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A to do list with a pen next to it | AccountingWEB | Lesson learned from Self Assessment season

Putting lessons learned into practice


With self assessment season behind us, it’s as good a time as any to look at what lessons were learned and how the next one might be different. Rebecca Williams and Claire Bartlett reflected on exactly that during AccountingWEB’s latest Any Answers Live, and also looked ahead to the upcoming Festival of Accounting & Bookkeeping on 13–14 March.

15th Feb 2024
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Self assessment season has come and gone, and while many take a well-earned breather, some are looking at how things might be a bit different next time round.

Rebecca Williams, founder of Eccounting Made Easy, and Claire Bartlett, founder of Arden Bookkeeping – both of whom will be speaking at the upcoming Festival of Accounting & Bookkeeping (FAB) at the NEC, Birmingham on 13–14 March – did exactly that during AccountingWEB’s latest Any Answers Live.

A time to reflect

Believing there’s “always more that we can do”, Williams noted that if the firm had had the exact same clients as it did the previous year, it would have been “completely smooth sailing”.

“We took on quite a number of new clients between October and January, because we don’t like turning people away,” she said. “So I think from that aspect, that was a bit of a learning curve, in terms of just requesting that information and getting those clients up to speed. We spent a lot of time hand-holding in that period.

“I think I’d say we’ve got a lot to look at over the next couple of weeks and plan the next year to see where we can make some synergies and improvements on time. But other than that, we made it through – we survived.”

Bartlett agreed that the struggles come with “new clients that come in December and January who say ‘we need help’.” She added: “I know a lot of firms don’t accept new clients during that period but they turn into some of your better clients because they’re really appreciative that you have helped them out with that situation.”

The deadline “wasn’t too much of a stress” for Bartlett, who said: “It’s just about spreading it through the year as much as we can.

“I’ve got to the point in business where I will only chase you so many times for the information; you have to put the onus back on the business owner then if they’re not prioritising their tax returns, I’m not going to lose sleep over it.”

What’s to come

As far as how self assessment season might look next time round, Williams said she was “actually really excited about this because I love working on the business and seeing what things we can do differently and testing out new products or software”.

“So we’re looking at a solution at the moment that is able to send out questionnaires in a different way where clients could answer ‘Do you have property income, yes or no?’ ‘No.’ And then you’re not going to see anything about property on the rest of the questionnaire, which would make it easy for them to complete.

“I’m almost tempted to look at requesting or sending out a pre-questionnaire to some clients who have not responded in time to say, come April, this is the information we’re going to be asking you for.”

Bartlett concurred, saying that it is “always good to give clients as much notice as possible and as much assistance” but when it comes to doing things differently, she added: “Honestly, no. I think I’ve gone through the process of making changes. I’m very clear in my emails and I send emails out in the summer if I haven’t had the information.”

Bartlett called it a “bit of a brain dump”, adding: “I’m like, I’m now giving you all the stress and it’s gone off my mind, and I don’t keep it on my urgent list.”

She also said the change that has made the biggest difference is “working regularly with those clients so I don’t leave it to have a year’s worth of information, because that’s hard to fit in at any point in the year”.

Speaking at FAB

With both Williams and Bartlett speaking at FAB on 13–14 March at the NEC, Birmingham, the pair looked ahead to the event and how it’s going to support their plans.

Williams said she’s “interested to hear, as always, what everybody else is doing – their best practice”.

“Even if the practice goes for the next 40-50 years, I don’t think there’s ever going to be a point where we say, ‘Right, we’ve got all our processes done correctly, and there’s no need to look at anything else.’

“So I think for me, it’s the networking opportunities and listening to the updates, because I tend to learn a little bit differently then than just reading something off paper. So that and listening to people and seeing what things they’ve put in place themselves that I can maybe copy and paste. It’s going to be an excellent event I think.”

Bartlett was much the same, adding that she loves “reconnecting with people that I already know and continuing those relationships”.

“I’m always interested in what new stuff has come out, whether I’m ready to use it now or whether it’s something I can just keep in my mind for the future,” she said. “And then the session talks are just always really beneficial. It’s always something that’s new and up-and-coming.”

Williams will be speaking at three events at FAB:

Bartlett will be speaking at two events at FAB:

Secure your free tickets and find out more about FAB.

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