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Getting the most from Xero: our five-point checklist for the UK tax year end

The end of the 2013/14 UK tax year is just around the corner. And that means it’s time to start focusing on completing those year-ends – as well as planning ahead for the new tax year.

We’ve put together a five-point checklist for getting your house in order before the end of March. This ‘best practice’ approach will help you tie up those year-ends and really get the most of out Xero in the coming tax year.

1. Speed up sign-off with your Xero client

If you’re already using Xero, you’ll know all about the advantages of our single ledger. Having instant, mobile access to your client’s financial position really helps when you’re collaborating to sign off their accounts. Take them out for a coffee – after all, with Xero Touch you don’t need to be at the office. Maybe even treat them to a ‘duffin’ (no, we had no idea these existed either!). And if the client can’t meet in person you can always invite them to a Google Hangout or Skype call, making the most of the cloud-based sharing options Xero offers.

What’s important is that you have that an in-depth, open conversation about their current financial position.  You can review their transactions, pick up any queries they’ve not resolved and run comparative reports to spot any obvious anomalies.

Mark Dawes, Tax Manager at Stern & Company underlines the importance of a good planning meeting:

“Whether you are an individual or a business approaching the end the of tax year, we believe that nothing beats a face-to-face planning meeting with your accountant or tax adviser. This enables both you and your accountant to discuss important topics such as:

  • Mitigating any potentially large tax liabilities

  • Ensuring provisions are in place well in advance so that the client can indeed afford to pay any potential tax to HMRC.

This ties in brilliantly with Xero, as having live information to hand means that we can provide accurate advice at the drop of a hat (assuming of course the bookkeeping is all nicely up-to-date!) and at tax year end this can be invaluable to the client. In short, using Xero means better forward planning for us as a practice as far as our clients are concerned.”

Once you’ve got a handle on where the client’s at, you can start planning the work that’s needed before signing off the accounts.

Grant Smith, Partner at Armstrong Watson, believes in working closely with clients on the planning element:

“For businesses that have 31st March/5th April year-ends we can take a look at our clients’ information on Xero and help identify clients with potential tax problems. We can be proactive with advice to ensure they purchase capital items before the year-end, make personal pension contributions if they look like they’re going into a higher rate band or even contemplate a change in year-end date.

Not only is Xero is a real time-saver in the advice process it also leads to greater accuracy in the advice we give.”

2. Make the most of Xero Workpapers

Completing the compliance that’s required for year-ends can be challenging. You need to pull together lots of disparate data, some of which might be lurking on spreadsheets or in dusty, paper files.

Xero Workpapers is an online tool that makes that compliance process faster and smarter. Data flows seamlessly between Xero and Workpapers, so any changes only need to be made in one place. And the information you need to complete your year-ends is easily imported from Xero.

You can also work online with your clients to get review and sign-off, without the need for any paper hard copies – once you’ve ditched all those bulky paper files, you won’t look back: trust us.

Workpapers is free for our Silver partners and makes completing your year-ends a breeze.

3. Export your files in the formats you need

Putting together year-end accounts takes time. And you don’t want to waste any of that time converting data into the right file formats.

Our new export file formats let you transfer your data into the final accounts production system of choice – without the need for time-consuming conversions. That’s a real time-saver when you’re working on a number of different accounts and where efficiency is vital.

We’ve recently added export file formats for IRIS, Keytime, TaxCalc and Forbes Accounts. But we’re always really keen to know which formats our partners need – so if there’s a file format you’d like us to add, please drop us a line at support@xero.com

4. Look at your training requirements

Now’s a great time to think about ways of improving your overall practice knowledge of Xero. A review of your staff will highlight members of the team who’d really benefit from some hands-on training with Xero. Xero U lists all our current training sessions and our new Xero TV channel has a great selection of how-to guides which show how to get the most from cloud accounting.

Training really does help to make the most of your people, as Grant Smith, of Armstrong Watson, points out:

“Rolling out Xero has focused our staff training needs, allowing us to standardise to a greater degree the number of jobs that we receive in the same format. This will allow staff to pick up any job from any office and move it forward. This is made even easier with the recent upgrade of ‘Files’ made by Xero in 2013.”

Getting your people certified with Xero will also help drive this knowledge forward. We’re offering free certification for practice staff until the end of March, so give your account manager a call to find out more.

5. Review your client base

Reviewing your client base is also a good idea at this point in the year. With the new UK tax year starting in April, it’s a great time to get new clients on board with Xero. Take a look at your client base and think about which businesses would really benefit from a move over to cloud-based accounting.

Our Partner Enablement team can help you move clients across to Xero. They’re here to make the process of converting clients as painless as possible. And they’ve got a multitude of tools, webinars and training videos that will help you get the most from moving more clients over to the cloud.

New tax year, new approach

Planning ahead and taking action early with clients will really help to smooth the process and bring out the true value you can deliver.

Ian Woollard, Director at Pearson Buchholz, really believes in the importance of taking action early:

“Our top tip when approaching a period-end is to take action early. We can review our clients’ Xero data when the period is still active, but to get the best advice from us they need to make sure their books and records are ready for review two months before. They use Xero so no excuses! We recommend to all our clients that budgeted data is entered into the Xero Budget Manager so the full year’s figures can be easily ascertained well enough for us to advise.

We advise clients to arrange a ten-month review with us as they may need to consider accelerating planned capital expenditure or pension contributions, all of which requires time to arrange. So acting early really does get the best from us.”

We hope we’ve given you some food for thought. It’s a busy time of year for practices, so anything that makes your processes quicker, more efficient and more thought-through have to be welcome.

So, talk to your clients and find out what help they need to complete those year-ends. And make the most of the tools and training that Xero and Workpapers can offer when working in tandem.

 

Read more about Accountants, Accounting, HMRC, Tax

 

2 comments

Jozef Wallis
14 March 2014 #

Thanks Xero, really useful info and your software has really helped to transform our back office !

Steve Ash
14 March 2014 #

Glad you liked the blog, Jo! It’s great to hear Xero is helping you with Toothpick’s accounts. If you fancy telling us more about how you’ve used Xero in the business, feel free to drop me a line at steve.ash@xero.com

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