Tax Returns And Moira Stewart

This article explores how a tax adviser would be better placed to approach the busy January period in a stronger position.

As Christmas approaches and everyone gets into the festive spirit, spare a thought for the poor souls who work in personal tax. November, December and January are by far their worst months for working longer hours to get the tax returns done. Combine this with clients who either panic and are constantly checking for a status update for their tax return, and those who are so laid back they think it is ok to give their information on 29th January and stress levels can be high. 

Tax advisers are generally creatures of habit. They don’t like shocks, surprises or to receive any kind of unanticipated curve ball in relation to their client’s tax affairs. They like to plan for all eventualities, and ensure that all bases are covered.

However, even the most timid tax adviser needs to prepare themselves for what the months of December and January bring. Year on year, they will say ‘never again!’ or ‘the clients will get their returns earlier next year!’ but rarely is this the case. For the adviser, it is better to approach the completion of the tax returns across a year, rather than pile it all in just before deadline. However, this is easier said than done.

All tax advisers will have the come-day-go-day easy-going clients who leave everything to the last minute. They think nothing of giving the adviser their tax return information at the last minute and expecting a two day turnaround. And in most cases they will get this. Because tax advisers, by their nature, will not let a client submit a record a minute late if they can possibly help it. This is the case even if they haven’t seen their families for three weeks.

How can this client be tackled? A well timed letter – perhaps around the end of October when the paper filing deadline has been reached – explaining that the fees will be higher unless they get the information to them by 30 November?  Or perhaps a thinly veiled threat that unless the information is with the adviser by 30 November, there will be no guarantee that it will get done in time?

Fee scaling can work well. Those clients who religiously get their full, complete information to the adviser in April or May could be incentivised by a discount. Those who are religiously late should have a fee increase. Once it hits their pockets, they will soon pull their fingers out to get the information to their advisers earlier.

Article written by Jane Thomas, personal tax specialist, on behalf of Pro-Tax.