As journalists, rather than CPAs, most of us try to avoid crunching numbers of any sort. We generally prefer to work with words, rather than spreadsheets. But at this time every year, we find ourselves sympathetic to the plight of those CPAs who will put in endless hours during the coming months as the April 15 tax season deadline draws near.

While many of you will contend with clients who will give you incomplete or incorrectly completed tax forms, or who will fail to provide you with documents they promised you a week ago, we will contend with our own seasonal headaches -- those that accompany our annual Top 100 Firms project. We, too, will face incomplete or inaccurate forms. Sometimes, you find that the numbers just don’t add up. We know how you feel.

While you may find yourself hounding clients to file their returns early, or at least by the filing deadline, we find ourselves hounding people to provide us with net revenue numbers and fee splits. And while you will spend countless hours trying to deliver your clients the best possible news from the IRS, we will spend countless hours trying to put the information we gather into accurate, easy-to-read charts and related stories with information that you will find useful in some way.

While you will manage the expectations of hundreds of clients, we plead with more than 140 firms to open up their books and tell us, among other things, how much they made in net revenue, how many employees they have, what their fastest growing niche practices are, and what the top challenges facing their firm during the past year has been.

And, as many years as we have done this (the Accounting Today Top 100 Firms list debuted in 1988), unforeseen difficulties will inevitably attempt to discourage us in our quest. Bounced or missing e-mails, unreturned phone calls, and contacts who have permanently left the firm or gone on three-week vacations with no indication of where the forms are, or what stage of completion they are in, all conspire to thwart us -- unsuccessfully, of course -- from our mission.

Like you, we have deadlines to meet, and never enough hours in a day. We understand, and just as you do with your clients, we try to be as accommodating as possible.

Keep this all in mind if you are among those who will get a call from us in the coming days inquiring about the status of your survey response. And take solace in the fact that we, unlike the IRS, do not assess late penalties. Remember, we are sympathetic. I’d also wager that some of the same reasons clients give you for not getting their tax forms in on time are some of the ones used by firms that didn’t meet our submission deadline.

So, as you count down the days until April 15 (92 days to go), we are counting the days until the Top 100 Firms survey issue ship date (just 31 to go).

And our thanks to all of you for your candor and cooperation in submitting your data and making our annual survey a huge success. By virtue of the fact that there are never more than three copies of it, all of which are guarded like winning lotto tickets, remaining in our office by the end of April, it’s touted as one of our most popular issues every year.

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