As we get into the deepest darkest throes of self-assessment season, we know you don’t want to read another blog that tells you why and how you could be doing it all totally differently with software.
Yes, software makes you more efficient, and yes, it can dramatically improve your client relationships and alleviate stress – but you already know all that (and if you don’t, bookmark our page to read all about it when things have calmed down).
So, instead of banging the ‘software makes it better’ drum too hard while you’re at your busiest, we wanted to give you something digestible, quick to read, and genuinely helpful. We’ve split it into two parts this month.
Here are the first three things we think it’s worth thinking about as we inch towards 31st January.
Capitalise on HMRC’s own communications
HMRC has sent a barrage of communications out via various channels to anyone registered for self-assessment in the last few months – which means they’re recognising that habits need changing.
There’s a chance your clients have been receiving emails and letters offering support and advice directly from HMRC, which works in your favour in two ways.
One: subconsciously, they’ll be more aware that the deadline is approaching. Think of it as low-level brand awareness that makes it harder for anyone to feign at least total ignorance.
Two: you can repurpose these communications as your own. There are tons of useful messages of encouragement in there that you can copy pretty much directly – whether that’s via a newsletter, social media post, or mail blast to your entire database – in no time at all.
Don’t try and do everything yourself
Busy season gets even busier when you don’t have the team to do the work.
But rather than stressing about finding ways to make it possible to do absolutely everything (which we all know leads to late nights, missed time with family, and all the other bad things self-assessment season is infamous for), get creative with resource management.
And since you won’t be able to solve the accountancy recruitment crisis in time to help you out right now, that means thinking about outsourcing – and quickly.
There are two main ways to outsource: subcontracting to another accountant, or employing a professional firm to handle returns (or other work, so that you can focus on self-assessment), on your behalf.
For the former, ask yourself if you know anyone in the early stages of setting up their own practice who could do with some extra income, or any employed accountants who can help with preparing things for you to check. Building a network of reliable subcontractors can be a good, flexible way to manage capacity in both the short and long-term.
The latter option can work if you need support at huge volume. Overseas companies especially can take on significant amounts of work and be very cost-effective, which is worth considering if you’re making strategic decisions about your capacity for the future.
Make sure your clients know about Time to Pay
Okay, in a dream scenario, you wouldn’t need to talk to clients about HMRC’s Time to Pay scheme, because their returns would be filed correctly and on time each year, every year.
In reality, and despite your best efforts, that just doesn’t happen. It’s not unusual for clients to be so worried about how much they’ll owe when their return is submitted, that they go completely underground in order to avoid facing reality.
The resulting stress and panic, then, about how and when to pay, gets passed on to you.
Proactively sharing information about the Time to Pay scheme can alleviate that fear before it becomes a problem. Reassure clients that the system is self-serve (and that you can help them out with it), and they won’t even have to speak to HMRC for tax bills up to £30,000.
The thought of a bespoke monthly payment plan that takes into consideration how much they owe and how long they need to pay can reduce anxiety around self-assessment – and remove a barrier to providing you with the information you need to get things done.
For more practical tips on navigating self-assessment season, come back next week to read part two of our self-assessment round-up.