For 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 is effectively the last date for lodgment of 2016 returns, with a few exceptions. I meet firms who are all over this and it is never an issue, while some others really struggle.

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 less than 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.

4. 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.

5. 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 CleverFox Consulting.
They have Australian based qualified accountants with some capacity left to help firms get returns done quickly.

6. 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 ti takes to get returns completed.

7. Celebrate when you get there!
Acknowledge a job well done then review what worked well and what you will do differently for next year.

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