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Self assessment client management challenge – how to get ahead for 2022

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The busy season has arrived and once again firms will have their workflows and plans tested by uncooperative clients. In association with BTCSoftware,  Zoe Whitman explores ways practitioners can overcome the client management challenge.

11th Oct 2021
6 Figure Bookkeeper
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In association with
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With the requirements for MTD ITSA delayed, but still firmly on the horizon, savvy practices will also be looking to overhaul their workflow and onboarding ahead of 2024.

If you haven’t yet recovered from January 2021, you’ll be wondering what you can do differently this year to whip your clients into action and achieve a long-lasting impact beyond 31 January. 

Rob Ellis, CEO of BTCSoftware, understands the stresses and strains facing accountants: “The last two decades of creating software have taught us a lot about how accountants cope with the pressures of self assessment season but we’re hearing more and more from our customers that the run-up to January is just as stressful.”

Spread the workload

There’s a simple place to start. Check-in on what percentage of your tax returns for the year have already been completed. If you’re using a practice management tool, this will be simple to see at a glance. The rest of your tax returns can then be spread across the remainder of the months before the SA deadline to avoid your practice being overwhelmed in January. 

Set monthly percentage targets for your team to keep on track. 

Take a structured approach to data gathering

When you’re already busy with other client work, you might fall into the trap of completing tax returns only for the clients who’ve delivered their paperwork, but if you want to avoid the peaks which naturally occur at this time of year, you’ll need to be proactive and structured in your approach to data gathering. 

Give somebody in your team the task of working through your client database. Make them the 'self assessment champion', responsible for requesting data for a set percentage of clients each month. This person might send an email and then follow up on the phone and be guided by a checklist to ensure the right documentation is requested in time. 

This could be as simple as working through your database alphabetically, but it will ensure you are in control and not at the mercy of your clients’ timescales. 

As Ellis said: “When I talk with BTCSoftware customers they often mention that early preparation and a methodical approach are the most powerful tools to manage their stress leading up to busy season. As a software developer, we are determined to provide the technology that will make that preparation simpler so they can have a less stressful transition into digital tax in 2024.” 

Chase early and often 

Despite what we as accountants might like to think, getting their tax returns completed before the deadline is not usually our clients’ priority. It tends to only become a priority once the client sees it as urgent - either because it’s already January, or perhaps because they’re remortgaging or in need of a loan. As we get closer to 31 January, there are also those clients who are suddenly afraid they haven’t saved enough for their tax bill who will want their tax return to be done today. 

If we chase early and often, we can be in control and be more likely to avoid client-imposed deadlines. An effective way to help our clients sense the urgency that we do is to play to their pain points. Talk to your clients regularly and tell them how doing their tax return now will help them later in the year.

Communicate to manage client expectations

From a client’s perspective, there’s nothing worse than delivering the paperwork your accountant has asked for and hearing nothing for months. Many clients have a lot of anxiety about their tax bills, and looking after all clients carefully will create valuable goodwill.

From the date you onboard a new client, make sure the expectations are firmly laid out for both sides: What is the client expected to provide and by when? And if they do that, what can they expect from you in return? Once you have access to their data when will you do their tax return? When should they expect to hear from you? 

Having strong foundations like this also allows you the space to be firm about what happens if your client misses the deadlines you have set for them. Manage this part of the process well and you won’t have clients providing their data on 31 January expecting their tax return to be turned around on the same day. 

The role of technology

Much of the self assessment process can be automated and managed with software. Even the smallest firms should consider how this can help them improve their workflows. 

Software can be used to communicate with your clients, this can be as simple as sending bulk emails to your client list, whereas on an individual level, it can allow you to send automatic notifications when certain points in a workflow are reached. Software can also give you a secure place to share and save files. 

Importantly, thinking about managing the process and those statistics, software is helpful for tracking your end to end process, measuring your progress and keeping your team on track. If you’ve been using a spreadsheet until now to manage your firm’s self assessments, you’ve been missing out.

Now is the time to get your firm organised ahead of January 2022 and practice management software can play a large part in that. Be proactive with your clients, communicate with them about how ultimately, their cooperation will be best for them and be smart in your firm. Use a tool that will streamline your workflows, use automation and get your team on board and focused on why setting goals and tracking their progress will be best for you when it comes to next January. 

To discover BTCSoftware's full range of software for accountants, get in touch with the Sales team to find out more, book a demo or request a trial.

If you want to speak to someone in person, BTCSoftware will be exhibiting at AccountingWEB Live Expo on 1-2 December at the Coventry Building Society Arena -  Register for your free ticket  and pay a visit to stand C12. Register here:

Register for AccountingWEB Live Expo - book your free ticket

 

Replies (3)

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By Hugo Fair
11th Oct 2021 18:52

I'm sorry but, although I know it says this article is written "in association with BTC Software" (i.e. is just paid for advertising), there is nothing but truisms throughout it - so not helpful.
It's also a massive missed opportunity in that the delay to MTD for ITSA means this is the year (well more like 6 months) in which to evict all preconceptions over your existing procedures, priorities and schedules ... and start to design new ones (that may shock you and/or your clients).
Otherwise the advice is akin to suggesting you re-sharpen your quills ahead of 'going digital'!

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Replying to Hugo Fair:
Jake Smith, AccountingWEB
By Jake Smith
12th Oct 2021 10:48

Hi there Hugo, if you felt the article wasn’t useful to you that’s fine, but I believe it’s worth addressing a few of your points from an editorial point of view. Firstly, the article is not simply advertising. It was commissioned on behalf of BTCSoftware and written by an expert independent practitioner with years of successful experience in the industry. We believe it’s a useful contribution and a helpful reminder of the need to look at processes and plans that could be of benefit to many of our readers.

The vendors that work with AccountingWEB on sponsored content have a great deal of expertise and experience to share themselves. Beyond commercial ambition, they are driven by the desire to support and contribute to debate as well as improving the industry we all work in. There is already a great deal of content on the site around the need for transformation driven by the upcoming MTD changes, so a piece that focuses on the immediate need for managing the imminent self assessment season is not a massive missed opportunity.

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Replying to Jake Smith:
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By Hugo Fair
12th Oct 2021 13:48

Well, each to his (or her) own ... free speech and all that.

But I still think that anyone who invests (time or money) on the very short-term need to manage "the imminent self assessment season" has:
a) left it too late, but more importantly ...
b) could better use that effort to review (and re-design from the ground up) all their processes & priorities in the light of MTD - which is still charging towards us and will have a seismic impact on those self-same business procedures.

Hence my comment about quill sharpening ... a fun but rather pointless task (no pun intended)!

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