There’s a collective sigh of relief shooting around at the moment, have you noticed it too? Accountants across the land are going “phew, it’s over”, as they think about their “escape from hell”. They spent the first few days of February hiding and are now relieved. Actually, let’s be precise, the really good Accountants are not sighing with relief – all the others are (what does that make you?). 

What is the answer to rubbish clients who send their paperwork in late and expect you to fix it?  

Look more carefully through these glasses and fix your tax return season

Sorry, but it is time for you to look more carefully…..

When will you stop accepting things as they are?

On the face of it your problem is that clients send in their tax return data late. The reality is (sorry about this), you are not managing your clients.

“Oh, but I have no choice”

I have asked my clients to send it in earlier, and it’s just the way it is. Really?

Oh, but client service is really important to us”

OK, but is turning something round quickly, burning yourself out and probably not doing the job as well as you can good client service? If you are working harder for poor clients than good clients, what is that saying about the way you overcharge your good clients (relatively speaking)?

If you really want to change things, now is the time. Then you could go marketing next January!

How start monthly billing in your practice. FREE webinar on 1st March. Click for more details

When will you fix your processes?

It is not your client’s fault – it is your fault. Tax return data is not your client’s priority, their business is. I surveyed a large number of SME’s who told me their Accountant either doesn’t chase them at all, or sends out one email and they mean to respond, but forget.

Many firms send out one email in the summer, ask for data and wonder why they get little response. When did you last read every email you got and action it immediately?

process is something that’s repeatable, managed, perhaps automated, understood by and executed by staff, probably written down – in order to do things more effectively. Isn’t it time you had a (effective) process?

Some firms have allocated all their clients to different months, and that’s when they aim to do the work. They have a “manage clients” process of chasers which includes email, letter and phone calls – well in advance. They flag repeatedly late clients and have discussions with them. This is done by their team and the process is actively managed by the owner.

“Oh but clients ignore requests to send the data earlier in the year.”

You might not get every client in early, but how would it feel if you got January’s workload reduced by only 20%? Most firms can do this fairly easily.



A commonly cited answer is to charge bad clients extra. That could help, as long as the extra is paid before the tax returns are filed for them! Yes, that is fair – or your good clients are subsidising your bad clients.

How start monthly billing in your practice. FREE webinar on 1st March. Click for more details


If you don’t want to penalise clients, and you think automated reminders, emails and phone calls are “the stick”, let’s talk carrot.


Some firms have kept fee increase back for good clients. Some have put good clients into a prize draw. How about mentioning the extra benefits your good clients get in your newsletters (and naming the good ones)?

How about putting all the good clients into a special “platinum business club”? Club members get extra support and help to grow their businesses (oh, and could this support be delivered by some of your strategic partners, at no cost to yourself?)

You’re more like a cheesy sales person than you think.

Most Accountants hate the idea of having sales person like qualities. I used to train sales teams and many sales managers could produce new customers when their company really needed them. In reality they liked the adrenaline of pulling a rabbit out of the hat, rather than using a sales process the rest of the time and giving a manageable flow of new customers.

Perhaps you’re like that, being able to pull a rabbit out of the hat? If so, carry on and don’t change. If not, it’s time to get tough.

When will you get tough?

What are you going to do differently during the rest of this year, so next January is different? What’s more, how will you manage when MTD?

We’ve helped many firms get better at their processes; if you want more ideas, drop us a line….

How start monthly billing in your practice. FREE webinar on 1st March. Click for more details

Written by Jon Baker( 01234480123) The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Have you got your "next step kitbag yet"? It's stuffed with guides, reports & templates helping you grow from 5 to 50 employees Click here for immediate access. This post last updated:

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Photo used under creative commons licence. For more information, click here.