Art of Accounting: Tax Season is Over - What to Do Now
IMGCAP(1)]I always ended tax season with my office closed the next day. We once gave employees a choice of taking off either the Tuesday or Friday after tax season. Those who chose the Friday said they should have taken off Tuesday. That day off provided a way to unwind and just be lazy. One year, one of my partners, a close friend and I all bought new cars that day. It is a day to clear your mind and come down from a high-performance mentality.
Following are some other ways of dealing with the end of tax season:
One of the things I always did was schedule a vacation for the beginning of May. I never was able to take off the end of April since there was always too much quarterly work that needed to be cleaned up. When I could not schedule an early May vacation, I planned one for June, but I did it by the beginning of March. That put me in a good frame of mind, knowing that I was going to have some time away with my wife. Waiting to schedule it until after tax season ended did not provide the anticipation during tax season of the much-needed relief and mindset.
While we need some vacation time, we also have a backlog of work that needs scheduling. It also needs some juggling since everything cannot be done at once. After the work was scheduled realistically, we called the clients to give them a date when they would have their work or to make the appointments for staff to come in. We needed to keep in mind that many of our senior staff also took time off, so for May we were usually shorthanded, and the scheduled work stretched into June.
Working on extended tax returns was nearly impossible until toward the end of June. Even then our hearts weren’t in it. We did not have the setup to get the work done efficiently, and returns were usually pushed aside until the beginning of September through the middle of October, creating a mini-tax season, but without the overtime commitment and closeness of staff preparing and reviewing that we had during the regular tax season. Also, to remove pressure on the preparation, we didn’t even call clients for missing information until July. After living through this many times, we realized that the best way to handle this was to try to get as many returns as possible done during tax season, even for clients who brought in their info at the last minute before April 15.
Life goes on in a CPA practice, and we had our share of 990s and 5500s that had May 15 and July 31 due dates and the FBAR forms with the June 30 due dates (which we now try to prepare along with the individual tax returns). Also, where we had extended returns with estimates due June 15, we found ourselves having to set time aside to work up the amounts for clients to pay. We got rid of this for most of the extended returns by preparing and sending them the vouchers with the extensions. The only estimates we then needed to work on were for the clients who had to have annualizing calculations done.
Also in June and July some great CPE and conferences started to appear, and these also need scheduling.
Workflow is continuous and needs minding, attention and careful management. Working on it makes everything easier and less stressful.
A great benefit of tax season the month afterwards is depositing the fee checks that come in almost daily. My partners and I get a nice payday, providing great gratification from the past tax season. Also, if you haven’t already scheduled it, you need to do a retrospective of tax season so that next year, tax season will be better.
Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is on the Accounting Today Top 100 Influential People List. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, published by www.CPATrendlines.com and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition,” published by the AICPA. Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com. Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.