Tax season 2023 launches today…and for most tax professionals, it carries a combination of excitement and dread. While the energy gained from meeting with—and helping—clients keeps us jazzed about the accounting profession, it can be quickly drained by frustrations within our firms and daily activities.
Take proactive steps to minimize potential irritations, stay energized and keep an optimistic attitude throughout busy season. And follow our 10 tax season tips below to promote positive energy and tip the tax preparation scales in your favor.
Tip 1: Capture Data Digitally
For firms, having information in a digital format allows for easy—and secure—access by both staff members and clients. Not to mention that data backup is simple and automated…something that’s impossible in a paper-driven setting.
Make sure that everyone (staff and clients) understands the process to capture all data at its root source. This includes scanning all paper upon receipt into one centralized solution and forwarding data to a repository with standardized naming conventions for safe and painless access.
Tip 2: Educate Clients
It’s everyone’s role in your firm to educate clients on the importance of using your firm’s portals, secure email and signature solutions, especially when they’re in one centralized location. Make sure you and your personnel are comfortable training clients on secure and streamlined tools when given the opportunity; it will strengthen your firm-client partnership.
Tip 3: Promote Digital Collaboration
Whenever possible, replace physical meetings by using applications like Microsoft Teams or Zoom to collaborate internally and externally. You can quickly answer questions and conduct meetings without the wasted time of a commute.
When it’s time to file tax returns, these tools also allow you to record a “client summary.” This way, you can deliver the recording electronically for clients to view at their convenience, instead of conducting in-person meetings, which tend to run long.
Tip 4: Track Workflow Status
Knowing the status of all work in process is critical to ensure that due dates are met and work keeps moving, so firm personnel can answer questions quickly. Make sure everyone knows how to use your firm’s workflow and project tracking tools, and why it’s important to consistently update tasks. You’ll want to educate your team on this early on and throughout busy season.
Tip 5: Create Focused Project Time
Set aside a few two-hour blocks of uninterrupted time each week to focus specifically on complex engagements when you’re working at your optimum (often early morning or evening). Turn on the “do not disturb” sign and get it done, as completing such tasks provides a sense of accomplishment and boosts serotonin.
Tip 6: Reduce Distractions
While live collaboration with your team is necessary during normal business hours, turning off email/phone notifications and scheduling time to review and respond to those items a few times a day will allow you to focus better on the work at hand. Make a conscientious effort to turn off social media, TV, news feeds, etc., to help keep your thoughts focused and avoid unnecessary distractions.
Tip 7: Schedule Breaks
Your mind works better if you step away from the grind a few times daily to refresh and re-energize. Preparing meals and eating them outside of the office for a change of scenery will help accomplish this, especially if accompanied by a brisk walk.
Keep a variety of fresh fruit and healthy snacks available (or delivered in the afternoon) to help you to make smarter choices about what you’re putting in your body, so you have the energy to finish the day strong.
Tip 8: Establish a Routine
Wake up and go to bed at the same time each day. This helps your body adopt better sleep patterns, which is vitally important to get through the busy season. Incorporate exercise and stretching activities at the start of each day to help invigorate you. Stay motivated by planning those activities at the beginning of each week and laying out exercise clothes and equipment before going to bed. Set yourself up for success, so you’re ready to go in the morning (without excuses).
Tip 9: Take the Day Off
Plan a day of rest each week, and don’t look at email or other work stuff. (Seriously, don’t do it.) Reserve this day for reconnecting with family and friends, and exercise/hobby activities that you love doing (e.g., hiking, golf, theater). Doing so will give you something to look forward to and refresh you for the next week.
Tip 10: Avoid Man-Made Disasters
This final suggestion comes from personal experience. Don’t take on any new tax deadline client projects where there are concerns about client quality, the ability to get the work done by the filing deadline, or the potential negative impacts on staff.
Every year, I hear horror stories of such projects being stuffed into a full workload and having a cascading negative impact throughout the firm—especially on staff. Turning down or pushing such engagements into the “extension request” season will have a huge, positive impact on the firm.
It’s Tax Time
Busy season is a time of great opportunity for firms, but it can quickly become overwhelming and turn negative if your focus and efforts are not properly managed. Review these 10 tips for tax season regularly to help you stay on track and find different ways to structure your busy season for success.
May tax season 2023 be ever in your favor (and produce incredible tax refunds for your clients).