You don’t need us to tell you that self assessment season is a busy time. It’s easy to work 10 hour days when clients show up with all their paperwork at the last minute – or don’t give it to you at all.
To help you prepare for the next self assessment season, you need reliable, repeatable and robust tactics to get that client data. And utilising technology can make it all a little bit easier.
So, we’ve spoken to some of our partners and well-seasoned pros who’ve offered some tips to help make next year’s self assessment season a little easier. And with these in place, maybe next year could be a breeze!
Start early and collect accurate data
Give yourself plenty of time to start collecting all the information that you’re going to need – you really can’t start this process too early.
Keith Hall, Partner at Cardens Accountants, says that they start to plan in April for the following January deadline, and Pam Phillips, Partner at de Jong & Phillips, says that they have “weekly team meetings throughout November, December and January to manage and distribute workflow.”
She also says that managers follow up with clients during the year if they’ve received incomplete information.
So make sure you’re collecting relevant records throughout the year (rather than waiting until January) and checking that they’re accurate before filing them away.
Bonus tip: Use Xero HQ Ask to help you get the client information you need, faster. With Ask, you can create queries for your clients on Xero, add sections and questions, send the query and manage client responses all from one place. Learn more about this feature by reading our knowledge article.
For manual clients that aren’t using accounting software, Xero Cashbook is an affordable option that has all the essential features they need to provide you with accurate information in a timely fashion. Find out more about Cashbook by visiting the dedicated page.
Set clear expectations and use incentives
Consistent, transparent and easy-to-understand messages about deadlines and the work involved will make it much easier for clients to understand the importance of giving you the information you need.
One tactic that worked well for Pam was incentivising clients. “We sent an email out to all clients about their tax returns in April to let them know that they must have all information with us by 31 October if they wanted us to complete their tax returns by 31 January.
“We also incentivised clients who get everything into us by 31 August with a 10% discount on their fee for their self assessment return.”
Bonus tip: If the incentive approach isn’t enough to sway some of your clients, it might be worth reminding them of the penalty fee HMRC charge for late filings.
Create a realistic timeline and share it with your clients
Be realistic when creating your schedule and calendar – know what is doable in a day and leave time to unwind. You might want to book in slots when you know that you’ll be more productive, and you might want to put them in your calendar, too.
Once you have your timeline, consider sharing it with your clients so that they have a better understanding of what you’re up to and when. More specifically, they should know when you’ll need things from them and when you’ll be submitting documents on their behalf.
Bonus tip: There are tons of scheduling apps that can give you and your clients an overview of what’s coming up and help keep everyone organised. Take a look at our app marketplace to find the one that’s right for you.
Take care of yourself (and your team)
If you want to maintain momentum and remain productive, you need to take care of yourself. Same rules apply as always – make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating healthy, taking regular breaks and getting fresh air.
Keith also suggests treating the team, “keep a stock of biscuits in the kitchen. It’s usually long nights and weekends in January, so the treats help you get through it. We also celebrate with the team on 31 January – we usually go out for a curry.”
Bonus tip: Self assessment season is always tough but following these steps should help to keep you and your clients on track to meet the deadline – without the added stress.