Staffing for Tax Season
As an operations manager for a small but rapidly growing tax firm, I have acquired some good tips on how to staff for tax season. Six years ago, I was the seventh employee to join the firm. Today, we have nearly 30 employees globally.
A major staffing strategy is to train from within starting at the intern level. We have been successful in partnering with a local university to hire accounting and finance undergrad students as interns. These interns start off with administrative responsibilities and quickly graduate to assisting with small client deliverables. This allows the interns to learn the tax software and get familiar with tax lingo. The arrangement provides our firm with the ability to evaluate an intern’s attention to detail, ability to learn and application of newly acquired skills. International tax planning and compliance is our specialty. We have developed a process for the delivery of FinCEN Form 114 — Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBARs), which heavily involves the interns. They create the FBARs in the tax software for review and await approval from a manager. The percentage of interns hired into junior tax positions upon graduation from their university is high.
Employee retention is another key variable for meeting staffing needs. Successful employee retention starts with a new hire onboarding process. We use a human resources orientation checklist and an information technology onboarding checklist, both of which contain more than 30 items. New hires move from the onboarding process to a simulated tax training program, coupled with ongoing coaching from multiple tax seniors and tax supervisors. New hires are also given the opportunity to work on individual and corporate returns to help determine where their interests lie while exposing them to various practice areas. This strategy ensures that we are matching the right resources to the right client.
Train and Develop
A commitment to training and development beyond the new-hire experience is also an important staffing strategy. Our firm’s tax professionals are incented to obtain their CPA license to further their career advancement. A CPA license is a prerequisite for a manager-level position. The firm is committed to helping staff achieve the CPA certification and has implemented a reimbursement policy for the cost of the preparation materials and exam costs. We schedule numerous on-site CPE courses throughout the year for the full staff to attend. Some courses are webinars delivered by external vendors and others are custom-built internal courses on a variety of topics. The tax world is always changing around us, and the CPE courses are great way to keep staff ahead of the game.
Bring in Reinforcements
We hire more experienced team members to deliver through tax season when needed. We use project management tools to track our client growth and continuously discuss projected staff resource needs with the management team well in advance of tax season. We then use multiple social media outlets to advertise our job postings. An employee referral program also provides financial incentive to team members to refer qualified individuals for open positions. We stress the team fit of a candidate during the interview process to ensure that we continue to build and maintain a strong team dynamic with all members of the team.
Staffing for tax season offers many challenges, but there are ways to make the process easier and more efficient throughout the year. Training from within is a huge player in strengthening a firm. Partner with a university to bring students on board as interns, then retain them after graduation to move them into bigger roles. A strong onboarding process will help you identify the strengths of your staff, so that you can place them in the best-fitting role for them to succeed. Retention and providing your staff with opportunities to grow are crucial to your firm’s success.
Patricia Drozd is the operations manager at D&H Global Tax Group, a regional tax and accounting firm specializing in international tax advice, tax return preparation for U.S. and non U.S. citizens, tax planning advice and representation of taxpayers in front of the IRS (state and local) in audit situations and related services.