It's April 20. Congratulations. You've made it past another April 15 and survived another tax season. Hopefully, you've had a chance to recuperate and take some well-deserved time-off.

Evidence suggests that you've been pretty busy: Some 61 percent of returns received by the Internal Revenue Service as of March 18 had a paid-preparer signature, according to the National Taxpayers Union. And it seems you're getting busier -- the same group also reported that the number of taxpayers using paid professionals has grown by nearly 30 percent since 1990.

According to the American Institute of CPAs, the 2005 filing season was a smooth one. The chairman of the group's Tax Executive Committee recently told members of Congress that the filing season progressed "largely without any significant problems," and that taxpayers and practitioners are "generally pleased with the Internal Revenue Service's performance."

But what about you? Was the 2005 filing season a smooth one for your firm? (I won't ask right now if you're "generally pleased with the IRS's performance" -- that's another column.) That got me thinking, how do you measure the success of your firm's tax season? Is it by the number of returns filed? By the number of clients served? By the average fee per client? By total client fees earned? Is a good year simply one in which your firm filed more returns and collected higher fees than last year? Or do you measure your success by how your staff thinks you did? Or by how well your clients think you did?

No doubt, many of you plan a post tax-season strategizing session to evaluate your firm's performance (although, hopefully, you wait to do so until after you've celebrated sufficiently and re-introduced yourselves to your loved ones). And it goes without saying that during such a review, you'll review many, if not all of the aforementioned figures -- number of returns filed, average fee per client, etc. -- and then some. It's important to look at the numbers to see if your workflow processes are as efficient as they can be and to see if your performance has improved.

But as you tally your tax season data this year, it's also a good time to hit the pause button to review some less objective data, and to ask your employees and your clients how they thought your firm performed.

Did your firm meet your staff's expectations? Did your team members feel well prepared to handle their workload? Did they know what was expected of them? Did staffers get the support they needed from senior partners and vice versa?

What about your clients? Did they feel that their returns were completed quickly - and, more important, accurately? Did they like the way they were treated by your staff? Did they get timely answers to their questions? Were they satisfied enough with your firm's performance to recommend you to a friend?

So, how did your firm measure up this tax season?

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