By Julia Wedgewood, Insight Lead, Accountants and Bookkeepers
The Self-Assessment period leading up to the deadline of 31 January, can be one of the busiest and most stressful times of the year for accountants. But there are many things you can do to make the beginning of the year less hectic and run more smoothly not only for your accountancy practice but also for yourself.
- Start early: Encouraging clients to start early with their tax returns and keeping good records using accounting software will make your life much easier!Once the 31st January deadline passes, try and get a good system in place for next year by analysing what worked well and what could be improved to make sure you streamline the workload as much as possible.
- Use management software within your practice: Investing in good management software will help you get an overview of the progress of each tax return and to keep on top of workflows and automate other processes. We’re starting to see more software that automates information requests, via secure data exchanges, and chases late information, it will also tell you the status of each job at any time.
- Encourage your clients to use accounting software:Once the bank feeds are connected, the software can produce, in its simplest form, a cash book that is kept up to date and largely auto-populated by pre-set rules. This saves up to 80 per cent of record-keeping time for the business owner as well as making life much easier for you as you’ll have all the information you need at your fingertips without having to trawl through receipts.
- Move to automation: Tax software is now becoming smarter, for example, the growing use of robotic process automation (RPA) for personal tax returns is an especially exciting area for forward-thinking tax teams. It can provide greater control and access, and help with submissions to HMRC. Most software programmes will have workflow, automation tools and links to HMRC, so you should maximise the use of these.
- Use digital marketing:Communications with clients is key to making the period to the end of January less stressful, and more profitable and useful for clients. Ask your marketing department to send out newsletters to clients and to share reminders on social media throughout the year. This will help you make sure that your clients are aware of the deadlines and what they need to do to prepare.
The sheer volume of work and the tendency for clients to send information late means that many accountancy firms still find the period up to 31 January hectic and stressful.But some are now well ahead of the curve, thanks to better processes fuelled by accounting and practice management software.
If you embrace these steps, finalizing the Self-Assessment period should be hassle-free. With finely tuned processes and technology in place, you might even finish it ahead of time, leaving you time to focus on your core business.