Art of Accounting: Sometimes you get the ball in, and sometimes you don’t

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My friend Jim was shooting pool, and his four-and-a-half-year-old grandson, who was watching, remarked, “Papa, sometimes you get the ball in and sometimes you don’t!” The ball doesn’t always go into the pocket, nor does everything we do get done right the first time. The issue then becomes reducing the incorrect occurrences.

A firm in tax season is a nest festering with errors. That is why we have reviewers and also why most firms feel it necessary to have every entry reviewed by someone else.

Many firms think they have the “finding the errors” situation worked out, when in reality they should be concentrating on error reduction or elimination. Well, errors can’t really be eliminated, but reducing them can add hours of productive work per week to each person during tax season, probably reducing some overtime, definitely relieving stress, and improving the overall quality and proficiency of each person involved in tax season. I’ve done this successfully, and now try to share my techniques in these columns and also in books I’ve written. In return I’ve gotten some very nice emails from readers thanking me and sharing their experiences.

I also receive emails from readers who tell me I am off base or old school, or simply do not understand the tax season process. I find most of these amusing, but I like to read opposing views because they either strengthen my views or provide an understanding of a way I might be able to re-express what I am suggesting so I could get through to them better. And occasionally I learn something, so I appreciate those emails.

The detractors usually have never tried my methods, which have been expressed many times in columns here and most recently on Feb. 3 andFeb. 10. With regard to ticking and tying or relying heavily on the tax comparison worksheets that I espouse, I offer to discuss this with those who disagree with me, provided they do three returns using my methods before calling me. To make it even easier to try, I suggest following my methods on your own return and two of your more difficult returns. Then, if you still disagree, call me and let’s discuss. I also like to know why you don’t agree with me. Maybe you are right and I could learn from you. Or maybe you’ve come upon an exception and I also want to know about that. Of maybe you are just a good person and want to show me the error of my ways. In any event, we are in this together, so let’s share.

I know you are in the middle of tax season and least likely to try something new. However, what I suggest does not increase time, takes minimal effort to learn, and I have seen that after two or three tries that it would greatly reduce the time of those entrusted with reviewing your returns while simultaneously increasing the quality of what they do. What do you have to lose? Try it, you’ll like it; and if you don’t, call me and let’s discuss.

Have a great tax season.

Do not hesitate to contact me at emendlowitz@withum.com with your practice management questions.

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Tax practice Tax returns Tax season Practice management Ed Mendlowitz