Accounting Firm CoachingFor Australian accountants 15 May is a significant date. As Tax Agents you are subject to the ATO’s lodgment program framework which at its core requires you to lodge 85% or more of your clients’ current year returns on time. 15 May 2018 is effectively the last date for lodgment of 2017 returns, with a few exceptions.

I meet firms who are all over this and it is never an issue, while some others really struggle.

My understanding is that the ATO calculates the percentage of on time lodgments as follows:

Current year returns lodged by due date + Current year returns by deferred due date + Return not necessary advices + Further return not necessary advices ÷ Your client list = % lodged on time

With just over a month to go, here are my suggestions to ensure you are ready for 15 May:

  1. Have a close look at your client list as provided by the ATO.
    If it is not correct, make sure all adjustments are processed with the ATO.
    It is not unusual to hear of a firm that was unnecessarily penalised because ex-clients were still on the list. Don’t let that be you.
  2. Makes sure all return not necessary advices have been lodged.
    These should be easy, so long as you know which clients they apply to.
  3. Review what has not been yet lodged to identify any outliers.
    For example if you had problems in prior years with particular clients you may need to be more proactive in following them up and making sure you have everything you need from them. You probably should have done this some time ago, but better late than never. I’ve noticed some firms having great success with this approach and noting that clients are usually quite happy to be chased. They see your proactivity in this regard as a positive thing and see you have their best interests in mind.
  4. Pay special attention to SMSFs
    It is well known that various changes to SMSF regulation have put considerable pressure on accountants to get work completed. My understanding is that some of the changes are complex and can have a significant impact on funds if you get it wrong. So make sure someone in your firm is on top of the changes and you are proactively working with clients to get the best outcome. The ATO has granted a blanket extension to 30 June for SMSF lodgments but my suggestion is to ignore this and as far as possible work towards 15 May.
  5. Assess capacity
    If you need to ask for extra hours from your team, it probably should have been planned some time ago, but if a review of returns still to be completed versus available capacity indicates “all hands on deck” is needed then get that in place quickly. Manage team expectations about what is required for the next month and how you will reward them for the extra effort.
  6. Get third party help if necessary
    Some firms have contractors they call on to assist in busy times.
    If you don’t have such people, consider using someone like Connect Outsourcing or CleverFox Consulting
  7. Keep a close eye on progress
    Between now and 15 May monitor progress closely and make sure the reporting is accurate.
    Don’t be complacent and be proactive in chasing up clients if they are holding you up. Do whatever it takes to get returns completed.
  8. Celebrate when you get there!
    Acknowledge a job well done then review what worked well and what you will do differently for next year.