The sun has set on Tax Day 2016. Another season older and what did you learn? And what will do differently next year?

“These hours are about to kill me,” said Enrolled Agent Terri Ryman of Southwest Tax & Accounting in Elkhart, Kan. “I go to work at 6 a.m. and work until 6 or 7 p.m. And we work 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays. On Sunday I work at home after church and either review or actually prepare returns. Something I want to change is not working on weekends.”

Karen Durda, an EA at Century Accounting and Tax Services, in Wilmington, N.C., would’ve done a few things differently. “Earlier contact with returning clients [in the preseason],” she said. “Being more proactive in scheduling past clients so that they aren’t overlooked or pushed aside during the last few weeks of season. Being better prepared when meeting new clients to have the time to complete a simple return, or to make sure they have all required information so we can start and finish a return without missing paperwork.”

Ryman would also like to go back to interviews. “With ongoing clients (10 years and more), we’ve been allowing them to drop off tax documents,” she said. “New clients still get the interview. But I believe a face-to-face is necessary every year just to ferret out information that [longtime clients] may not be aware impacts their tax situation.”

‘A better job’

Among the areas to improve, preparers cited scheduling, staff training and just juggling all the chores in only so many workhours in a day.

“We would do more staff training before tax season,” said EA Steven Weil, president of RMS Accounting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “We slacked off a bit on the pre-season training and felt it at tax time. “Basic training on telephone procedures, file assembly, appointment procedure and return pick-up. It’s not tax knowledge,” he added. “It’s customer service and procedures.”

Port St. Lucie, Fla.-based EA Jeffrey Schneider’s woulda-coulda list is two words: “Time management,” he said. “Eighty percent of my clients came in after March 15. I need to do a better job.”

“For me, it’s more about software I didn't take the time to learn during the precious months of tax season to set up my EA course,” said Eva Rosenberg, an EA, blogger at TaxMama and author of Deduct Everything!

Durda also wanted a better system to track returns as they accumulate, and would’ve liked new clients to pay a deposit “to ensure that our time invested in preparing their return will be compensated even if they determine to seek services from another preparer. We lost paid compensation this year when the balance due or refund wasn’t to their satisfaction after we completed the work,” she said.

“I would have been more prepared with my staff,” said Twila Midwood, an EA at Advanced Tax Centre in Rockledge, Fla. “There was an unexpected change in my staff, which impacted everyone in the office. I also would’ve spent more time educating our clients on the ACA individual mandate requirements.” 

Alterations underway

“We would’ve changed how we handled the healthcare verification,” added Laurie Ziegler, an EA at Sass Accounting in Saukville, Wis. “This by far was the most challenging part of this season for our clients. We’re already in the process of altering our ACA compliance form.”

Next year will arrive before you know it. Kansas’ Ryman has already increased prices for shoebox clients. “Either they’ll pay us well to sort through their cigarette-smoky and sticky receipts or they can take them home and process them themselves,” she said. “I give them the choice, and it’s about half and half. Some organize and return, but others will pay dearly for us to do it.”

“I didn’t realize it,” she added, “but folks will pay what the job is worth. We have to start increasing prices.”

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