Tax season is approaching fast. For many accountants, those two words make them think of long, stressful working hours. The good news is with the right preparation, tax season does not have to be as hectic.
But the key is to begin the preparation process now. Here are five steps you can follow to make the season easier on everyone include:
1. Review Your Client List and Pricing
Now is a good time to generate your client list to:
- Review each client to learn who you want to continue working with and who you want to let go
- Create a plan to better manage existing clients and work through individual client quirks in a positive way
Next, it is time to review your pricing. Inflation is impacting the service industry, and the sector experienced an 8.1% service price rise for the three-month period ending in July. While there was a slight de-acceleration during this period, you may need to adjust pricing to account for this inflation.
Inflation is not the only thing to consider when reviewing and adjusting pricing. Make sure to also consider other factors, such as the value you provide and how in-demand you are.
2. Start Sending Out Engagement Letters
You should work on sending out your engagement letters early and finalize services with clients. It is important to review each letter and ensure that:
- Any service changes are outlined in the letter
- Price increases are included
- Scope meets the goals of the client
By sending these letters out early, you’ll know who plans on becoming a client, remaining a client, and who doesn’t plan to return. You’re also allowing clients ample time to reply and can begin preparing your team to handle the workload ahead of them.
3. Define Protocols With Clients
A lot of the hectic part of tax season deals with clients that do not follow or have clear protocols in place. You should take the time to create and send protocols to all of your clients. A few of the key items to include are:
- Deadlines for clients to send your firm information
- Where client information should be sent
- Forms of communication to ask any questions the client may have. For example, is there a specific email address that they should send questions to?
- Response time of your firm
- Turnaround time to complete the work outlined in your agreement
Response time and the appropriate forms of communication are both critical protocols to have in place. Often, a client will have a question and send an email on Monday morning and expect an immediate response.
Your firm’s communication protocol can indicate that during tax season all clients will receive a reply within 48 hours.
It is important to set expectations early on by outlining the expected response time and when the team will respond. If a client does not follow the protocols given, you can always reflect back to them when issues arise.
For example, if important documents are not sent to you on time and arrive two weeks late, your protocol may mention how this will be handled by your firm. Perhaps the client will be charged extra or the work will not be completed as a result.
4. Staffing Review and Engagement Plan
Firms should spend time reviewing staff and planning out engagements. Your plan will be executed during tax season, and it’s one of the most critical steps you’ll take. A few things to add to your plan are:
- Who will be working on a specific client’s work?
- When will the individual or team work on a specific client’s work?
- Changes to tax laws that they must know about
You want to keep team members busy but not overloaded with work. Alternatively, you don’t want a team member with too little work and nothing to do, although this is rare.
Also, one thing that can make a major difference for your staff is to schedule time for fun and breaks. Tax season is exhausting and fast-paced, and scheduling some downtime can help keep your firm’s accountants from burning out.
5. Tech Stack Review
Tech is a major part of business, and your firm needs to have the right tools in place to:
- Manage teams and be able to follow each client’s and team member’s progress
- Communicate with clients, request files and request documents
- Collaborate amongst one another across the firm to help ease workloads and keep client work being completed on time
Additionally, you must train all staff and clients on how to use the technology. When your tech stack is well-planned and integrates with existing systems in place, it will make tax season move along more fluidly.
You can even set up systems to automatically remind clients to send documents over.
If you follow these steps, you will be well on your way to having the best tax season yet. Small preparations can make the entire tax season feel more streamlined and less of a burden on your firm.