Tax Professionals Share the Joys and Stresses of Tax Season
Accounting professionals are up to their eyeballs in paperwork, tax code and tax returns from February through April. Despite long hours and disorganized clients, they like their job. Discover the joys and stresses of tax season for tax professionals.
Most Americans find gathering paperwork, documents, and information to complete their individual tax returns stressful. Imagine what’s it like for the tax professionals in your circle. They collectively prepare and file nearly 200 million individual and business tax returns from mid-February through the end of tax season.
In addition to late nights, early mornings, and all-nighters, many subsist on caffeine and fast food, with little to no time to sleep or exercise.
During peak tax season, you can find many working 12+ hour days, 7 days a week, depending on how many clients they have and when they receive the documents they need. Anecdotal data from accounting professional forums suggest they work an average of 50 to 80 hours a week during this time.
Accounting professionals offer valuable services to their clients and the communities where they work. Businesses count on them to provide a financial backbone with tax planning, preparation, and other financial services, while individuals look to them for advice to save or make money and stay in good standing with state and federal tax agencies.
The combination of pressure and crazy hours sounds like a recipe for job dissatisfaction.
Not so fast.
In a recent survey of CPAs, accountants and bookkeepers commissioned by SurePayroll, more than two-thirds rated their work-life balance good (43%) to excellent (25%), and only one percent rate it as poor. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks accountant on its annual Best Jobs list for business jobs as well as on its top 100 jobs in the U.S.
It could be because they like what they do.
The accounting professionals surveyed said doing their own tax returns leaves them feeling productive (43%), hopeful (33%), anticipatory (24%) and excited (23%), while only a handful reported feeling frustrated (11%) or annoyed (11%).
Taxpayers, on the other hand, report doing their own taxes makes them feel stress (44%), anxious (39%), frustrated (33%) and annoyed (29%).
Of those accounting professionals surveyed, 85% said they even take time during tax season to help family members with their tax returns.
These accounting professionals are so committed to their craft—and interested in educating their clients—the majority (84%) of these busy professionals said they would be willing to teach basic tax information courses in their communities.
This aligns with what experts say about work-life balance.
“Work-life balance is a bit of a myth. Balance looks different for every individual. There are periods where work may occupy more of time and energy,” said Caitlin Demsky, Ph.D., associate professor, management, Oakland University. “During periods of high-demand work, I encourage setting small personal goals, particularly those focused on your own well-being or non-work-related interests that you can look forward to when the period of intense work has passed.”
As an expert in work-life balance, recovery from work demands and employee stress, Demsky also recommends microbreaks to help maintain energy leading up to deadlines, such as Tax Day.
Tax Filing Stress
The tax preparers surveyed do confess to dealing with some stress during tax season. But long hours didn’t make the top five reasons.
The biggest stress points? Reviewing updates on tax codes (62%), rectifying errors from client misinformation (58%) and waiting for client information (51%).
No question, the most stressful time to be a tax professional is the month leading up to the filing deadline.
In the survey, 35% of respondents said one to two weeks before the deadline is most stressful, another 31% start feeling pressure three to four weeks prior, while 20% don’t feel the stress until the week of the deadline.
Back to Business as Usual
With Tax Day done and deadline extensions in the works, now is an ideal time for accounting professionals to turn their focus to their well-being. Taking time to purposefully recover from the intensity of the tax season is beneficial for them and their clients.
“There are a number of evidence-based ways to recover from work demands and work towards work-life balance,” Demsky said. She suggests detaching from work physically and mentally, by engaging in “mastery experiences,” such as picking up or returning to a hobby you enjoy.
“If you’ve been burning the midnight oil for work for quite some time, re-establishing a healthy sleep routine is also important,” she said.
Once professional tax preparers have had some time to recover, they are in a prime position to evaluate their approach for next year by optimizing their services to maximize capacity while deepening client relations.
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This website contains articles posted for informational and educational value. SurePayroll is not responsible for information contained within any of these materials. Any opinions expressed within materials are not necessarily the opinion of, or supported by, SurePayroll. The information in these materials should not be considered legal or accounting advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. If you require legal or accounting advice or need other professional assistance, you should always consult your licensed attorney, accountant or other tax professional to discuss your particular facts, circumstances and business needs.