Tax season survey reveals productivity opportunities

How did your firm’s tax season go? Check the results of this tax season survey to see how your contemporaries did and how you can improve for next year.

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Last Updated May 15, 2024

Human hand writing on a 1040


The April 15, 2024, deadline is history, and firms now have an opportunity to reflect on the busy season. In that light, Rightworks conducted a post-tax season survey to get an accurate pulse on how YOU, our clients, felt the season went in 2024.

Now is the time for firms to query peers about opportunities for improvement, attend conferences and research solutions. They’ll do it all with the specific intent of improving their firm’s productivity before the inevitable fall tax deadlines hit us again.

The results of this tax season survey should help. We set out to identify both best practices and the evolving solutions that responding firms adopted.

200 firms share insights in tax season survey

An even 200 firms participated in the post-tax season survey, conducted the two weeks following April 15.

  • More than half (51%) identified as large firms (>20 personnel).
  • 31% classified as medium-sized firms (5-20 personnel).
  • 18% are considered small firms (1-4 personnel).

These firms highlighted the changes they implemented the previous year, which we see making a noticeable impact on firm productivity. We see these changes significantly impacting the success of this busy season, particularly in light of what respondents described as those items that made busy season better or worse.

Overall? A “slight” thumbs up

First, let’s look back at how respondents rated this busy season.

Among the respondents:

  • 46% felt the 2024 tax season was “better” or “much better” than last year.
  • 21% felt it was about the same.
  • 33% felt it was worse.

In preparation for our upcoming webinar, we took a deep dive into what made this tax season better and what made it worse. Not surprisingly, we found that the same themes permeated, with execution differentiating the impact.

Read below and see if you agree:

What made this busy season better?

When asked in the tax season survey what made this busy season better, the themes of improved efficiency, technology utilization, proactive staffing adjustments and comparatively minimal legislative change rose to the top.

Firms that had a great busy season stated that overall, they:

  • Were better organized (thanks to workflow tools).
  • Had better information flow and internal communication (collaboration tools).
  • Used digital ingress with clients (modern portals).

Standardized procedures and training on applications made firms more comfortable with those applications, thereby increasing productivity.

This training also extended to clients, with the happier firms stating that more clients used tools for digital communications and document sharing. That included more clients submitting “complete” tax data from the onset.

Technology had a significant positive role in how firms responded.

Many stated that cloud adoption and the use of specific applications streamlined digital data collection and led to reduced technical issues. The result was smoother, on-time and more organized information. Specific products that made a difference were TaxCaddy, SurePrep®, Suralink, and SafeSend.

Early extensions and increased staffing helped.

A noticeable number of firms rating this busy season as “better” stated they made a concerted effort to file extensions earlier, which took the pressure off closer to the April 15 deadline. Some firms noted that, in general, clients seemed to be more accepting of filing an extension.

Increased staff was a common theme for firms in the better category with flexible work hours, pushing work to “non-preparers” and proactive hiring. Many of those firms said they used remote and outsourced workers, often from outside their geographical area.

Finally, from a legislative perspective, these firms felt there was less overall change impacting both applications and new laws compared to the previous years’ EITC/PPP stimulus impacts.

What made this busy season worse?

The firms that had a rougher busy season noted that almost point for point, except for legislative change, they had problems with the same issues that made the busy season better for the firms above!

  • These firms complained they did not effectively manage tax workflow, with some stating they had attempted to implement new tax programs or workflow applications during the busy season.
  • They also said that their personnel did not follow standardized procedures. Again, the importance of training and implementing workflow tools is evident here.
  • These firms also complained about the “inordinate” number of clients providing documents later than usual, which was further compounded by their staff not being diligent in sending out and following up on reminders. Technology streamlined that process for the positive firms.

Staffing issues made a bad busy season worse.

Staffing issues also permeated among firms having a bad busy season, with the most common response being “staff just had to work more hours” to get the work done. Terminations and health issues understandably created staffing shortages in some firms. However, understaffing and undertrained staff were common complaints among the less-happy firms, which could have addressed those issues more effectively prior to the busy season.

Introspection moves the firm forward

The tax season survey findings show that there is a lot of opportunity for firms that had a worse busy season to improve, which we suggest firms do by looking internally. They can accomplish this by having a formal busy season debrief meeting to thoroughly understand where the firm is today and identify opportunities for the future.

On May 21, 2024, Rightworks will present a webinar exploring the results of this tax season survey and providing step-by-step instructions on conducting a firm tax debrief meeting. In addition to providing firms with a strategic roadmap, this webinar will also discuss innovative tools and technologies for improving tax productivity.

Register for “Maximizing your 2024 tax season debriefing” today.

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