Why deadlines are a make or break in accounting

By Andrew Morris 28 February 2017

Deadlines are a key part of any workplace, but they are undoubtedly present in the accounting industry.

In this article, we look at some of the key accounting deadlines, why they are so important and what the consequences of missing deadlines are. We also share some simple tips to help you manage your time more effectively, so you meet your deadlines every time.

What deadlines do accountants need to keep to?

As an accountant, there are several deadlines that need to be met. These could include:

  • Filing financial statements annually with ASIC (Australian Securities and Investments Commission)
  • Filing annual tax returns with the Australian Taxation Office
  • Quarterly and annual financial reporting
  • Bank reporting requirement deadlines, such as loan covenant reporting
  • Landlord reporting requirements such as turnover rent certificates
  • Internal deadlines such as monthly management reporting and forecasting deadlines

Why is a deadline so important in accounting?

There are a quite a number of reasons for why deadlines are so critical in accounting. Deadlines for completing accounts and tax returns for example are set by the government - failing to meet these will have you in breach of the law and can result in financial penalties.

Submitting information on a timely basis is also important as accountants have several stakeholders (e.g. shareholders, employees, government, suppliers, customers, investors, banks, and loan providers) who need up-to-date information to be able to make informed decisions. For example, banks will use a business’ latest accounts to determine whether to approve a loan, whilst suppliers may want to see this information before agreeing on credit terms.

Businesses may likewise have contractual obligations which require deadlines to be met, such as for banking and landlord reporting. Failing to do this would be a breach of contract, and in extreme cases can result in the bank recalling their loan or a landlord ending its lease.

Similarly, if you work for an accountancy firm, keeping to deadlines is important to help manage client expectations. If everything runs smoothly and deadlines are met, then it’s likely they will continue to work with you in future years. Missing deadlines doesn’t make a good impression and can cause clients unnecessary stress.

8 simple tips for meeting accounting deadlines

Deadlines can often be tight in accounting careers. If you’re working with lots of different clients at the same time, it can feel like you’re constantly juggling to meet targets. To help you stay on top of your deadlines, here are some helpful tips to follow:

1. Know your deadlines – Don’t miss a deadline simply because you forgot about it. Make sure you’re 100% clear on when work needs to be completed by. You could even record your deadlines in a spreadsheet or an online calendar.

2. Prioritise tasks – Order your work by its deadline. If you have urgent projects that are needed at the same time, work on the most important one first. If you have lots of deadlines all at once, such as annual tax returns, leverage your manager’s experience to discuss the order of work.

3. Plan, plan and plan – Don’t leave things to the last minute. Plan everything through thoroughly in advance, so when it comes to working on the task, everything runs smoothly and to schedule.

4. Allow enough time – Although time can often be tight, especially when you’re working to a budget, make sure you’re realistic with your schedule. Leave enough time for tasks so they can be completed to a high standard, without being rushed. Where possible, give yourself a buffer, which can allow for any unforeseen delays and overruns. Time management is a crucial factor.

5. Understand the requirements – Before starting a task, make sure you are clear on exactly what you need to deliver. Ensure you have all the necessary information and resources. It’s also important to check for any changes to legislation or accounting standards, as this may affect the level of work you need to do and how long it will take you to complete. Ignoring this may mean making time-consuming changes to your work further down the line.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – If there are any uncertainties, or you face difficulties, be proactive by trying to find a solution as soon as possible. Seeking advice from a manager can help you clear things up so you can move forward and get back on track.

7. Remove any distractions – When you have tight deadlines, you’ll need to give the task your undivided attention. Find space in a meeting room so you won’t be interrupted, tell people you are working towards an important deadline and set your calendar availability to ‘busy’.

8. Ask for help – Despite following the steps above, if you still don’t think you will be able to meet the deadline, speak to your boss as soon as possible to see if someone else can help you.

Do you have any additional tips for staying on top of deadlines? Or have you used any tools that you think were useful to manage your accounting tasks? Let us know in the comments box below.

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