According to the IRS, the busiest day for tax preparation occurs about two months prior to the day federal taxes are due (April 15). In 2019, the busiest day was predicted to be February 19, during President’s Day weekend.
The IRS starts accepting returns toward the end of January, and most people have their taxes filed by the end of April. Those who receive extensions generally file their taxes by July. That leaves six months of slow business for your tax firm: August through January.
You might be tempted to reduce your employees to part-time work after the busy season, but there are advantages to keeping a full-time staff year-round.
Here’s how to keep your staff busy post-busy season, and keep them engaged in work that benefits your firm:
Providing ongoing training will keep your staff in sync with each other and up-to-date with best practices and current tax laws. A cohesive team is easy to manage, and they’ll be more likely to keep your business goals as a priority. When your team flows, cash flows.
You can never over-train your staff members. The tax code grows more complex by the day, and even the most experienced tax preparer will stumble a bit when presented with an unfamiliar or complicated situation.
Your staff members play a significant role in implementing your firm’s business strategy. It’s impossible to keep up with the industry without continually training your staff. Some of the best training resources for your staff include:
• The IMA Management Accounting Competency Framework. This free downloadable framework covers strategy planning, performance, reporting and control, technology, analytics, business acumen, and operations.
The IMA also hosts several annual conferences that are currently addressing ways to implement technology like data analytics, automation, and blockchain.
If you can’t send your staff to the conferences in person, set them up with the IMA’s webinar program instead. They can watch and review from the office, or at home.
• Online education from the National Association of Tax Professionals. The NATP provides live and on-demand webinars, in-person training, online workshops, and other online training resources for finance professionals.
• Intuit QuickBooks Connect. This annual event is held in the U.S. and Australia to connect thousands of accounting professionals, small business owners, self-employed people, and developers. QuickBooks Connect provides information and training that your staff can use right away. Led by industry experts, firms learn to leverage and embrace new technologies and processes to grow their business and meet the changing needs of their clients.
• AICPA Conferences. The AICPA conferences will provide your staff with industry insights and news, along with the opportunity to meet with top regulators, leading accounting practitioners, and other attendees. The conferences are also available online, so there’s no reason to skip it.
• Accountex. Accountex USA is an annual conference that hosts workshops and exhibitors from all areas of accounting technology. Attendees learn new industry skills and effective best practices that they can implement the moment they return back to the office. Accountex exhibitors showcase innovative solutions to a variety of attendees including accountants, CPAs, bookkeepers, consultants, firm owners, and professional advisors.
Personally reaching out to every client is a good way to build and maintain the relationship. In the fall, let your clients know you’re available to answer questions about changes that might impact their withholdings or estimated taxes due. In the winter, reach out to your clients and offer tax-planning consultations.
Communicating with clients and potential clients is a continuous task. Throughout the year, you might need to contact clients about tax notices, audits, scheduled estimate reviews, and other various situations. Some of these communications can be done through quick phone calls, while others can be done through email. For more involved conversations, you may want to have face-to-face meetings. If your clients aren’t local, host a private video conference.
A crucial reason to stay in touch with clients during the slow season is to inform them of changes to the tax code that might affect their tax situation. For example, filing 2018 taxes came with significant changes for independent contractors and sole proprietors. It was a new experience, even for tax pros. Some clients knew what to expect ahead of time, but others didn’t. For many, the surprise was a reduction in owed taxes. For others, it was an unpleasant surprise that they were no longer able to deduct unreimbursed employee expenses.
Have your staff reach out to your clients to inform them of any changes in the tax code, like new tax credits or tax credits that are being phased out. You can’t always predict how changes will affect your clients come tax time, but you can inform them of changes, so they aren’t surprised when they file their taxes. For example, when the Affordable Care Act was passed, it changed everyone’s tax situation, but many didn’t understand how it would affect them until they filed their taxes. Some people were financially penalized, while others qualified for an exemption.
Send clients helpful worksheets and tools
Some people wait until the last minute to gather and document their tax-deductible expenses, which usually results in frustration. If receipts aren’t organized and expenses aren’t documented as they occur, it’s harder to organize expenses later.
Help your clients maintain well-organized records year-round. For instance, send your clients a basic Excel worksheet to track tax-deductible donations. Program the worksheet to automatically calculate the donations for your clients.
Create an income and expense tracker for your clients who want to track all the details. Most of your clients will probably have their own expense tracking system in place, but some might not. Anyone who doesn’t have a system will be extremely grateful for what you can offer, even if it’s simple.
Offer bookkeeping and payroll services
Another way to keep staff busy during the off-season is to expand your firm’s services to include bookkeeping and payroll services. With these services, you’ll stay engaged with clients on a regular basis, it can be a great way to take charge of the one piece of tax preparation that is most likely to delay your clients’ tax returns.
Just be sure you train your staff to offer these services. A bookkeeper needs to be meticulous and detail-oriented. They’ll need to account for every receipt and reconcile a client’s bank balance down to the penny. Not every accountant will make a good bookkeeper, so make sure you’re ready and willing to hire people specifically for this service.
Once you get clients for bookkeeping services, you can upsell them on tax preparation services.
If you do not have the capacity or would just rather not offer bookkeeping services, refer your clients to some excellent online bookkeeping services that will help ensure that their books are ready come tax-time.
Are you overwhelmed during tax season?
If you’re overwhelmed with tax returns during tax season, Taxfyle can help. We specialize in tax preparation outsourcing for firms with limited resources. When you’re understaffed, it’s difficult to meet tax deadlines and meet your promises to clients. Rushing to get taxes done can lead to careless mistakes that cost clients money and may subject them to an unnecessary audit.
Outsourcing tax preparation eliminates the risk of not meeting your promises and filing late. Outsourcing increases productivity, and ensures your clients’ taxes are filed by certified professionals, freeing you up to work on growing your business by interacting with your clients when they are most likely to have questions and require your direct assistance.
Outsourcing tax preparation means you won’t need to hire a full in-house team year-round. You might be able to run your firm with just two or three people, depending on your volume of clients.
By outsourcing tax preparation, your in-house staff can focus on customer service first, and spend time maintaining relationships with existing clients.
To learn more about what Taxfyle can do for you, request a demo today!
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