That greeting may sound oxymoronic. After all, this is traditionally the most difficult part of a tax professional or accountant's year, known for late hours, seven-day workweeks, long absences from family and friends, and far too much time spent with infuriating clients.
Not a very happy time, then.
But here's an interesting fact: In a survey we did of accountants and tax professionals, more than half said that their firms weren't going to require staff to work every Saturday during tax season. Specifically, 28 percent said that staff would only have to work some Saturdays, and 27 percent said that they wouldn't have to work on Saturdays at all, provided they got their work done.
No Saturdays during tax season? That's amazing -- and to some, blasphemous. It's a hallowed tradition of the profession that you shouldn't be able to see your spouse and children from late January until April 15, right? Generations of accountants and tax pros have made this sacrifice, and many see no reason why future generations shouldn't have to.
The problem is, the future generations don't see it that way. They don't believe in paying their dues, they want work-life balance, and they believe in working smarter, not harder. As long as their work gets done, they see no reason to come in on Saturdays for three months out of the year -- and no reason not to take a vacation day during the second week of April.
And you know what? They're right. At one point, the state of technology and the demographics of the profession combined to make a labor-intensive tax season make sense. But tremendous advances in technology in every area of tax preparation -- from document collection to data entry to tax research to actual prep, review and filing - should make it possible to do more returns in much less time, while the common-sense refusal of younger generations to work harder than they need to requires a change of model.
Yes, the ever-growing complexity of the Tax Code has offset some of the gains -- but only some. And no, tax season will never be easy or fun -- documents will always be late, clients will always be annoying, software will always have glitches, people will make mistakes, and there will be late nights. That need not mean sacrificing your entire life for a quarter of the year, though many assume that it does.
If you start with the assumption that tax season won't destroy your life (and those of your staff), there are lots of ways to make sure it doesn't. Smarter use of technology will help, as can outsourcing. Remote work will allow you to hire staff from all over the country, spreading the burden. Better training earlier on can prevent problems when things are really busy. Try raising your prices -- you may lose some clients, but you'll make up the difference from those who remain, and you'll make the same amount of money by doing less work. Move up the value chain to tax returns that are more complex, more interesting and more profitable.
Don't get me wrong -- tax season is never going to be fun, and it's never going to be easy. (Remember, Congress is involved.) It can be easier, though, if you approach it that way.
Here's one way to start: Happy Tax Season!
Register or login for access to this item and much more
All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.
Community members receive:
- All recent and archived articles
- Conference offers and updates
- A full menu of enewsletter options
- Web seminars, white papers, ebooks
Already have an account? Log In
Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access