While many businesses are winding down for the year, many accountants and bookkeepers are gearing up for their busiest time.
It’s not too late to prepare your practice and prevent 60-hour work weeks. With a few simple steps, you can make this tax season your smoothest one yet.
1. Rally the team
Providing your team with the resources, training and structure to tackle tax season should be your first step. There’s plenty you can do to help everyone perform at their best.
Before you assign tasks, here are some things to tick off:
- Check everyone is up to date with software and processes. This includes checking everyone has the right permissions and access levels. Sort this now to avoid the distraction of endless access notifications when things get busy. With Xero Tax, you get unlimited users – so sharing the workload is simple and cost-effective.
- Decide how you’ll assign and manage tasks. Spreadsheets are a handy tool to fall back on but require manual updates and constant checks. Xero Practice Manager lets you assign work, manage deadlines and automatically notify staff.
- Identify new regulatory requirements and changes to the income tax submission process. For example, Basis Period Reform rules mean you might need to report on two accounting periods for your clients.
- Set internal deadlines so workloads don’t extend beyond office hours. The online self-assessment deadline might be 31 January but it’s worth setting an internal deadline for finalising submissions so you’re not working up until the last minute.
- Start communicating deadlines and responsibilities to clients now. Request any documentation and evidence relating to tax early, so you have time to go back to clients if their records need additional work. Ideally, you’ll already have clients updating their data throughout the year with receipt capture tools and online invoicing.
2. Spread the workload
With Xero Tax, you get unlimited users to help you spread the workload amongst the team. And because Xero is cloud based, your practice has increased freedom and flexibility when it comes to where and when to do the work.
With the guided step-by-step workflow, returns can be drafted in Xero Tax and reviewed at a later date – meaning junior staff can take on the preparation work for senior accountants to review before submitting. With less time spent on preparing submissions, you can work closely with clients, supporting them with tax planning, cash flow forecasting, and strategic guidance for the new tax year.
Xero’s tax manager can also help. It’s a simple dashboard that shows you a single view of your clients’ obligations for personal tax, company tax, company accounts and VAT. You can keep tabs on what’s outstanding across the practice in real-time.
Using Xero Tax alongside the tax manager feature means it’s easier to spread tax-related work across the year. Instead of facing a mountain of work, you can tackle client tax obligations in bite-size chunks.
3. Use automations, integrations and time-saving features
Every minute counts during tax season. And the hours spent chasing clients for evidence and dutifully inputting the numbers all add up. Automation and integrations can give practices these hours back and improve the accuracy of accounts at the same time.
Xero Tax has a new feature which allows you to download a report from HMRC for your clients. The report includes data on employment, other pension income, state benefits, NIC and marriage allowance. This means less chasing clients for this kind of information.
In addition, Xero has a growing ecosystem of integrated apps that make tax season run even more smoothly. Take Hubdoc – a receipt capture tool that makes it easier for clients to share evidence with you ahead of self assessment time. Clients simply snap a photo of their receipt, upload it to Hubdoc, and the transaction data is automatically extracted and recorded in Xero, which means less chasing clients for information throughout the year. Your clients can swap the shoebox full of receipts for an app that lets them share receipts digitally, as and when they spend.
It’s also worth noting that Xero Ask enables you to request information from clients directly through the platform. Instead of filtering through an email chain to find the final invoice, clients can share documents with you in Xero. No last-minute phone calls necessary.
Beyond tax and bookkeeping features, practice management tools can help you get ahead of tax season. Practices using cloud-based software for multiple tasks are more likely to see profit and revenue increases compared to those that only use it for a single task.
Xero isn’t just home to accounting and bookkeeping tools – you can assign work to staff, track time and progress, and build custom performance reports using Practice Manager. At a time when it’s hard to get a view of your own workload – let alone your team’s – Xero Practice Manager can do the heavy lifting for you.
4. Take note of industry and regulatory changes
Changes to the tax system and accounting industry could impact your upcoming submissions.
Basis Period Reform comes into effect for the 2024/25 tax year, following the current transitional period. If you have clients with non-tax year-aligned accounting dates, you’ll need to apportion profits from the two periods that fall within the current tax year. Their basis period for the 2022/23 tax year will also be longer than usual – meaning more accounts preparation admin for you and your practice.
Encouraging those clients to embrace cloud-based software now means they are ready for regulatory changes, as the software is constantly and seamlessly updated. The 2023 Autumn Statement also included a few essential changes to MTD for ITSA, so if you’re not already caught up on them, it’s a good time to do some research.
Over the next few years, increasing use of AI, automation and technology is set to reshape the roles of accountants and bookkeepers too. Many of the changes outlined above will require compliant software and tax professionals who are experienced with these tools. Clients will look to you for advice and guidance on software, so educating yourself on the options is essential.
5. Swap multiple tools for one secure system
Traditionally, practices use multiple software tools and programmes to get the job done. But this leads to duplicated data entry – with teams having to repeat work that’s already been completed in another system. Instead of saving you time, this approach costs you time.
A single, secure software platform to manage client records can help you with so many aspects of tax season. Cloud storage is dependable, even if your computer crashes. You won’t lose client records, invoices and receipts stored in the cloud.
Retrieving information is also much easier when it’s stored in a single location. You don’t need to spend as much time hunting down receipts and invoices – you can focus on getting client submissions over the finish line instead.
What’s more, with cloud-based software, your team can work from anywhere during tax season, provided they have internet connection.
Make this tax season your best one yet
It’s not too late to make this tax season your best one yet. 63% of practices report that their client services have improved with the implementation of cloud-based software.
South London-based DSK Partners agrees. “Xero Tax has shifted the practice’s service lines,” says Paras Shah, Workflow Manager at DSK Partners. “Instead of me wasting time trying to do the data entry and getting stuck on the little things, I can spend more time with the client where it’s required and give them a better service that way.”
Xero Tax’s ease of use has bolstered collaboration, with in-progress tax returns being shared with other team members when they have capacity. Spreading tax filings across more staff helps eliminate bottlenecks and has freed up Paras to better tend to clients' needs.
If you want a closer look at how Xero Tax can support you with this tax season, download our expert report, which walks you through the details of how to make this tax filing season your smoothest yet.
If you’re already on the partner programme, Xero Tax is available to you at no extra cost. Our partner consultant team can get you up and running fast, ready to onboard clients and simplify your tax preparation.