How to Improve Your Tax Return Season
It’s that time of year again.
That time of year when suddenly you realise that the 31st of January is fast approaching, you somehow need to deal with Christmas, and if you’re lucky, getting some time off to spend with your family and loved one.
You realise that, despite the letters you sent out in April to remind your clients that their tax returns can now be filed at any time, no one has sent you any information.
Well, it’s only the beginning of October, there’s still time right? But you know, deep down, that even when you send out the second letter, no one is going to respond and your January is going to be the same nightmare after Christmas it’s always been.
Well, it’s too late to get them in earlier than October by now, but how can we prevent this happening next year?
And, more importantly, how can we make sure that at the very least, we are earning reasonable money from the tax returns we are doing?
Tax returns were always my least favourite service – too many in too short a time for too little money, clients are never grateful for this service as it usually results in them having to pay tax! Which is their least favourite activity!
You know you are going to have to have at least 20 conversations about payments on account, patiently explaining, as you do every year, what these are and why they need to be paid.
There will be those emails that you get after you have sent the tax return for approval where your client informs you (probably around the 29th of January, about 10pm) that they ‘forgot’ to let you know about the property portfolio they inherited earlier in the year and what do you need for the 6 rented properties they have owned since June when probate came through.
Or whatever it is that has changed and they didn’t think would be relevant…
It doesn’t have to be like this! And I wish I had known that for the first 11 years of running my business!
Once again, I will reiterate the phrase that I wish every bookkeeper and accountant would learn as part of their training. ‘You deserve to be fairly remunerated for the valuable work that you do’. The fact that the client does not like paying for their tax returns, or gets upset about the amount of tax they have to pay is irrelevant to how much you should be able to charge for this very valuable service.
If a tax return is late, the fines are huge, if a payment is late, the penalties soon escalate, if a tax return is incorrect, or information is missed, the results of an investigation in time in accountancy fees, and penalties if the mistake is considered deliberate, can add up to a massive amount!
What is preventing the client from suffering all these additional penalties, costs and stress that these problems can cause?
You and your dedication, your knowledge, your refusal to allow that return to be late (even though your client brings it in at lunchtime on the 31st of January), your technical ability, your investment in software, the time you have taken to get to know your client so that you can tell them what is relevant, be aware of the things that they have missed and make sure you explain everything in a way they understand!
A few small changes to the way you price tax returns, and the way you communicate the value of the service, along with a better process and some client education (and a carrot and stick technique!), will change the way you look at this service forever.
Tax returns range from 10 minute simple P60 entering activities to extremely complicated returns involving capital gains, rental income, foreign dividends and income, sole trade accounts etc. And must be priced accordingly!
Even the 10 minute simple P60 exercise will take you around 2-3 hours when you include the correspondence, chasing, checking of the coding notices, and filing of the return, the email you have to send explaining why they have tax to pay even though they are on PAYE, not to mention the considerations you now have to give to GDPR and how you share that return with them to ensure that you are compliant and not sending personal information via email.
So many accountants and bookkeepers Christmas’s and January’s are ruined by tax returns and it’s time that this changed!
Join me for two live webinars that I am delivering for SmartVault to help you get paid better fees for completing the tax returns, and to help you get the information from your clients in earlier, be confident in your process for completing them and getting the information to and from your client. And, perhaps, even have your client say thank you for the hard work you put in!