How to identify client opportunities and avoid missing deadlines
Practitioners need to ensure that they maximise opportunities for adding value to their clients and make any claims and elections on time. Having a robust system in place will help achieve this.
Maintaining an up to date client permanent file, including an index of contents, is a valuable tool for the practitioner. It can include details of lifetime gifts, EIS investments, tax planning notes etc. These can not only be invaluable for future tax planning exercises but reduce the need to read back through several years’ correspondence to locate details.
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On meeting a new client it is recommended that a fact sheet is completed, either at the meeting, or subsequently by the client. Not only is it useful to have details of other professionals, the family history and other relevant facts, but it looks much more professional than asking for a longstanding clients date of birth.
Preparing a checklist of tax planning issues for use when preparing Tax Returns, or completing a tax planning exercise, can not only ensure that points are not missed, but can be used to ensure deadlines are met. So for example on an capital gains tax planning exercise the checklist can help ensure that entrepreneurs relief is considered; that inter-spouse transfers are considered pre sale and negligible value claims are reviewed.
The checklist can be used for income tax, NIC, capital gains tax and inheritance tax, as well as financial services. Where different departments are involved this can be used as a mechanism for identifying cross service opportunities. If the practitioner does not have access to these in-house a network of strategic partners can be built up. Where necessary this can include firms that undertake more aggressive type planning, as there are likely to be a minority of clients who will be interested in these.
Where it is identified that there is a deadline for making a claim or election this can be recorded in some way to ensure that the time limit is met. This can be recorded either in an electronic calendar with an automated reminder system or more simply on paper. The important issue is to ensure that the claims and elections are reviewed in good time to ensure that any deadline is met. No practitioner wants to be sued for missing a deadline.
Keeping in touch
Regular contact with clients is one way of identifying opportunities. Whilst many clients will raise issues as they arise there are many who wait until a transaction has to be reported, at which time any planning opportunity may have passed. It is good practice to either ring clients every few months to establish if there have been any changes or at least meet them annually. This could be as part of a Tax Return information gathering exercise, which helps make the service personal.
Use of some or all of these techniques will help increase tax planning work and ensure that claims and elections are made on time.
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