Carrier Bag Accounting

Various kinds of plastic shopping bags.
Image via Wikipedia
Your client turns up with a carrier bag full of receipts days before the tax returns are due and hands them over.

There's an expectation that somehow you'll be able to perform a miracle and turn them around in order to get their tax return completed on time.

It's also the weekend and you were looking forward to time with the family having completed all your other clients returns on time.

The last few days of January are always particularly busy for accountants.  Clients will inevitably leave it to  the last minute, before sending their paperwork to their accountant and that puts more pressure on you to get the work done.

If you meet their expectation - you're likely to end up working late or over the weekend in order to get their return completed in time.  Great service perhaps but it's not respecting your time.

If you let them do it once, they'll do it again and again and again and you're the one left working long hours to complete all those last minute returns.  (This doesn't just apply to accountants).

So, what can you do to stop it happening next year?

  • Let them know the last date you'll accept their records, to guarantee that you'll be able to submit their return on time.
  • Email them reminders at the end of the Tax year and at intervals before their returns are due and increase the frequency the closer the deadline gets.
  • Apply a financial penalty the closer the deadlines gets, especially if it means you'll be working overtime or at the weekend.
  • Make it clear that you may not be able to complete their return in time if they're late and they will have to pay the £100 fine + interest.

Use the same principles for any work you do with clients who leave things to the last minute or put pressure on deadlines.

You could also suggest that they get in touch with me or complete the Time Audit if their time habits are impacting their business in other ways.
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