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Self assessment season: The aftermath

31st Jan 2014
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Like a marathoner taking his last gruelling paces toward the finish line, the end of self assessment season beckons tonight with its 12pm deadline.

Months of chasing clients for records and then approval, prepping staff for the January rush and digging around to resolve complicated technical issues and are drawing to a close.

As of 30 January, more than 9m people out of over 10.9m had filed their returns, according to HMRC, who added that it expects to get a whopping 600,000 returns on deadline day. For some taxpayers, however, there's going to be a two-week reprieve.

We found out yesterday that users of HMRC's free online filing program who have been waiting for their activation codes for the past 10 days, will get until 15 February to file the returns, without incurring a penalty.

It may irk advisers who have worked themselves to the bone to hit the normal deadline for their clients, but now is the time to sit back and review the January self experience while the experiences are still fresh in your mind.

While many practitioners may just want to vent a little steam, learning from experience is of vital importance for next years’ season.

AccountingWEB members have already been providing feedback on how this year went, and are sounding pretty chipper about this year’s tax season. 

Monsoon, who is planning to step away from the front line in March for maternity leave, said it didn’t even feel like January.

“Easiest January ever! If next year goes as well as this year, that will be fine.”

The Accountancy Partnership also blogged that they had cracked the solution to a perfect self assessment season, by putting in an automated reminder system to badger clients until their returns were received.

When asked if tax season was something to be loved or loathed, many practitioners opted for reasons to be cheerful.

But January doesn't run smoothly for everyone. On our Any Answers forum, we received more than 400 self assessment-related questions during January alone. New issues that cropped up this year included the high income child benefit charge and the taxation of interest on payment protection insurance compensation awards.

But clients arriving late in the day or being slow to provide information or approve their returns continue to be perennial self assessment woes, according to members.

The blogger behind the Practitioner’s Diary will be working “right to the wire” this year, but that's due to a client losing a bag full of receipts and outstanding returns.

Andy Partridge was less willing to sacrifice his work-life balance for laggards. “Clients who have been persistently late with their records, or maintain poor records, or whinge about my invoice, or are slow payers will be getting a little letter from me,” said Andy.Partridge.

Ccassociates added that they had everything complete and were awaiting the approval of eight tax returns, four of which were done months ago - in addition to payment for two. The firm plans to implement a 20% increase in fees for clients who bring in records after November.

Last year we conducted a what would you do differently survey in which 44% of accountants agreed with Ccassociates and said they planned to introduce a premium fee to penalise late clients.

But what’s next for accountants?

Well, many members are taking off on a well-earned break and switching their phones off. But if last year's survey is to be believed, it's back to the grindstone for the majority of practitioners who have a lot of admin, VAT work and CPD to catch up with. 

This year we'll be returning to the what would you do differently theme and compiling a follow-up survey and more insights on what you can do next year to improve your productivity and reduce stress in next year's tax season. Stay tuned for further developments and for the time being, let us know by commenting below about the highs and lows of your self assessment season, and where you think you could change things for the better. 

Replies (6)

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By Vaughan Blake1
31st Jan 2014 12:05

Media perception?

The self-assessment deadline was mentioned on the Simon Mayo show last night.  The piece went along the lines of, 'it's the end of January so everyone's doing their tax returns'.  The implication being that this is simply the way it should be!  Made me more than a little cross. 

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By Rachael White
31st Jan 2014 12:13

Good point!

That's a very good point. 

This tweet I read from comedian Al Murray this morning made me think of the above. 


— Al Murray (@ajhmurray) January 31, 2014

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
31st Jan 2014 12:56


Good call on Al's accountant. nearly every call or email I have had today was answered by "what did my letter to you say?"

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By stepurhan
31st Jan 2014 13:05

Legal extension

Is it actually legal to give a filing extension to only a fraction of taxpayers? Anyone waiting for an authorisation code now is as guilty of taking the best part of 10 months to deal with their return as any taxpayer with an accountant who turns up at their offices tomorrow. Is there any basis for this discrimination, or are HMRC looking at a load of filing appeals for any penalties levied before 15 Feb?

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By daveforbes
31st Jan 2014 14:06

I assume it applies to anyone awaiting a userid and password whether or not they are using the HMRC website.

I think this has always happened in the past, if you were waiting on a userid and password or the activation pin they would give you an extra 14 days for it to arrive.


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By SimonP
31st Jan 2014 22:18

HMRC system malfunction - could not pay online

Utterly disgraceful!

After spending 45 minutes watching little circles go round and round and being continually told of internal server errors which were being brought to the attention of the (Santander?) administrator, I finally gave up and paid my SA tax via my internet bank which took all of 60 seconds.


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