Struggling this tax season? Do you find yourself running in the tax season quicksand? Are you catching up on returns, only to find more work getting piled on?
Perhaps you’re working even more hours yet missing more deadlines. Deadlines are deadlines, whether it’s the official tax deadline or your own target turn around time. And unfortunately, clients don’t want to hear “your return is still missing some information” or “yours required more work than others.”
Many accounting firms succumb to the “same old” way of doing client work, and as such, sometimes deliver late deliverables to clients — no matter what the reason. These often come with write-offs (or write-downs).
Here’s how to dramatically cut down on missed deadlines while improving the quality (and quantity) of work going on during tax season.
Start When Ready
“Start when ready” is a foundational workflow principle that can be seen in places like hospitals (for example, you never see a surgeon looking for their patients or tools at operation time) to mechanic shops (using tools such as the “shadow board” to make sure all tools are put in the right place, every time). For accounting professionals, start when ready simply means you cannot, or will not, begin tax work until the client has submitted all their required documentation. This means before beginning work someone in the firm goes through a quality assurance (QA) checklist to ensure everything is ready to be worked on. We know one partner in a CPA firm who used this technique and literally doubled their output year over year, despite being down a staff member!
Here are three quick steps to implement the “start when ready” framework:
- Communicate to the client what is expected of them and when it needs to be delivered. It also helps to communicate “why” this documentation is needed in a timely manner.
- Create your own, lightweight “QA checklist” for your tax returns. Make sure that whatever your job or client workflow software is, the checklist is listed there!
- Communicate the change to your team. Educate them on why you’re implementing this change, why it will benefit the clients and firm, and how to use it. Cover what happens if something isn’t listed in the QA checklist, and how to document ideas for how to improve it (a simple spreadsheet of potential changes will do).
And that’s it. Start small, start simple. Start living with the “start when ready” mindset and your team, your clients, and your own sanity can dramatically improve!