Tips for a stress-free end to tax return season

For most accountants in the UK, January means tax return season – one of the most important yet stressful times of year. With the HMRC tax return deadline fast approaching, we've pulled together our favourite time management tips to help you make the most of the time remaining.

Create task lists to prioritise tasks throughout the day

During busy periods, starting each workday with a task list to prioritise your workload is a great habit to get into. Not only will it allow you a clear mind free from the worry that you've forgotten something, but you'll also feel a sense of achievement as you cross off completed tasks.

Use a system that works best for you to keep track of your workload

Whether you find it easier to keep notes the old fashioned way with pen and paper, or have a unique folders system for your clients, stick to it when you're at your busiest. Changing your system during the tax return season may add to your workload.

Schedule calls and emails to make the most of your time

Responding to calls and emails throughout the day as they arise can be time-consuming and laborious. Schedule time into your day to return calls and respond to emails, and make the most of tools such as Outlook Rules and Gmail's inbox tabs to prioritise the most important emails.

Beat back pain at the office and alleviate strain

Sitting at a desk or leaning over a laptop for long periods of time can cause neck and back pain. Reduce this strain with an ergonomic office chair, taking regular breaks to stretch your back, or by working standing up at an appropriate desk or bench. It may take some time to adjust a new way of working, but movement and regular changes of position can improve your posture and productivity.

Keep documents together for quick and easy access

Searching for documents on a cluttered desk can be stressful and time consuming. Keep paperwork organised and in one place, and your desk clutter-free to make sure that you have everything to hand when you need it.

Get the hardest tasks out of the way first

Leaving the hardest tasks until last can cause anxiety and impact productivity during the day. Making time for your most difficult and time-consuming tasks first thing in the morning will reduce this worry and help you make the most of your day.

Take regular breaks to improve your productivity

Studies have shown that regular breaks can boost productivity and help prevent stress and eye-strain. Take a break at least every 90 minutes, and reward yourself with something enjoyable each time you complete a task.

Turn off your smartphone notifications to minimise distractions

The endless pings of smartphone notifications can interrupt your day and break concentration. Limit distractions by switching off your notifications, and check your personal email and social media during breaks.

Don't be afraid to pick up the phone instead of email

There are no guarantees that your clients will read and respond to your emails, so when deadlines are looming, picking up the phone can save you time and energy. Emails often raise further questions, but a simple phone call may allow you to discuss everything with your client in one go.

Take control of your calendar and avoid unnecessary meetings

Don't let colleagues or clients inundate your calendar with unnecessary meetings in the run up to the tax return deadline. Keep it locked down, and prioritise important meetings during your busiest times.

Evaluate your practice in February and prepare for next year

Once the tax return season is over, take the time to catch up with colleagues and evaluate your practice honestly to make improvements for next year. You may be able to change the way your clients approach statutory deadlines too. Ideas might include:

  • Providing your own deadline for clients well in advance of the HMRC deadline
  • Offering special fees to clients who submit paperwork before September
  • Introducing late fees as an incentive for early paperwork submissions
  • Exploring practice management systems to streamline your workflow

How Senta can help you

With a range of new features being released this year, Senta practice manager can help you streamline your workflow and save time during the tax return season.

Some of our current features include task and workflow scheduling, secure document management, Companies House integration, and client relationship management (CRM). Take a look at our recent blog, Building on 2015's success: Senta's upcoming features, to see what's in store for our clients this year.

We'll also be following up with a guide to help you get the best from your clients and encourage them to be proactive when it comes to deadlines, so be sure to check back soon.