Encouraging Tax Return Submissions
It’s that time of year again- self-assessments are due. It is not uncommon for clients to wait until the very last minute to submit their information and still expect the same level of service.
This can disrupt even the most carefully laid plans and before you know it, late nights and desks with ever growing mounds of paperwork are common place. So, what can you do to encourage clients to submit returns before the last date possible?
Manage the Client
Here are some ways you can manage clients.
- Ahead of time, identify repeat offender clients- those clients who year on year submit at the last minute. Ensure that you have regular dialogue with them in the build up to self-assessment season and ensure that it is at the forefront of their mind.
- Check how clients prefer to be contacted. It’s all very well having a strategy of sending letters to all your clients with self-assessment information on, but if the client puts letters straight in the bin then the message will never get across.
- Provide all clients with a checklist of information that is required. This will save them trying to work it out themselves and focus their efforts on the information that is necessary. Encourage them to compile the information now- some things may take some time to put together.
- Give clients a clear last possible date of submission deadline. Email newsletters could be a good way of doing this. Upon receipt of information, check it to ensure that it is complete. If not, then get in touch immediately to get the information.
- Once this year is out the way, give clients feedback on their submissions. For example, let them know if they provided unnecessary information or if they forgot to include something. At the same time offer them a discount if they submit early the following year.
Incentivise the Client
Managing can do a lot for you but sometimes, a little incentive goes a long way.
- Provide clients with a discount for early submission. Email this offer to clients, display it clearly on your website and mention it to clients when you meet. This offer is usually most effective in November and December.
- Make it easy for clients to submit the assessments. Variety is the spice of life so give them plenty of options. For example, offer a facility whereby clients can upload documents on to the “cloud” as well as more traditional methods. This also has the added bonus of saving time on email exchanges or postal services.
The carrot may not always be enough to get clients submitting returns. In that case, use the stick.
Remind clients that there are automatic penalties for failure to meet deadlines. Currently, that is £100.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, late submissions will still occur. Consider increasing resource during this busy time and/or offering overtime.
The reality is that it may be worthwhile paying staff that bit more to deliver the service rather than lose a customer who is profitable the rest of the year round.
January is always going to be a busy time of year for accountants, but there are several practices you can implement to make it less stressful. Follow some of these and hopefully late nights and stressful workloads can be minimised!
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