[IMGCAP(1)]A significant amount of planning is typically involved before most major events. For example, the D-Day invasion was planned and scheduled with extreme detail months before its execution on June 6, 1944. Likewise, accountants each year experience a tax season that requires detailed planning and precise execution.

One way to organize those efforts as tax season approaches is to think of your planning in terms of three general areas: capacity, communication and conclusion.

Capacity
With the high number of tax filings expected to be submitted this year, it is critical that your firm assess its ability to handle the projected tax load. As your firm grows, so will the amount of tax returns.

Estimate how your firm’s growth over the past year will affect this tax season. If the projected number of tax filings seems too daunting for your current processes to handle, consider these options:

• Hire additional staff to help manage the additional tax returns you are expecting, or

• Utilize software that can scan, organize and populate tax returns for your firm.

Some web-based software solutions can take scanned or digital financial documents and compile information in an ordered fashion, clearing the way for you to begin preparing the returns. Implementing this type of solution before tax season begins will cut the time it takes to organize financials.

Communication
Creating deadlines for your clients that are well in advance of tax season will help both your firm and your clients. It is more than likely that business owners will have to search and compile the financial information required on tax returns. Chris Frederiksen, chairman and CEO of the 2020 Group, suggests giving your clients a notice to begin compiling the necessary financials and setting a deadline well before the end of February.

Additionally, you can begin scheduling tax appointments well in advance. Setting times now to meet with clients in the spring can remove the hassle of scheduling clients while you are in the thick of tax work. Taking advantage of software that automates reminders for your clients is another useful tactic your firm can implement this tax season.

As you meet with clients to conclude your work and present their tax returns for the year, consider ways that you can add value by providing useful recommendations for their businesses. For example, if clients are nearing retirement and considering selling their business, suggest they have a proper valuation performed to determine whether their business is on track to generate as much as they think it should.

Likewise, if your client’s business is about to introduce new pricing or trying to decrease their inventory days, suggest meeting again to discuss forecasting how these moves may pay off or to discuss other financially beneficial changes to their processes. Capitalizing on these tax-oriented client meetings can set up your firm for a profitable year or at least provide you the comfort to turn away late-season tax work you don’t really want to accept.

Finally, thank your clients. Even before tax season arrives, prepare a handwritten note for your clients thanking them for their business, and then pop it into the mail within two weeks of completing their tax work. Including a few business cards can be a great way to generate referrals, especially if your note politely indicates you appreciate when they tell friends and colleagues about your services.

Zach Meyer is a consultant at the financial information company Sageworks.

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