We’re just finishing off the last few self assessment tax returns for clients before the impending 31 January deadline. Those generous souls at HMRC give the taxpayer just under 10 months after the end of the tax year to submit their tax returns to avoid a £100 filing penalty. But just as Christmas comes around on the same day each year, the 31st January seems to creep up on a lot of people. It also provides us accountants with our own version of cat & mouse in trying to extract vital tax information from clients in order for this deadline to be reached.
After to speaking to many other practicing accountants I have come to the conclusion that there are three types of clients when it come to tax returns. With tongue firmly in cheek these are…..
(1) The early risers
These folk are literally banging down the door on the 6th April asking for their tax checklist so they can get their information in nice and early. This type of client wants to go on their summer holidays safe in the knowledge that the return is filed and they have the tax money set aside.
(2) The middle distance runner
Their plan is to be a little bit quicker than last year in getting the records together and submitting the information. They realise that tax season for an accountant is a marathon, not a sprint. So, aim for the middle ground (September/October) knowing that there’s plenty of time available to have the return prepared before the Christmas shut down commences.
They thank you for filing the last years return on the 30th January and then tell you that “next year will be different” (sometimes in capital letters). They receive the posted checklist from us in May and file it (or perhaps put it in the recycling). Email reminders are sent in the summer with a guaranteed “out of office- I’m on my holidays” response. Then we start an email chain of accountant requests and “I’m getting round to it” responses. The client discovers in early January that they need to write to three different banks to get interest statements and a touch of panic sets in. Accountant receives information on 29th January, burns some midnight oil, rabbits out of hats etc, and hey presto – the tax return is ready for the client to sign on the 30th January. Client says “Thanks for turning that around so quickly. Next year will definitely be…..”
Accountant spends February recovering and then the tax party is almost ready to start again…..