Tax season is the busiest and most stressful time of the year for accounting firms. It is also the most important time to provide quality service to your clients and ensure compliance with tax laws and regulations.
To help you prepare for the upcoming tax season, here are 10 tips that can make your work more efficient, effective, and enjoyable.
#1. Reassess last year’s tax season
If you have not done so already, take some time to review how the previous tax season went for your firm. Identify what worked well and what did not, and look for areas of improvement. You can use feedback from your clients, staff, and peers, as well as data from your software and systems, to evaluate your performance. Some questions you can ask yourself are:
- How satisfied were your clients with your service?
- How accurate and timely were your tax returns?
- How productive and profitable were your staff and processes?
- How well did you manage your workload and stress levels?
- What challenges or issues did you face, and how did you resolve them?
- What opportunities or best practices did you discover or implement?
Based on your assessment, you can set goals and action plans for the next tax season. You can also update your policies, procedures, and templates to reflect any changes or improvements.
#2. Streamline your tech stack
Technology is a key enabler for accounting firms to deliver high-quality service to their clients. However, having too many or outdated tools can also create inefficiencies, errors, and frustrations. Before the tax season starts, you should evaluate your tech stack and make sure it meets your current and future needs.
Some of the factors you should consider are:
- Does your software have all the features and capabilities you need to perform your tasks effectively and efficiently?
- Does it integrate well with other tools you use?
- Does your software comply with the latest security standards and regulations?
- Does it protect your data and your clients’ data from unauthorized access, loss, or damage?
- Is your software easy to use and navigate?
- Does it have a user-friendly interface and design?
- Does it offer support and training resources?
- Is your software worth the investment?
- Does it offer a fair pricing model and value proposition?
- Does it fit within your budget?
You may want to consolidate or upgrade your tech stack to optimize your workflow and performance. For example, you may want to use an all-in-one solution that covers multiple aspects of your business, such as Phonexa, which offers marketing automation for calls, leads, clicks, email, SMS, accounting, and more.
#3. Brush up on updated tax requirements
Tax laws and regulations are constantly changing, and staying on top of them is essential for accounting firms. You need to be aware of the latest tax requirements that affect your clients and your firm, and how to comply with them. You also need to communicate these changes to your clients and educate them on their implications and obligations.
Some of the sources you can use to keep yourself updated are:
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website, which provides information on federal tax laws, forms, publications, news, and resources.
- The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) website, which offers guidance, advocacy, education, and networking opportunities for CPAs.
- The state and local tax authorities’ websites, which provide information on state and local tax laws, rules, rates, deadlines, and exemptions.
- The professional associations’ websites, such as the National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP) or the National Society of Accountants (NSA), which offer membership benefits, events, courses, publications, and forums for tax professionals.
- The industry publications’ websites, such as Accounting Today or CPA Practice Advisor, which feature news, analysis, trends, opinions, and best practices for accounting firms.
#4. Incorporate your company culture
Your company culture is the set of values, beliefs, behaviors, and norms that define how you work as a team and how you interact with your clients. It is also a key factor that influences your employee engagement, retention, client satisfaction, reputation, and growth. Therefore, you should not neglect your company culture during the tax season.
Some of the ways you can incorporate your company culture into your work are:
- Aligning your goals and strategies with your mission and vision
- Reinforcing your core values and principles in your decisions and actions
- Recognizing and rewarding your staff for their achievements and contributions
- Providing feedback and coaching to help your staff improve their skills and performance
- Encouraging collaboration and communication among your staff and with your clients
- Promoting a positive work environment that fosters trust, respect, diversity, and inclusion
- Supporting work-life balance and wellness initiatives for your staff
#5. Provide a tax season checklist to clients
One of the best ways to prepare for the tax season is to help your clients prepare as well. By providing them with a tax season checklist, you can ensure that they have all the necessary information and documents ready for you to file their tax returns. This will save you time and hassle, and also demonstrate your professionalism and expertise.
A tax season checklist should include:
- The basic personal and business information of your clients, such as their name, address, phone number, email, social security number, employer identification number, etc.
- The tax forms and schedules that your clients need to file, such as Form 1040, Schedule C, Schedule E, etc.
- The income and expense records that your clients need to provide, such as W-2s, 1099s, bank statements, receipts, invoices, etc.
- The deductions and credits that your clients may qualify for, such as mortgage interest, charitable contributions, education expenses, child tax credit, etc.
- The deadlines and payment options that your clients need to follow, such as the due date for filing and paying taxes, the extension request form, the installment agreement form, etc.
You can customize your tax season checklist according to the specific needs and situations of your clients. You can also use online tools or templates to create and share your checklist with your clients.
#6. Automate your workflow
Automation is another way to improve your efficiency and accuracy during the tax season. By automating some of the repetitive and tedious tasks, you can free up your time and energy for more value-added and creative work. You can also reduce the risk of human errors and oversights that can lead to penalties and audits.
Some of the tasks that you can automate are:
Data entry and extraction
You can use software that can scan, capture, and import data from various sources, such as paper documents, PDF files, emails, etc. For example, you can use AutoEntry, which automates data entry from bills, receipts, bank statements, sales invoices, and more.
Tax preparation and filing
You can use software that can prepare and file tax returns for your clients, based on the data and information you provide. For example, you can use Drake Software, which offers a comprehensive tax solution for federal and state returns, e-filing, extensions, amendments, etc.
Communication and collaboration
You can use software that can facilitate communication and collaboration among your staff and with your clients. For example, you can use Slack, which is a cloud-based platform that allows you to create channels, send messages, share files, make calls, etc.
Project management and tracking
You can use software that can help you manage and track your projects, tasks, deadlines, budgets, etc. For example, you can use Asana, which is a web-based tool that enables you to create projects, assign tasks, set due dates, monitor progress, etc.
#7. Outsource or delegate some of your work
Another way to cope with the increased workload and demand during the tax season is to outsource or delegate some of your work to others. This can help you focus on your core competencies and priorities, as well as leverage the expertise and resources of others.
Some of the work that you can outsource or delegate are:
Bookkeeping and accounting
You can outsource or delegate some of the bookkeeping and accounting tasks to a third-party service provider or a junior staff member. This can include tasks such as reconciling bank accounts, recording transactions, preparing financial statements, etc.
Marketing and sales
You can outsource or delegate some of the marketing and sales tasks to a marketing agency or a sales representative. This can include tasks such as creating and executing marketing campaigns, generating leads, closing deals, etc.
Administrative and clerical
You can outsource or delegate some of the administrative and clerical tasks to a virtual assistant or an office assistant. This can include tasks such as scheduling appointments, answering phone calls, sending emails, filing documents, etc.
#8. Train and motivate your staff
Your staff are your most valuable asset during the tax season. They are the ones who perform most of the work and interact with most of the clients. Therefore, you should invest in training and motivating them to ensure their competence and commitment.
Some of the ways you can train and motivate your staff are:
- Providing them with the necessary tools and resources to do their job well
- Updating them on the latest tax requirements and best practices
- Giving them clear expectations and feedback on their performance
- Involving them in decision making and problem solving
- Offering them incentives and rewards for their achievements
- Celebrating their successes and milestones
- Encouraging them to take breaks and have fun
#9. Communicate with your clients regularly
Communication is key to building trust and loyalty with your clients. During the tax season, you should communicate with your clients regularly to keep them informed and engaged. You should also communicate with them proactively to anticipate their needs and address their concerns.
Some of the ways you can communicate with your clients are:
- Sending them newsletters or emails with useful tips, updates, reminders, and offers
- Calling them or meeting them in person to discuss their tax situation, options, and plans
- Inviting them to webinars or workshops to educate them on tax topics and issues
- Asking them for feedback or testimonials on your service
- Thanking them for their business and referrals
#10. Plan ahead for next year’s tax season
The best time to prepare for next year’s tax season is right after this year’s tax season. By planning ahead, you can avoid the last-minute rush and stress that often plague accounting firms. You can also take advantage of the lessons learned from this year’s tax season to improve your processes and performance.
Some of the steps you can take to plan ahead are:
- Reviewing your goals and results from this year’s tax season
- Analyzing your strengths and weaknesses from this year’s tax season
- Identifying your opportunities and threats for next year’s tax season
- Setting new goals and strategies for next year’s tax season
- Implementing new changes or improvements for next year’s tax season
Tax season is a challenging but rewarding time for accounting firms. By following these 10 tips, you can prepare yourself and your firm for a successful and smooth tax season. You can also provide excellent service to your clients and grow your business. Remember, preparation is the key to success.
Good luck and happy tax season!