Plan for the unexpected. You never know what may be around the corner.

It is important for a business to plan. It could be planning on how cash is going to be spent for the coming week, considering how to deal with failure of equipment, staff absences and so on.

The last couple of years have shown that no one can really tell what is around the corner.

When you plan you can take decisions that may mitigate the risk that you know about and risks that you do not know about yet. This could be by taking out an insurance policy, changing levels of production or seeking professional advice from your trusted professional – such as your accountant.

At Shaw Austin we do take our own advice and plan for the future as best we can. We use various methods of backup and do not just use one supplier for the software we use. So, if one does not work we can use another product until it is fixed.

There are situations where, no matter how much you plan, they can still appear and it is then how you deal with those problems will really dictate the outcome. Sometimes there are situations totally out of your control and other times you can have a bearing on the outcome.

Now for the what happened….

In January 2021, on the last working day that self-assessment tax returns were due to be submitted Jane Lloyd arrived at the office at 7am to find no power.

The whole building was in darkness with the only sound being the various alarms from the devices not receiving power.

A local electrician visited and carried out some basic tests to tell us that power was not getting into the building from outside. With that information to hand Scottish Power attended. They quickly spotted that they would need to dig the pavement up to fix the cable to the building. It turned out that the cable joint had blown. It took a team of workers Scottish power a good chunk of the day to fix.

Could we have planned for a loss of power that affected us for most of the day on one of the most crucial days of the year? No.

So, what did we do to make sure we filed the last minute clients tax returns online? Scottish Power kindly loaned us a diesel generator that was parked up outside the office. This was connected into the office by a heavy duty cable through the letter box and through reception to the electricity box. We could not print or make a cup of tea as that was just too much for the power we needed, but we did get enough power to keep the lights on and power the computers to get our work finished.

At points the lights were flickering as if we were working sat on a ghost train.

There will always be clients that submit their tax returns at the last minute and we will be here for them. Although, we would really like tax returns to be completed well before the filing deadline of 31 January.

As a firm we work hard for our clients to provide a great service for them. At that point in time we went as far as working powered by diesel in ghost train conditions and we did it!

As much as we plan and have worked through this situation last year we hope it does not happen again. Just in case, make sure you get your tax information to us in time.


Shaw Austin are a firm of Chartered Accountants based in Chester supporting independent business throughout the UK. We take the headache out of business accounting and taxation by providing our clients with a personal service.

Published January 2022.