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What would you do differently? Prizes ease busy season pain

7th Apr 2016
Editor AccountingWEB
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Self assessment stress continues to plague practitioners. The five randomly picked winners of the AccountingWEB/Thomson Reuters spring survey prize draw struggled with the same issues as many of the  other 400 respondents. 

While 34% of respondents to the What would you do differently? survey said this year’s self assessment season was worse than last year, the five prize winners will each have £100 in Amazon vouchers to ease the pain they experienced in January. 

And like 86% of survey participants, the winners said chasing late clients caused them the most headaches during busy season; next year, some of them are already planning new measures to counteract this problem earlier.

Andrew Green, head of tax for Hampden Tax Consultants, said: “The challenges tend to be late delivery of information. With software now things can be turned around much more quickly, so you can be in control. But it is reliant on completing information on a timely basis.”

If it wasn’t for shepherding clients, some of the winners believe accounting software has helped ease some of the annual strain. “IT becoming much more user friendly and intuitive makes it a lot easier, and if you are well prepared and the records are up to date during the year the processes of returns towards the crunch time is less of an issue than it ever has been,” said Green.  

Barry Maguire, a client manager with Staines & Co, fared better this self assessment season. “Last year I’d only just taken on this manager position, so it was hectic building up to January.” This year, Maguire was more acquainted with which clients needed to be chased come December and January.

What would you do differently?

Some of the winners are putting strategies in place to retrieve information from clients earlier for 2015/16 tax returns. Peter Saxton told AccountingWEB how he ramped up his contact procedure by creating a client spreadsheet to ensure he chases clients on a monthly basis.

Saxton will start off with emails before calling them up. “They feel more embarrassed if you phone them up, and then, they’re more likely to send stuff in,” he said.

Saxton has considered photo capture to streamline receipts processing, but the extra £10 clients would incur switching to different software could pose a problem. “Accountants think the money doesn’t matter all that much, but clients tend to think money is very important,” Saxton quipped.

Maguire also plans to send more electronic reminders rather than relying on post. “You get more response via email and it is quicker. But moving more online applies to everything, not just communications.”

Making tax digital

But for the winners, the uncertainty surrounding the HMRC’s Making Tax Digital plans is causing concern about the prospect of four tax filing seasons a year.

Green questioned the government’s roll-out plan: “What’s the point of accelerating a reporting system when there’s no change to payments? It’s not going to make it easier to have that information. You are still going to need reconciliations and advisers are still going to be pulling it together.

“If clients find it difficult getting information to you once a year for a return, realistically, are they going to get it to you quarterly?”

Thomson Reuters £100 prize draw winners

  • Andrew Green
  • Jacqui Taylor
  • Barry Maguire
  • Peter Saxton
  • Kathryn Webb

You can find out more about the WWYDD? survey findings and how you can prepare better for next year and the digital tax future beyond by joining the Thomson Reuters Digita webinar at 11am on Wednesday 13 April. 

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