Some practical guidance and encouragement for entrants to the 2016 Taxation Awards from Andrew Hubbard and Richard Curtis.

It's the start of the countdown to the 2016 Taxation Awards. Over the next few months we will feature some encouragement from 2015 winners for entrants, but to start the clock for nominations and entry submissions here is some advice from those in the know – the judges.

Award entries

There is no prescribed format for entries for the Taxation Awards: entrants are free to design their submissions in any way they think appropriate. But the following notes, based on many years of experience by judging panels, may help to maximise chances of winning. They are written largely with the team awards in mind, but will also be helpful for those putting forward nominations in the individual categories.

What to do?

First, make sure that the entry is submitted for the correct category. This may seem obvious but there have been several instances over the years when entries have been rejected because they do not fit the criteria. If the award is for best single office tax practice and the firm has more than one office the entry will be rejected. Judges do not reassign entries to other categories. We have slightly amended the categories this year as shown overleaf and full details can be found at The same entry cannot be entered into more than one category.

Second, do not exceed the 3,000-word limit – it is there for a reason. The limit is generous enough to allow everything that is required to be covered. In previous years we have allowed entrants to put extra material in an appendix. This no longer applies. We are not going to count every last word, but entries that clearly exceed the limit will be returned with a request that they be resubmitted at a more suitable length. However, the time limit will not be extended so an entry that is too long and is submitted on the last possible day may be too late.

Some suggestions

The judges have to deal with a large number of entries so these should be something that someone actively wants to read rather than have to plough through. A second opinion can be valuable,
so why not ask someone in the firm who has not been involved in its preparation to read the entry before sending it in. If their eyes glaze over halfway through, it may be time for a rethink.

Strike the right balance. The best entries balance information about the team, the clients, the business and the financials. Do not skew the entry too much in any one direction. Sometimes, our judges have commented that they know all about the personal interests of the team members, but nothing about what the firm does. At the other extreme, bland information about
financial achievements with nothing on the team does not go down well. Make sure that the entry properly reflects the team's personality and ethos.

Don't fall into marketing speak. The entry should not be marketing spin or an advert. The judges can spot this from a distance. By all means use a marketing team to help put together the entry, but make sure that those being nominated take ownership and control of the process.

Honesty is the best policy. No individual or team is perfect and judges respond well to the truth about things that have not gone well or challenges that the business has had to face.

Weave testimonials into the narrative. A sheaf of them at the back of the entry is less effective than positive comments from clients incorporated into the body of the submission. This is particularly the case if it is obvious that the firm has drafted a standard testimonial for clients to sign.

Photographs, illustrations and tables help to give character to an entry. But don't go overboard; the judges do need to be able to read something.

The clock is ticking

It's an old saying but "you've got to be in it to win it" is as true for the Taxation Awards as for any other competition. So what is there to lose? Why not get started on the preparation of the entry straight away?

To view this year's Taxation Awards categories and to enter click here.