On Your Marks
Even as everyone else was preparing for the holiday season, you knew you had another season to get ready for. Instead of stringing Christmas lights and digging up New Year’s noisemakers, you need to bone up on the Affordable Care Act and stock up on aspirin and No-Doze.
So, what are you forgetting about preparing for next season?
Preparers offer varied answers. “Software is the big concern with us. It just arrived,” said James Berardi, an Enrolled Agent in San Antonio. “We’re also taking a very close look at new pricing with the ACA.”
Andre Jerry, president of MTG Incorporated Financial Management Services in Atlanta, is registering his PTIN and making sure his registration for the IRS E-file Service Providers is current.
“I’ve purchased my tax prep software. I’m also in the process of designing my business cards, updating my Web site and reviewing my fee schedule,” Jerry said. “In addition, I’m considering, if it’s in my budget, revamping my existing Web site.”
New season, very new challenges
Education plays an especially big role in preparing for this season and its ACA and tax changes. “I’m off to Atlantic City for the National Association of Tax Professionals’ annual year-end tax update classes,” said preparer Robert Flach, writer of The Wandering Tax Pro blog. “And I’m updating my internal forms, schedules and worksheets for tax year 2014 numbers.”
Deana Parsick of Missouri-based Tax Diva Services, and president of that state’s chapter of the National Association of Tax Professionals, is taking final pre-plunge classes in her practice’s software, and also did the IRS AFTR course. Oh, and “getting supplies for offices,” she added.
Kathleen Fitzpatrick of Padgett Business Services in Princeton, N.J., is attending classes on the ACA and tax law changes “to make sure I’m up to date on all of the expected changes from last season, and I’m reaching out to my clients on items I think will impact them,” she said.
Fitzpatrick is also implementing direct-mail campaigns and continuing follow-up calls to prospects. “I’m mailing out year-end checklists to my current clients so that they are prepared.”
The Income Tax School offers a checklist to ready for the season. Among the priorities:
- Personnel: Hire the proper amount of staff and determine availability to ensure coverage; obtain or review PTINs for all preparers; hire your seasonal receptionist or administrative assistants. Also, complete all employment documents for all new employees and have all preparers sign employment agreements (including non-compete, non-solicitation and confidentiality provisions). Write your employee schedule for at least the first month, hold or schedule pre-tax season meetings, train all new associates and preparers and make sure all preparers have completed any necessary continuing education.
- Tax operations: Send letters to clients to encourage them to come in before January 31; mail organizers and cover letters, and slot appointments with clients who have complex returns; and set your fees and charges for the new tax season.
- Offices: Sign your lease for all locations; handle inventory maintenance issues and either fix or create a plan for repairs before tax season begins; make sure all signage is properly lit and in good working order; order office supplies and arrange for phones and utilities to work all locations. Don’t forget to clean your office interiors and windows.
- Marketing: Contact previous clients; write and send out newsletters; prepare a content plan for your Web site and social media sites; arrange for any campaigns such as writing guest posts, press releases and articles. Also, schedule seminars in your community and buy any planned advertising space.
“Right now I’m clearing my e-mails and the little stuff off of my desk, and getting ready to write my year-end tax letter to clients,” said EA Martha Nest of Westview Tax Services in Bardstown, Ky. “Can you tell me how to explain the ACA and repair regulations? Oh yes,” she added, “in my spare time I’m teaching a seminar on the ABCs of the ACA and trying to find my file room.”
Nest’s software is in place, her folders ordered and her fee increase finalized. “And I need a vacation before the bedlam starts,” she said.