Hopefully, your tax season went 100 percent smooth. No deadlines were missed. No mistakes were made. All of your employees were happy and found plenty of time to spend with their families. Your clients were completely satisfied.
Yeah, I didn’t think so. No matter big or small, your firm’s tax season always seems to be the same: too many hours, unnecessary errors, unplanned extensions, rushed phone calls, a few complaints. If this is the way tax season normally goes for your firm don’t be discouraged: it’s a common experience amongst most CPA firms and practitioners that I know. The big question is what are you going to do about it?
You’ll never have the perfect tax season. There will always be something that you couldn’t have planned. But each year you should strive to make this time of year just a little bit better than last year. Better for your clients and, just as important, better for your employees. To that end, here are 4 things you can do next year to make tax season a little more bearable.
1- Meet your clients midway through the year.
Take a look at your client listing and assign a meeting date for every single one. You can do this in-person (for the larger or more profitable clients) and by phone or Skype for others. Depending on the work done, you may assign this meeting to staff instead of yourself because you don’t have all the time in the world and you must keep yourself focused on the clients that are generating your profits (I know this sounds harsh…but this is reality). Insist on a mid-year income statement. Ask personal questions. Go through their entire return from last year and make sure nothing’s changed or expected to change. Do this in July. Avoid surprises and you’ll be in much better shape come the winter.
2 – Pro-forma in December.
The end of the year is normally quieter as people gear up for the busy season. Use that time to prepare pro-forma tax returns. Take the information you gathered during your mid-year meetings above – maybe get updated information too – and run them through your system. Project numbers through year end. Doing this can help in a number of ways. It can get administrative work out of the way in advance and it can set your staff up to just update information rather than doing things from scratch in the busiest time of the year. Just as important, having a pro-forma process before year end can potentially alert you to red flags – missed payments, underpayments, an unusual transaction, or a trending level of expenses or revenues that you hadn’t considered. Knowing this stuff in advance can help you strategize with your client and minimize last minute surprises.
3 – Review all staff assignments.
My firm has 600 clients. Now, this may come as a big surprise to you – and please don’t tell my mother – but not everyone of them actually like me. Can you believe that? Well, this is normal. Some people connect, others don’t. Some people just don’t get along and there may be no reasonable justification other than they just get a negative vibe from each other. It’s extremely important that your staff has a good relationship with their clients. Take a look at all of this and move people around. Stick sports fans with sports fans and Walking Dead viewers with Walking Dead viewers. If and when problems do occur you’ll find them easier to deal with when everyone gets along.
4 – Emphasize balance.
Yes, it’s busy season. Yes, you have a very generous paid time off plan. But it’s time to recognize the changing dynamic of the workforce. 50 percent of people working in companies today are millennial’s. In survey after survey, those between the age of 18-34 overwhelmingly said that they prefer flexibility, mobility and independence in their jobs – in many cases even over compensation. Going three or four months working seven days a week and not seeing one’s family is not exactly a recipe for a happy employee. Revisit your work from home policies. Encourage half days off just to take a breather. Bring in pizza. Relax the dress policy. Play music. Ask your employees what else your firm could be doing to provide them with more balance during the busiest time of year. A more relaxed and restful workforce will produce a better quality work product.
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