Incentivise your clients to ease tax return headaches

Incentivise your clients to ease tax return headaches

A shift in mindset can aid with the incentivisation of your clients. By being more proactive, friendly and approachable, you are more likely to open lines of communication with your clients.

Incentivise your clients to ease tax return headaches

For accountants who file their client’s tax returns, there is a sense of dread in the time leading up to 31st January. Unorganised clients lead to a lack of required information and a constant back-and-forth, with communication about what is required to file a tax return often going nowhere until the last minute.

Because of this, accountants will find themselves rushing to meet the deadline, and many feel that they are not earning enough from working with tax returns for the time and effort that is being put into the task. As a result, it is seen as an arduous task with little reward. However, by working to incentivise your clients to submit the necessary information sooner, accountants can make this task less of a headache.

Speaking during the second part of a two-part webinar series run by SmartVault, Jane Aylwin, author of ‘How to Build a Successful Bookkeeping Business’ spoke of her experiences of working as an accountant and completing client tax returns, and how to make the process easier.

Mindset

Despite tax returns often being considered the bread and butter for accountants, the value that you offer your clients by completing their returns should not be understated. Jane argues that by adjusting your mindset and your approach to tax returns, you can make more from completing them, while also making them easier to manage.

“First, I looked at my own attitude to tax returns,” Jane recalled. “That was the problem that I needed to tackle first. I hated tax returns, and it was a horrible time of year for me. This was a self-fulfilling prophesy.

“The information was always so late and I always blamed my clients. They didn’t respond to communications fast enough, but I gave them no incentive to do so.

“The information was late because I sent half-baked boring emails, once or twice a year, and didn’t create a sense of urgency or incentives for anyone to listen to me.”

By being negative about tax returns, she feels she projected this negativity into the way she dealt with her clients and when communicating with them about their tax returns.

By shifting her mindset and being more positive and proactive in her approach to tax returns – as opposed to waiting for clients to send her information – Jane said that she already improved her client interactions. This started with communication.

“Realising that I was so impersonal, and no wonder the clients weren’t making my life any easier.” Jane said. “Reframing the service reset the way I felt about it. I wasn’t sounding bored and I wasn’t sounding annoyed, and it made It easier for people to engage with me throughout the process.

“Sometimes you just need to reframe and revisit the way you’re asking for information that you don’t really want. If that’s obvious, your clients won’t really want to give it to you.”

One suggestion from Jane was to avoid using generic communication, instead showing that you are taking special interest in each of your clients. Show them that you have an understanding of their case and have more spoken conversations with them.

It takes much less time to make one phone call than 10 emails, and you can both communicate more clearly, enabling your client to understand exactly what you need from them to do your job.

“The reason we get frustrated is because we’ve sent five or 10 emails and we haven’t heard anything back,” Jane said. “It’s far better to make a phone call to explain to the client, and to explain what it is that you’re asking your client for.”

Incentivisation

A shift in mindset can aid with the incentivisation of your clients. By being more proactive, friendly and approachable, you are more likely to open lines of communication with your clients. If they understand your value, and ultimately like to work with you, then they are more likely to want to make your job easier, to make their life easier. However, sometimes this won’t be enough, and further incentivisation will be required.

In Jane’s experience, the best way to do this is through pricing. The first part of the SmartVault webinar covered pricing, which is an important factor when it comes to both mindset and incentivisation. The first step is to adjust your pricing to reflect the value that you offer client’s by doing their tax returns – explained here.

For those clients you keep, or for new clients, the second step is to explain that if they submit all the necessary information by a certain date, they will receive a discount on the service. This should be outlined very clearly when communicating your pricing to clients, as well as outlining why you are offering this discount, and the benefits to both yourself and your client.

By sending this information early, it maximises tax planning opportunities, but also gives more time for you and your client to manage any issues that may arise during the process. Savings can also be made by starting the process early. Accountants can advise on any potential tax relief opportunities, such as Gift Aid donations or Enterprise Investment Scheme opportunities.

These benefits should be made clear to the client early in the process, with an understanding that the later they send the necessary information, the less time you have available to add value as part of your tax return service.

Automation

Another way you can ease the pains of tax returns and client communication, while adding value to your clients, is through automation. There are several systems available to assist an accountant with the management of tax returns, to keep track of which client has sent what, where they are in the process, and the communication you had had.

Finding software that suits your practice can be as beneficial as persuading your clients to be more timely when returning information, as it can reduce your workload, automate reminders, and provide clients with simple-to-use data input systems that allow them to enter data directly into your software of choice.

SmartVault, along with many others, offers this level of automation that can benefit both your practice and your clients. For example, SmartVault allows you to send organisers to your clients, which you can use to remind your clients of your tax return deadlines, and even detail your product offering and pricing, clearly displaying your practice’s branding.

You can also use it to track responses to your reminder emails through the software and send out the final tax returns once they have finally been completed. Adding such software to your practice will not only save you time, but create further value to your clients.

 

For more information about SmartVault, visit www.smartvault.com, and to view the webinar hosted by Jane Aylwin and receive additional resources including a Tax Delivery workflow process, sole trader workbook and client communication template when you register.

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