We’ve all heard the ridiculous excuses given to HMRC for not hitting the self assessment filing deadline. But whatever the reasons, real or make believe, it generally comes down to leaving it to the last minute. 

“More than 700,000 people submitted their tax returns on deadline day. Some 26,562 people completed their returns in the final hour before the deadline. 

Source: BBC article, Jan 2020

It’s hard to say how many of the 958,296 that missed the deadline use accountants to file their self assessment tax returns – or do it themselves. Either way, almost 1 million people are clearly not thinking about it or acting early enough. With the current penalty of £100, that’s a total bill of £100,000,000 for simple tardiness. Let’s also spare a thought for the 11.1 million that did hit the deadline on time and the gruelling hours that went into those submissions.

Man on bed surrounded by work

Happily, things are changing – and fast. Januaries full of last minute panic and late nights are set to become a thing of the past. Not only due to HMRC’s MTD plans for self assessment, but thanks to the growing adoption of digital solutions by accountants and their clients.

“The Self Assessment experience is like Sisyphus and his eternal boulder pushing. Only that the boulder gets bigger and every year you seem to forget how to go about pushing it… Give me 5-minute annual accounts filing on Companies House any day. 

Elizabeth, Freelancer/Ltd Director 

Recommend online accounting to your clients

With your clients using online accounting software such as FreeAgent, QuickBooks or Xero, all their accounts are recorded throughout the year – incomings, outgoings, invoices, expenses. So you can access all of that data without having to request it from your client.

Of course, they need to stay on top of their accounts, but there are many apps and integrations to help. Some business bank accounts will now automatically update your clients’ accounting software. Not to mention the receipt apps, mileage tracking apps and plenty more.

Make every month self assessment month

Hear us out. It’s all about kicking off the process and helping your clients get ‘self assessment ready’ as early as possible. With the period ending in April, that gives you just shy of 10 months to get what you need and chase up any missing paperwork (by the online submissions deadline). By around September, the previous tax year is a distant memory to your clients. So if they need to trawl back through bank statements, you’ll be doing them a favour by requesting the information as soon as the tax year is complete. 

…But surely starting the process this early just adds to your workload throughout the year?

You’d need to keep track of who you’d chased and when, what information they’d supplied, what you’re still missing, and which parts of the submission you or your team had already completed. 

Not so. An internal practice management system, with in-built customer relationship management, will automate the whole process. While you’re out meeting clients, balancing the books or reading articles on AccountingWEB, your automated system will be busily sending out self assessment checklists and gathering what you need.

For example, AccountancyManager generates self assessment checklists for collecting information and sends them out to your chosen clients, on your chosen dates, automatically. Choose how often you’d like to chase your clients and the software sends out automatic email and text reminders until you get what you need. 

What you write in your emails and texts is entirely up to you. So it doesn’t come across as a faceless machine demanding your clients for information, just you – politely asking in your own words.

One secure place for checklists, documents and e-signing

Your clients can conveniently complete the checklists on the shared portal, without the need to download and upload, or search through emails to find documents you’ve sent. Using the GDPR-compliant shared portal keeps all their information secure and gives both you and your clients one place to store and access documents. 

Your clients can also use the portal to share paperwork – such as P45s – with you. Once they get into the habit of saving any useful documents in their portal as soon as they get them, they’ll be saved the hassle of digging them out from emails –  and you’ll have what you need, as soon as you need it. 

Once you’ve completed their tax returns, AccountancyManager will automatically chase your clients for approval. They supply this by logging on to their portal and e-signing the documents – wherever they happen to be in the world.

After you’ve submitted the self assessment, your job is done. There’s no need to chase your clients to pay the tax they owe. AccountancyManager will do it for you.

Automatic task prioritisation

Of course, you have plenty of other accounting dates to juggle all year round. But with automatic time management, AccountancyManager will prioritise the most urgent tasks, ensuring you don’t miss any other deadlines while you’re preparing super-early for self assessments.

By setting up your self assessment process like this, you’ll be better prepared when MTD takes self assessments digital. With regular submissions throughout the year you could face multiple hellish ‘busy seasons’. But with an integrated software stack already in place you’ll fly through self assessments – at any time of year – without breaking a sweat.

Give AccountancyManager a try – sign up for a free 30-day trial