Accounting firms across the nation are preparing for their busiest time of the year: tax season. This period of time is obviously strenuous for everyone involved, and nobody looks forward to it. However, with a little preparation beforehand, you can make this crunch time less painful than it usually is. Here are some pretax season preparation steps we suggest.
Make your office work-ready
While your office may be in basic working order, there are always things that get pushed aside or put off until later– make “later” now. Is there a certain computer or laptop that has had regular problems or crashes? Replace it.
Do your systems and software need to be updated? Get it done. Putting off hiring an outsourced accounting service? Even things you might not think about like a faulty printer or fax machine– these things make up part of your office ecosystem, and in the busy tax season rush, you will not have the time or patience to work around or fix them. Having a well-oiled machine of an office will make all the difference when you’re in the heat of tax rush.
Communicate with clients
There’s nothing worse than thinking you’ve completed your work and discovering there was a missing piece to the puzzle. Avoid having to redo work or add time onto projects like returns by touching base with your clients before tax season even begins. First, let them know exactly when and what you need from them; make it clear that you need X or Y documents by such and such date, or their return will be extended. Second, get up to date on everything you might need to know, but haven’t been informed on yet; make sure you know about any new investments or acquisitions that may have happened without your knowledge. The few minutes or hours you spend talking with each client on these matters might save you mass amounts of time and energy later on.
Update yourself on new legislation
With the new presidency comes new tax legislation, and things will be changing quite a lot. Make sure to spend plenty of time before the tax crunch starts, and familiarize yourself with everything you need to know about the new tax laws in both the nation and your state(s) of business. Taking this time beforehand will save lots of confusion and stress once the time comes.
Make input easy
This is something that likely needs to be done a bit further in advance of the tax season: make sure all account information from your clients is entered into your systems immediately, making it ready for processing during tax season. Making this process more streamlined will definitely help you in both the short and long-term; many firms are using cloud-based accounting software that can help you and your client easily access and input this information.
Use the right employees for the right job
Take some time to figure out who your most productive preparers and reviewers are. Productive is not a measurement of speed in this case: taxes are one thing you definitely do not want to mess up on, unless you want to risk losing an important client, and possibly your license. Figure out which of your employees are the most thorough and accurate, and try to assign those workers the most important or lengthy projects. Longer time spent on preparing a return may very well save your firm hours in reviewing time.
Just get it done
When dealing with large numbers of clients and accounts, it can be easy to reach a blockage point in a project and set it aside for a moment to finish another. These small moments away from a return can turn into long periods of time, and you may even end up with many projects in frustrating stand-stills, piling up more stressful work on your desk. When you come upon a bottleneck in a return, just get it done. Often these problems can be easily fixed by just contacting the client, and a simple phone call will save time and heartache.
Bill the client immediately
Once your client’s return is complete on all counts, make sure to bill them for it immediately. It may seem smart to let it sit for a day or two to make sure everything is in order, but time is of the essence in this case. Make sure your reviewer is thorough, and everything is done properly the first time, then once it’s complete, it’s out of your hands. When tax returns are left unbilled, they are labelled inventory in progress; make sure it’s out of your hands in a timely manner, or they’ll lose worth over time.
Practice good work hygiene
You’ve done everything you can to prepare for tax season; your office is in top shape, your employees are informed and prepared, your clients have given you everything you need. Tax season will still be a pain for everyone involved, but small things at work can save you stress during this busy time. Take a day or two before tax season starts to clean up your office space, get your head and physical space cleared and easy to manage. Make sure to be well rested and fed before coming to work. Most importantly: take a break when you need one. Powering through may seem like the smart thing to do in busy periods, but taking a break can keep you sharp for work, as well as making sure you don’t overwhelm yourself. Tax season means everyone needs to step up to the plate and work their hardest, but breakdowns in the middle of the busiest time of the year are the last thing anyone needs.