It is hard to talk about the 2023 filing season with Oct. 15 still looming, but with only a few short months before a new busy season begins, it’s time to get organized and get ready. The last few seasons have been extremely challenging with last-minute tax law changes, slow-moving anything from the IRS, and frustrated clients getting notices that make no sense.
One of the best ways to help manage all these challenges moving into this year is to help your team stay organized and make sure that every return is filed as accurately as possible. It seems like a no-brainer, but something as simple as not confirming clients’ estimated tax payments can result in a notice that now takes time to respond to.
One of the biggest challenges I believe preparers have faced in the last couple of years is the rising cost of time that needs to be spent on returns. With the IRS and state revenue departments short-staffed and behind, I have seen a significant increase in the number of notices that are going out from one department without matched information from another.
Sometimes these are unavoidable, but an upfront review checklist before the return leaves the office can help cut down on how often this happens.
One of the best ways to help manage all these challenges moving into this year is to help your team stay organized and make sure that every return is filed as accurately as possible.
Creating a thorough return review checklist can help reduce mistakes, improve efficiency, and reduce stress. Checklists should include everything from checking the spelling of names, double checking SSNs are entered correctly, to reviewing against planning notes and conversations. Reviewers should be looking at the two-year comparisons 100% of the time for anything that stands out.
Other items on the checklist should include any changes to the tax laws. Especially when something is new, like the recovery rebate credits or the advanced child tax credits, they can be easy to miss. The corporate NOL carryback was a change that was grossly overlooked because preparers were so busy, they did not take the time to analyze their client base for who was eligible.
Both the IRS and the Association of International Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) offer free resources and checklists on quality review process procedures. These are great places to start instead of reinventing the wheel. Checklists can then be modified to meet the specific process procedures of your firm.
Make sure the last step of your checklist is always to send a bill to the client, or if you pre-bill, to make sure the invoice is paid before filing. Require your team to sign off on each step of the checklist and then make these a part of your documentation file.
Studies have shown that organization reduces stress by as much as 40%. Providing your team with the tools to stay focused and feel less frazzled is an important step toward a successful busy season.