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Self assessment: The fall out

1st Feb 2010
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Record numbers filed their tax returns online this year, but how was it for you? As another deadline passes, accountants reflect on their progress.

Almost 6.5 million taxpayers filed their self assessment returns online ahead of Sunday’s deadline, an increase of nearly 12% on last year’s number (5.8 million).

It’s being hailed as a success by HMRC, so what was the community’s experience of this year’s process? We’ve collected together some views from across the AccountingWEB community and the Twittersphere. Feel free to discuss your own experiences below.

Close to the wire submissions
“We specialise in returns for unrepresented taxpayers and our helpdesk has been open from around 8am – 10pm each day. On Saturday 30 January our last call was at 11.45pm – a busy clergyman who needed to get clear before Sunday! During Sunday we were mostly helping those with difficulty filing by submitting returns via the company – usually as a last resort to those who had got themselves in a pickle.

“On deadline day, I thought I had filed our last return at 15 seconds to midnight, but my co-director trumped me with a submission at one 23:59!” said Rebecca Benneyworth, tax editor of and co-director of Quality Management Software Limited (who posted the following picture to prove it!).

Late clients
While submitting on time didn’t appear to be a problem for the majority, there were a few accountants with clients who were unable to supply the relevant information on time. 

One thread on our Any Answers forum focussed on those submitting provisional returns, with one accountant saying they had submitted 18 provisionals in one day. Most members agreed this was too many and that the accountant in question should kick their client into touch.

“Get rid of clients like this and concentrate on clients that value what you do. Get your clients organised and work flow sorted and you will have a much nicer (and profitable) practice in which to work”, commented one poster.
“We’d normally let them go over the deadline if they can’t be bothered, despite the reminders from us and HMRC to pull their fingers out. 18? Phew – I’d get the whip out next year or ‘clean up’ the client list””, added another.

The view from the Twittersphere
Leading up to the dreaded deadline, there was plenty of activity in the Twittersphere*, with stressed accountants voicing their woes and triumphs on the micro-blogging site.

“Just filing those last remaining few tax returns online. The best January we have ever had in terms of lowest levels of overtime and stress”, posted Simon Denton (@Milsted Langdon), a chartered tax adviser and accountant based in Taunton on Friday.

“Sunday, 4:30pm - just finishing the last of the tax returns for submission to HMRC before the deadline at midnight tonight”, posted Surrey based accountants James McBrearty (@taxhelpukcom).

Shortly afterwards at 5pm on Sunday, Martin Sparrow (a.k.a. @suretax) “Well, that's the last one gone. End of tax returns for another year. Hurrah!!!!!!!!! Must plan better for next year (he says again)!”

What were your experiences of this year’s deadline? Did you manage to submit all your returns on time? Share your self assessment stories below.

*With thanks to AccountingWEB contributing practice editor Mark Lee, for collating a handy selection of tax filing tweets from this weekend.


Replies (2)

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By Paul Scholes
06th Feb 2010 23:11

It's the deadline stupid!

Bit perplexed that in 1300 reads nobody has posted a comment.  I hate blank space so here goes.

Second year for us that we only had about a dozen returns & Ltd Co accounts to do in December/January.  I don't know if we are unusual but as most of our business clients are Ltd Cos with 31 March year ends, November - January has been doubly nasty for us over the years.  After a particulary bad December/January in 2008 I said enough was enough and made several changes to procedures & billing all designed to encourage clients to bring in their information earlier rather than later.

It is clear that most clients want to beat the 31 January deadline but why?  I'd always believed that it was the £100 fine or the increased risk of enquiry but it's not, according to a client with a degree in psychology, it's the simple fact someone has given them a deadline.

In past years we said that we could not guarantee having the work done in time if clients did not give us all we needed by 31 October, so what happened, we received a huge chunk of information in the last few days of October, they did all they could to beat the new deadline.  Trouble is of course that by rushing to do so a significant number only managed 80-90% of what we needed meaning we then had a panic November checking and chasing and estimating CT tax bills, leaving, yet again, December & January to do bulk of returns & accounts.

All of the above has become clear since we changed things, ie I didn't realise it at the time but, by luck our new procedures set a deadline of 3 months after the year end (ie 5 July or 30 June).  Even though I tested my plans with a sample of clients I sat back and waited for the howls of anguish when I imposed the new deadline in April 2008 on all of them, but there was nothing, instead I got an exact replica of the previous year only in the last week of June ie we got over 70% of checklists & accounting info in by the end of June rather than the end of October.

The other threats & encouragements made little difference it was simply the deadline they were interested in.  What was gratifying was how many of the previous winter visitors expressed delight at not having to worry about it all over Summer & Autumn.

Would be interested to know whether others have tried this but two years down the line it's worked wonders for us and meant I do my Christmas shopping during daylight hours!

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By Huw Williams
08th Feb 2010 15:59

Moving the deadlines

Thanks for your comment about deadlines - it looks like something worth trying!

We did miss a few returns this year.  I decided dropping the books in on 30 January was just too late!  Especially as we had had a conversation last year about him doing the return online himself!

I did think about an estimated return but there was not enough time to put the figures together and, anyway, I am not sure that would avoid a penalty as there was no good reason for using estimated figures (such as a difficult valuation issue).

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