Tax season is challenging for CPAs as it brings a lot of work pressure. To achieve profitable growth and ensure optimum client satisfaction, they have to work hard during this season. However, troublesome clients and enormous workload make it hard for the CPAs, providing accounting and tax services, to tackle this season and also maintain an efficient work-life balance.
Through this article, we have sought relevant expert opinions on how to deal with the challenges of a busy tax season.
12 Tax Season Tips For Busy CPAs
1. Maintain a proper work schedule
Chayim Kessler, Certified Public Accountant from Miami Beach CPA LLC
Acknowledge that your clients (old, new and those still coming!) are going to need your time. There are times that I need to be on the phone suggesting tax-saving opportunities to a client and then get interrupted by a walk-in client who needs tax compliance consultation right away. It’s the nature of our practice but this shouldn’t derail our path towards productivity at all.
Develop a plan that can help you prioritize your deliverable one-by-one and provide that needed focus per client. You’ll be surprised at the amount of accomplishment you’d have at the end of each day.
Delegate your tasks to your team. Assigning responsibility and authority to someone whom you trust is a good leader’s trait. If you’re short of staff, consider hiring additional support from freelancers. The gig economy is growing and you can always take advantage of it.
2. Communication & Prioritizing
I have been through 20 busy seasons in my career. The two items that have always helped me was 1). Communication and 2). Understanding what is important.
For communication, the biggest key is to make sure you are properly communicating with your client. By that, I mean you need to make sure you are constantly communicating with them on what you need and when you need it by. What has always helped is I put due dates in a prepared by client list. The due dates are straddled, so not all is due at once. If you try to put all items due at once, then your client will wait until the last minute.
The other key item is to understand that the tax return or audit you are working on is not the equivalent of saving a life. The tax return will still be there tomorrow, and the client isn’t going into cardiac arrest, so go home at a reasonable hour and spend time with your family.
3. Avoid extra distractions
Scott Bates, Finance Blogger at Money and Bills
For CPA’s to successfully overcome the busy season, they need to learn to disconnect from there e-mails and social media accounts. Instead of checking their e-mail every 10 minutes, they should just do it every hour. In addition, it’s best to disconnect from all Social Media entirely. It’s amazing how much time these extra distractions can waste.
Also, they may want to consider the 80/20 principle for there workflow by passing the torch off to someone else to help complete their bottom 80% of tasks so they can focus on the top 20% which is the work that no one else can do.
4. Have your clients pre-register & implement better assistance
Implement year-round assistance for your tax clients. I offer virtual CFO services for clients all over the country and help them keep their finances organized throughout the year. This means that at tax time all of their accounting records are in pristine condition to either import to my tax software (if I’m preparing) or share with their own tax preparer. Most tax preparers are EXTREMELY grateful for the help I provide and save them valuable time cleaning up messes.
Use online importing software. Nearly everything can be done virtually today. Instead of asking for a shoebox from your clients, offer an online alternative for them to upload their documents to either your secure server or an online tax preparation software. This can save an incredible amount of time sorting through papers and map specific forms to their proper place on the tax return.
Have clients pre-register to have their taxes done. By using scheduling software, you can send clients reminders and deadlines to get documents or information to you. This can also help you manage those trouble clients who need a little more help and prepare extensions well before April 15th.
5. Have a backup staff in place
George Birrell, CPA | Taxhub
Busy season is a major challenge for CPA’s and can make the difference between a profitable and unprofitable year. The best way to overcome the obstacles is to set up an ironclad process and stick to the process and don’t panic when the process appears to be overwhelmed.
Another that is easier said than done is to have backup staff in place. I have found a great resource is an offshore staff for back-office work. Firms in India have surprisingly knowledgeable staff.
6. Leading strategies to overcome whiny and price-sensitive clients
Daniel Henn, CPA
The biggest challenge most CPAs have to overcome is too many clients, too many whiny, price-sensitive clients, long collection cycles. Here is how to overcome these issues by using these winning strategies to a better tax season:
- Charge higher fees. This will get rid of the whiny, price-sensitive clients and get you people who are willing to pay for your services as a CPA.
- Fire clients. If they whine about your fees, make their procrastination your problem, don’t listen to your advice, or don’t pay you on time, then they need to find someone else. Then apply winning strategy #1
- Employ better billing techniques. Collect a portion of your fee upfront (minimum suggested is 50%). Send a draft of the return or do not allow them to pick up the return until they pay the remaining balance. Possibly offer a discount for next year of $X or Y% if they pay the remainder of the balance by a certain date.
- Hire employees. Even if it is a part-time admin person. By delegating the $10-15/hr work to an admin person (answering phone, scanning, greeting clients, etc), you can do more of the work that you can charge a higher billing rate for.
- Spend time working on your practice as well as in your practice. This means dedicate at least 2-4 hours per week doing networking, blogging, social media, direct mail, newsletter, creating videos, podcasts, or seminar presentations.
7. Delegation & adequate workflow
Peter Greco, CPA, founder, and Chief Tax Strategist at the CSI LLP
It is very easy for a CPA to lose sight of what’s important and get lost in the weeds during tax season. CPAs should manage client expectations from the outset, and make sure their clients know that their time is valuable. Often CPAs forget what they were hired to do in the first place.
As a client’s most trusted advisor, the CPA’s role should be to advise clients on their taxes & other financial matters. However, most sole proprietors act as the client’s back-office support providing bookkeeping services instead of CPA services.
Back when I started my firm almost 50 years ago, I learned the importance of delegating. I attribute much of our success to the fact that I learned this early on in my career. It does not benefit anyone for a CPA to drop what they’re doing to personally answer a client’s simple bookkeeping/tax question.
Procedures should be put in place to manage the workflow properly which helps CPAs from getting distracted putting out fires whenever a client calls as opposed to staying focused on their high-level tasks and allowing their very capable staff to oversee the tasks that they have been trained to handle.
8. Adopt automation and technology
The primary way to overcome busy season challenges is to increase efficiency through automation and technology.
Technology and automation are not just for the tax work itself, but running the business itself. For example, if you hire 5 contractors tomorrow, are you set up to easily insert them into your process? How quickly and efficiently can they learn your workflow and ensure your clients a speedy turnaround?
Do you spend too much time on admin work versus the work that actually brings you money – preparing taxes?
There is one clear trend in our industry – technology investment is increasing across the board, and those who invest in technology, grow faster than those who do not.
- The larger the firm, the larger the IT investment (as a percentage of revenue).
- Firms who spent over 1% of fee revenue grew by an average of 9.73% while those who spent less grew on average by 4.2%.
- The average investment in technology by the 50+50 passed £150K for the first time.
9. Don’t overwork your staff
I’d have 2 suggestions.
Suggestion 1: Become comfortable with leveraging freelancers. It’s an ecosystem that lends itself very well to spikes in the volume of work and short-lived engagements. This will make it a lot easier for you to handle the increased volume, without needing to worry about having to make do with overworking your full-time staff.
Suggestion 2: Leverage digital marketing to control your pipeline of clients and how much you charge. If you have a large pipeline of clients you can charge more per client, and therefore make more with less work. And if you leverage digital marketing well you can spend more on acquiring the clients during less busy times, ahead of busy season, and spend less as you book up. This allows you to have more control over your volume and pace of work so you can plan better.
10. Be Flexible and Innovative
Rafoat Qudratbekova | Ignite the Spark
Most CPAs are prepared professionals who can deal with the “ordinary” outstanding task at hand that bustling season produces. Be that as it may, some expense seasons are more awful than others, regardless of whether because of new guidelines, issues with customers, or even cataclysmic events.
We asked CPAs across the nation to portray their most testing occupied seasons, how they dealt with them, and what they gained from these encounters.
“At the point when you know about new data, be the one to convey it first to your customers,” she said. “That fortifies the organization and trust.”
Each firm can build up its own accepted procedures, at the same time, paying little respect to the methodology, it sets up a domain that can react well to whatever the season brings.
“It’s critical to be familiar and liquid in making a culture that will draw out the best in every one of us, “You can’t be inflexible and stick to what you’ve constantly done. You need to continue developing and developing.”
11. Relaxed environment to work
Evan Nathanson, CPA
Overcoming a busy season…that’s a tough one. I don’t really think anyone “overcomes” it. Having been through upwards of fifteen tax seasons in my career, I can only say it’s kind of like swimming in the ocean with a life vest. The waves (work) keeps coming, from all sides, and the life vest (tax deadline), keeps you afloat and motivated to finish.
At our firm, the culture keeps everyone in a good headspace. This means casual clothing while not at clients, snacks in the kitchen and flexible hours, within reason. We have also brought dinners in during the week and have even sometimes had a random day off in the middle of the season to decompress and relax. I feel that the more relaxed you are, the more successful you will be.
While it’s a trying time of year, it’s one that can also be very rewarding. Providing guidance and helping clients as their trusted advisor keeps me coming back each morning with a smile and a sense of pride. Also, a nice calendar by your desk to count the days until Tax Day is helpful!
12. Strategize to resolve issues before they arise
Brandon Gray, CPA |Firm360
There are quite a few challenges that can come to light for our firm during the busy season. However, we do have some beneficial strategies to help resolve issues before they arise.
- Intentionally monitor your practice management system to be sure tasks and projects are being properly prioritized and allocated.
- Take time for yourself outside of work in order to maintain an adequate work/life balance.
- Stay current with client follow-ups to be sure you receive the information you need on a timely basis.
- Stay up-to-date and educated on current law and software changes.
- Execute individual time management in order to remain cost-effective.
- Touch base with clients periodically to make sure you are meeting their expectations.
Although tax season is a busy time for the CPAs and brings many challenges in their path; proper communication, delegation, use of technology and efficient workflow can really help them to victoriously surpass this demanding time.
However, investing in technology, infrastructure, and workforce can prove to be expensive. So, is there a solution? Yes, by outsourcing your back-office tasks to outsourcing experts, CPA firms can save a lot on their overhead cost without compromising on the work quality. Meet Cogneesol, a 12-year old outsourcing firm providing quality back-office support to CPA firms worldwide.
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