The temperature has dropped and festive preparations are under way, which can only mean one thing: Self Assessment is on the horizon. While the run-up to that all-important 31st January deadline might feel stressful, having productive conversations with your clients during Self Assessment season can make it far more manageable. Here, award-winning accounting software provider FreeAgent provides some top tips to help you have effective client conversations in January.
Consider what you might need to discuss with your clients in the run-up to 31st January and then schedule these conversations in advance, giving yourself plenty of time to complete any follow-up actions before the filing deadline.
Once these conversations are in the diary, set an earlier deadline for your clients to provide you with all the data you’ll need to make the discussion as productive as possible. Aim to review this information promptly so that you can identify any gaps or anomalies in advance and then cover them in your discussions.
Set the agenda
Consider setting an agenda for each meeting to give your client conversations structure and to prevent any important points being missed. Share the agenda with your client in advance to let them know what you plan to cover and to give them the chance to prepare for the conversation.
You can let them know that they will have the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the discussion but to save time, you may wish to prepare a sheet of answers to frequently asked questions and send it to your clients along with the agenda.
In advance of each client conversation, review your client’s financial data and historical accounting information to remind yourself of their business’s position and to ensure that you’re fully prepared for any questions they might ask.
By looking at how your client’s business has changed over the last 12 months, you can uncover new opportunities to add further value. For example, you may be able to offer business advisory services to support a new strategic approach or the pursuit of a new revenue stream.
Bear in mind that Self Assessment will soon be changing, with Making Taking Tax Digital for Income Tax Self Assessment (MTD for ITSA) coming into effect in April 2024, and your conversations in January are a great opportunity to make your clients aware of this impending change.
Find a happy medium
Thanks to technology, there are now countless ways to communicate with your clients. Finding the right medium for communicating with each client during Self Assessment season could help make your conversations more productive.
Bear in mind that clients have different communication styles so consider which channels you can reasonably offer and then give them the chance to choose their preferred option.
You may find that some of your clients are very comfortable with video calls or voice notes, for example, while others may be happier with a face-to-face meeting or phone call.
Confirm the key points in writing
Once you’ve spoken to each of your clients, you may wish to follow up with them in writing to remind them of everything you discussed. A follow-up email detailing the actions you both agreed on should help avoid any confusion and ensure that everyone understands their responsibilities.
You may also wish to include a reminder of your deadline for receiving their completed information in advance of 31st January, along with the details of HMRC’s Self Assessment penalties to encourage your clients to complete their tasks on time.