully I can put all three to bed, then that's me done for the rest of the week.

EDIT: Just waiting sign off on one, then done.

Thanks (0)