Top 10 Tips for Surviving Tax Season
“How can I survive tax season,” you ask? Busy season is a testament to your strength, your endurance, your patience and most importantly your ability to time manage.
Here are my top 10 tips for surviving busy season:
10. Be Prepared
- Print out your client list and make sure you know what exactly you are responsible for.
- Know your due dates so you can adequately prepare.
- Schedule, schedule, schedule — make sure all of your projects have been scheduled and properly staffed.
- Has there been a significant change in the tax law? What are the key changes and which of my clients will they affect? Become familiar with the new law, read up, attend CPE classes — maybe even challenge yourself to teach a CPE class. Teaching a CPE class is a great way to learn everything there is to know on a new topic.
- Whether your clients are new to you this tax season or have been your clients for years, take 15 minutes to review their returns and keep a list (mental or written) of who will be able to take the qualified business income (QBI) deduction, who may fall short of itemizing their deductions and who may be subject to section 163(j) of the IRS Code (where the deduction for business interest expense is the sum of business interest income, financing interest expense and 30 percent of adjusted taxable income (ATI)).
9. Be Organized
Have a handle on your client list and what returns you will be responsible for:
- Take ownership, be proactive. Contact clients either just to check in and see if there have been any significant events during the past year or to set up a timeline for information requests.
- Make sure you know what due dates you will be working towards. As you get closer to a due date, approach projects on a first-in-first-out basis as well as what projects are due first. While it doesn't make sense to work on a return that you have only received partial information for, it does make sense to go through the information and let the client know what is missing. Clients will appreciate an information request list that you will work together completing. They will appreciate the thought, the organization and the time you have taken to taken to make sure you will put their needs first.
- As you get busier, make a to-do list (every day if you need to). You’ll feel better crossing items off the list and you will appreciate the sense and you will appreciate the sense of accomplishment.
8. Leverage Your Peers
Touch base to see what common issues you may share. Get together early in the season, have dinner, get a drink and discuss the issues. You can trade ideas discuss the issues. You can trade ideas, share stories, swap research. You’re not in this alone, leverage others as much as you can.
7. Check In With Your Staff/Manager/Partner
Request a meeting. Sort your client list by who you will be working with and ask to spend 15 to 30 minutes going over the list so you are all on the same page. Will a client be traveling and need their returns sooner than usual? Has there been a significant transaction that will need more of your time than the previous year? If you're new to the project is there anything you can do to brush up on the issues at hand? Most importantly, go through your client list during tax season and follow up on the clients from whom you haven't received any information. Don't assume that someone else will follow up to request the information.
6. Focus On What You Can Control
No sense worrying about what you cannot control. Plan as much as you
can and be as prepared as possible and then set it aside until you have the information. Don't focus on the fact that you are assigned to 250 returns; focus on the dozen that are on your desk. Sort through your to-do list by what projects can actually be worked on and what projects will come to a head next week or the week after.
5. If You Need Help, Ask
Now that you’re familiar with your client list and the projects that you are
responsible for, you may find that you have multiple projects that need to be completed by the same date. Figure out how much time you will need to devote to each and realistically decide if you can tackle them all and meet the deadlines. It’s okay to ask for help as long as it’s in advance of the due date. There are times when projects come in earlier or later than expected and you find yourself trying to prepare or review two projects at once. If you do find yourself with multiple projects due at the same time,
let your scheduler, managers and/or partners know. They are there to help you prioritize.
4. Maintain a Personal Life
Get a haircut, go to the gym, go out for your anniversary, attend your child's softball game. Take the time away from the office so you can refresh. Go for a walk in the middle of the day. Don't forget that while busy season may consume us, there is always time for a break. Your family and your wellbeing are important, too.
3. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
Take a look at what's on your plate and decide what you can delegate. Look to make the best use of your time. As you prepare for the week ahead, take a few minutes to think about what can be done by someone else. Freeing up your time will enable you to have time for something else.
2. Take Care of You
It may sound kitschy, but if you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to give your all to your clients. Make sure you are eating well. When you are working long hours, take the time to get up, walk around or take a walk outside. Run out for coffee or go to the gym. A brief mental or physical break will do you wonders. Treat yourself to your favorite snacks. If your schedule permits, go home on time one night a week, catch up on some tv, go to bed early and recharge your battery.
1. Don't Panic
It might sound like a cliche, but it will all get done. The key is to stay on top of your projects, check in with your clients and make sure they're doing their part. Take it one due date at a time. And most importantly — don't panic. You will survive busy season!
Maryann T. Reyes, CPA, PFS, is a senior manager at Withum. She is a member of the NJCPA and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This article appeared in the January/February 2020 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.