Tax planning: How to stop clients leaving it so late

This article is part of
Guide to getting tax planning done early

Tax planning: How to stop clients leaving it so late

The old mantra used to be: 'Never put off til morning what can be done tonight'. 

But in this busy world, too often this is turned on its head and most people seem to live by the adage: 'Why do today what we can put off until tomorrow?'.

No more clearly is this seen than in the end-of-tax-year rush that advisers, accountants, investment managers and financial officers have to endure as people leave it until the very last minute to get their tax planning sorted for the 5 April.

For Mark Brownridge, director general of the EIS Association, the 5 April each year presents a "natural" deadline and people naturally gravitate towards that deadline, rather than work well in advance of it.

He comments: "This means, despite our best intentions, we prioritise other jobs over and above our end-of-tax-year planning, because we know we have a fallback position of 5th April which acts as a deadline of last resorts."

James Nield, investment manager at Thesis Asset Management, states: "This deadline/brinkmanship mentality makes for a great marketing opportunity for many financial services businesses.

"This explains the flurry of advertising that we see at that time of year."

Human nature, then, plays a big part in people's lack of forward planning, or, as Richard Hoskins, co-founder of Kin Capital so succinctly puts it: "The crocodile nearest the canoe is rarely the end of the tax year".

This means the "tax year end comes to bite" for advisers, who, as Tim Morris, an IFA at Russell & Co Financial Advisers says, generally have good clients but "sadly not all" are in the "good habit" of investing their Isa and pension allowances early in the tax year. 

Cue late nights in the office, eating Ramen or Dominos for the last week of March and beginning of April, and forgetting what your children's names are. 

But aside from human behaviour and keeping other crocodiles at bay, what genuine reasons might there be for clients leaving it so late?

Self-employed and bonus-driven investors

There are some clients whose lives and employment means they cannot really plan their finances until the end of the tax year.

There are, according to latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), approximately 4.6m people in the UK registered as self-employed or working in the so-called 'gig economy' and this figure is set to rise.

Mr Brownridge explains: "For many self-employed people, it is difficult to plan until the tax year end, because it isn't until then you have a better idea of what you have earned over the year, and can then commit the necessary sums to your tax planning."

Tracyann Kneen, product technical manager for Nucleus, concedes that early tax planning is "easier for those who receive regular flows of income and capital".