There’s nothing like a big, scary deadline to focus the mind and in January 2021, accountants have two to contend with.
First, on 1 January, the Brexit transition period will end and the UK will leave the EU – formally and finally.
Amid the ongoing confusion of COVID-19, it’s been all too easy to forget about this equally pressing issue for business. Now, many accountants find themselves scrambling to get the latest information from the Government and interpret it for anxious clients with less than a month to go.
And Christmas in the way.
And self-assessment not far behind.
Yes, that’s right: despite COVID-19 doing its level best to make every milestone and deadline meaningless, HMRC has stuck to its guns on self-assessment and still expects income tax returns before midnight on 31 January.
That’s why this year, more than most, it’s important to set a countdown timer ticking and get your clients taking this seriously. The sooner they get their financial information, the sooner you can get their returns done, so they – and HMRC – can focus on coping with Brexit.
With that in mind, here’s our five-point plan for making an unusual tax season as straightforward as it can be.
1. Communication is the key
You need to talk to your clients, remind them of the deadlines and keep nudging them as often as possible. Not all comms channels are created equal, though.
If you can, call them. Making that human connection, letting them hear your voice, and getting a verbal commitment is the best way to get them to act.
Failing that, texting is the next best thing – still personal, and more likely to cut through than email.
2. Get flexible with resources
Temporarily expand your team – and don’t just rely on agencies.
This year, unfortunately, LinkedIn is full of qualified accountants and bookkeepers looking for immediate work. Put out a message letting them know that you’re in need of short-term assistance. You’ll be helping them out, and yourself.
Also consider outsourcing, which has become much slicker and more accessible since the advent of easy video-conferencing and cloud accounting software.
3. Don’t wait, go electronic now
A little time invested now in setting up automation, online data capture and instructional content could free up days down the line.
For example, automated email and SMS reminders can keep clients on track without you having to lift a finger.
On-demand webinars and explainer videos are also a great way to save time, allowing clients to self-serve rather than you explaining the same things over and again.
4. Get collaborative
One of the biggest causes of delays in the tax return process is the back-and-forth between client and accountant.
You message them, they reply the next day, you reply the day after that… Before you know it, it’s taken a week to get a simple bit of information.
These days, it’s easier than ever to collaborate in real time, even if you’re miles apart. Make use of two-way, real-time document sharing and you can get things sorted and signed off in minutes.
5. Look after yourself
It’s easy to get into bunker mentality during tax season – early mornings, late nights and lost weekends.
We know it’s easier said than done but do try to take time out. Problems often solve themselves with a walk round the block or a few minutes of whatever activity you find meditative.
And remember, your clients’ lack of organisation isn’t, ultimately, your emergency.
Capium’s award-winning cloud practice software allows you to capture, connect and collaborate for less than £1.15 per client, per month. Can your software stack do that? Book your free demo today!