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Dear Mr Carrier Bag…

IFA member Terry Peachman discusses what fellow accountants can do to help keep their cool when Mr Carrier Bag walks in on 29 January. 

Dear Mr Carrier Bag…
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  • Contributed by Terry Peachman
  • January 30, 2020
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While accountants enjoy the festivities and family time that the Christmas holidays afford, many would have been desperately trying to mitigate against the 70-hour weeks through to the end of January.

And to exacerbate the problem, they’ll probably have clients who merrily stroll into the office on 29 January, armed with a carrier bag of stuff ed full of receipts and some dog-eared bank statements.

So how do we make that carrier-bag client easier to grin and bear?

I bet I’m right in saying these are longstanding clients who have probably been with you since the start. Consequently, they’re probably not paying enough for your services either.

If he doesn’t appear soon, get in touch with Mr Carrier Bag and tell him you’re going to have to impose a surcharge if he doesn’t bring his records in soon. This is to cover the overtime you’ll be paying to meet the deadline.

If the threat of increased fees doesn’t do the job, tell Mr Carrier Bag you can no longer guarantee to meet the filing deadline. It’s harsh, but you can’t keep putting yourself through this every winter. 

Once January is over, it’s probably time to tell Mr Carrier Bag his fee is going up and that he’s got to conform to your office practices. If he decides it’s time to move on, smile and wish him well. 

Mr Carrier Bag doesn’t need just accountancy services, but bookkeeping too. Make sure you charge for both appropriately.

Now you have the infamous carrier bag in your possession, what should you do with it? In our office, we’re using receipt processing software and scanners to chomp through the data capture.

Of course, it’s been a learning curve and there is a cost to it, but I see this technology as an extension of my workforce. It’s allowed everyone in my practice to move up the value chain and I’m now marketing for bookkeeping work, which I’ve historically shied away from. 

There are some other things that I find helpful during the tax return season. Firstly, you need a clear picture of the status of your jobs. If short-staffed, use this data to estimate how many man-hours of work you have left, allowing you to plan for overtime, outsourcing requirements etc. 

When you have a handle on the volume of returns you have left to do, set yourself a short-term goal for how many tax returns you need to get out of the door every week. It’s crude, but great for morale when you hit target. 

Keep a notepad by your bed at night to quickly jot down little notes about the jobs you need to do tomorrow if you’re lying there thinking about them. 

Lastly, look after your team. Order in a takeaway when everyone’s staying late. Hold a good event in February for everyone to look forward to. Make sure you show them you appreciate them and their hard work. 

We often put our client’s needs first, which is admirable, but we end up with a disjointed client base and at this time of year, we’re at risk of burnout. It’s time to work smarter and/or command better fees.

Terry Peachman owns TaxAssist Accountants Lincoln and is a member of the IFA





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