After working with accountants for nearly 15 years, I know the Post Tax Year-end Stress is real for many, leading to a February spent in recovery mode. That said, what we choose to do now will pave the way for a better, less stressful end to this year and a more productive start to 2023!
If I polled UK accountants in January, they would say that tax year-end ruins their Christmas and New Year.
I’ve heard similar stories with differently timed year-end stress in our other territories too. So, I’m on a one-woman mission to support a change.
Change the narrative, own the process, and make it work for you.
If you’re in the cloud, have clients doing daily bookkeeping, or working with tools to build processes and increase efficiency, then you have the choice to bring the year-end deadline forward so that it works better for you.
The final filing date is set by HMRC/IRD/ATO, but you are not just their middle man/lady. You can choose to define and communicate your own, earlier deadline. Your clients will take your lead.
Don’t be a martyr or a whiner. You can be a leader and take control of their tax responsibilities.
The Control / Responsibility Matrix
But the clients are already late with their paperwork.
The client isn’t going to change of their own accord. It starts with you. Have you clearly communicated why you need their records on time? Have you explained the benefits to them and their business?
You own and can change the narrative to support your clients to get on board with your new process. You can also make it clear during the new client qualification process or onboarding that this is an expectation for all your clients, so they get in line from day one.
What’s in it for them?
Help your clients understand that the earlier they file their Year-end Tax Return, the greater the tax saving and planning opportunities for them. Position that these will help them gain more time, mind, or financial freedom!
Share that you’re freeing them from being bogged down in paperwork and admin at Christmas. You’re helping them to create better habits and taking your own medicine so you can be available to your support clients with advisory work in the new year.
This new process will enable you and your clients to look forward to the New Year. It will give you both capacity to schedule time together to map out strategic work for their business; build out Business Plans, undertake Cashflow Forecasting, set clear KPIs and Marketing Plans, etc.
This will likely improve your Annual Accounts process too.
Having the Annual Accounts completed sooner, nearer to when the client’s year-end finished, will enable a more meaningful and engaging Annual Accounts Review Meeting.
Looking in the rear-view mirror at what went wrong months and months ago and expecting changed behaviour is a bit like rubbing your cat’s nose in it months and months later. If you have new capacity to work on forward-facing advisory, you can truly help them achieve time, mind, and financial freedom.
So, how do we own the narrative, support the client, and position the value?
Some top tips:
- Clearly communicate your expectations...
“We’ve defined a better process, and will now require our clients to provide their information by…”
- Position the value for the client of this timing…
“This will help us have a more enjoyable Christmas and be better positioned to support those clients who want planning and business improvement help in the new year…”
- Create a two-minute Loom video showing how easy it is to fill in the Tax Return Checklist, breaking down the client’s barriers to providing their info.
- Reward early filers with a free tax planning / tax saving / other discovery meeting.
- Consider implementing an admin fee for those who don’t get on board.
Become the problem solver.
You have your own permission to move the goalposts for yourself, your team, and your clients. If you choose to get on top of this, it will likely open the doors for strategic work, deeper relationships, and higher value clients.
It’s all in the framing.
Think about how we prepare to go abroad on holiday. We make plans, prepare, and get organised. We arrive at the airport two hours early, waiting at the correct gate with a beer under our belt, ready to board the plane in a relaxed state. Why? Ultimately, because we understood the importance and the benefit.
If we can do this for two weeks in the sun, we can do this for our business and our clients. Make the choice and apply the same actions and intentions to make compliance deadlines work for you.
Get your clients on board with your tax year-end expectations.
Create a compelling marketing campaign and invite your clients to get their tax year-end completed by no later than the 30th of September (if you’re UK based).
This doesn't mean that we're swapping January stress for September stress. It’s about staggering your filing and annual review meetings for a less lumpy, less burnout inducing time - getting your workflow flowing better for you and your team. Afterall, the sooner you can be sat with them to establish how you can provide more value or identify tax saving opportunities, the better.
You might even be able to book a holiday in January/March/May, because you’re no longer be a slave to the deadlines set by others. Now, isn’t that a value and benefit worth working towards?
Don't just take my word for it, check out one of our #Gappies, Nicole Hague from Nicole Hague and Associates, sharing how she gets her tax returns filed well before the tax department's deadline.
We can help.
Here at The Gap, we have many resources to support you in communicating the value and repositioning your expectations to get the client base you deserve. Check out our, Guide to Establishing your Ideal Client Base, which will help you qualify future clients, retrain existing clients, and offboard your difficult 'D' clients elegantly.
If you'd like to learn more about how else we help accountants market, sell and deliver Business Advisory services, schedule a tour of The Gap with our sales team.
“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson