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Help – the self-assessment deadline is imminent and my client hasn’t provided me with the information I need!

13 January 2020: as the 31 January 2020 self-assessment deadline approaches, I am sure many of your clients will have already provided you with the complete information required to prepare their tax returns. Inevitably, there may be one or two who provide information at the last minute and still expect the return to be filed on time!

How can I avoid the situation?

Of course, it’s best to try and avoid the situation arising in the first place. Steps you can take include:

  • providing clear timeframes and specific deadlines to your client (in writing) – this may be included in your engagement letter with the client;
  • sending reminders prior to each deadline;
  • sending chasers if a deadline is missed; and
  • setting out a final deadline and making it clear that if you receive information after this time, you may not be able to get the work done ahead of the filing deadline.

Can I resign if the client doesn’t get information to me on time?

You have a right to choose for whom you act. It follows that you also have the right to cease to act. That said, resigning in January could be considered potentially prejudicial to the client – they are unlikely to find another accountant to assist them before the filing deadline.

If you do make the decision to resign close to the filing deadline because you have not received the required information, it is important to document the steps you have taken as this will help defend your position if your decision is criticised.

What if the information lands in your inbox on 31 January?

Despite best efforts, you may still end up with the information landing in your inbox on (or shortly before) the deadline day. If this happens, try explaining that you won’t be able to get the work done before the filing deadline and refer the client back to the deadlines and timescales you have previously set out.

Where can I get more help?

If you’re an ICAEW member, affiliate or member of staff in an eligible firm with member firm access, you can find further information in our helpsheet Resigning close to tax filing deadline. You may also discuss your specific situation with the Ethics Advisory Service on +44 (0)1908 248 250.