Accountants - Make Next Tax Season Simpler
Another year, another tax season in the books.
While accountants and tax preparers have work to do year-round, the core busy season is early in the year leading up to the April 15th tax filing deadline. While there are other tax deadlines throughout the year individuals and small business owners may need to be aware of, the April deadline is one that many of us are very familiar with. As an accountant, you know that taxes can be confusing and small business owners likely have many questions about how they should be filing. Even though there is plenty of time before filing 2019 taxes, it never hurts to start preparing now for a smoother tax season. Below you’ll find some tips from other accountants, some that were featured in an article from Accounting Today, that you can use in your accounting firm.
We talked to CPA Matthew Weissman, owner of Integrity Accounting Advisors before tax season got started about some tips for crushing tax season from an accountant perspective. His biggest piece of advice was to communicate early, both accountants to clients and vice versa. As an accountant, it’s important to let your clients know what type of bandwidth you have when it comes to filing their taxes. For clients who like to cut it close to the deadline, telling them where you stand early on can give you some breathing room, so you aren’t spending countless nights working overtime.
Additionally, let your clients know the benefits/risks associated with filing an extension. When we talked to Weissman, the one thing he stressed was “even though taxes are due April 15th, that doesn’t mean it’s the best time in life for small business owners to be working on their tax return.” What he means is, we all run into life situations, that are sometimes beyond our control, that can make filing by the due date challenging. By filing an extension, it gives your client more time to prepare their information so they can come to you better prepared and not stressed or rushing.
Think Beyond Email
Building on communicating early, it’s important to consider how you are delivering messages to your clients. In the Accounting Today article, Becky Neilson of Neilson Bookkeeping and Tax Services said she made more phone calls compared to sending emails saying, “I would make more phone calls to get information from clients. While e-mails are nice, they’re not working well for all clients.” Everybody has different communication styles, and while some clients may excel over email, others may prefer more of a direct conversation whether you pick up the phone or chat in person. Communication is one of the keys to success in any relationship, including the relationships with your clients, so it’s important to work with them to make sure you are both on the same page.
Another idea is to gather all of the questions you receive from clients and put them in one place, such as an FAQ sheet or FAQ page on your website. You could even make a guide that discusses preparing for tax season. There’s a good chance that many of your clients have the same question(s), and instead of answering the same question over and over again, creating some resources for all of your clients could help alleviate some of their confusion. Depending on how you decide to showcase the information, to ensure as many clients see this as possible, share it in various formats, including emails, social media, and your website.
Prepare For the Last Minute Crunch
No matter how much planning and preparation you put into tax season, as an accountant, it’s inevitable that you are going to have some late nights or major crunch sessions to get things handled. Create a game plan for yourself, and your colleagues, to effectively work together to move through your to-do list. Have your office stocked with snacks, plan a process to keep everything organized, and take a deep breath. When you have a plan in place to tackle the crazier aspects of the job, you’ll be able to work more effectively and efficiently.
While you might not think of communication as being one of the most important steps during tax season, as an accountant with clients, it’s certainly a necessary one. Communicating early with your clients, and getting them into your offer sooner, will set you both up for success as you work through tax season together. Since time is one thing we all want more of, starting early can help you out. If you need any extra help getting your clients to meet sooner, point them to this list we put together that outlines four benefits to filing taxes early.
For more tips and tricks specific to accounting, check out our Accountant Resources Page!