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It’s Supposed to Get Better

April 30, 2013

Barry Melancon, CEO of the AICPA, and Tom Hood, CEO of the Maryland Society of CPAs, both said that they heard this was the worse tax season ever.

I don’t know if it was or wasn’t.  For us, it wasn’t that bad.  This raises a thought:  It’s supposed to get better – if not, then why do it, or why not make a serious effort to change what you are doing so it gets better.  I am reminded by a remark by Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets.  He said, “Maybe this is as good as it gets!”  I don’t buy that.  Here are five things that should be done to make tax season (and the rest of your practice or any business) better:

Training.  Training should be in the areas staff will work in and issues they will likely encounter.  A thorough post tax season review will uncover many of these areas.  Many continuing education courses cover generic topics that are not usually specific to the issues staff encounter.

Systems.  Procedures, systems and checklists need to accommodate what actually needs to be done, and they need to be followed.  Many firms shortcut procedures in the heat of the moment.  If that is permitted, then why not change the procedures for all the time to what is actually being done.  If that is not acceptable, then why are you permitting shortcuts?

Preplanning and scheduling.  Tax season is a massive undertaking and needs advance planning and proper work and staff scheduling.  Examples are to have staff that worked on a client’s return last year scheduled for this year; research difficult issues before tax season begins by more experienced staff, schedule clients with voluminous transactions early in the season or even in December to get a head start, and to time a return’s completion with the reviewer so efficient quality control methods can be employed.

Communication.  This means that everyone working on a client knows what everyone else working on that client knows.  Partners learning things during the year need to transmit so the people working on the return including the reviewer have access to it, and that the firm’s procedures require looking.  No short cuts!  There also has to be an open line of communication with the client to keep them informed of any delays or surprises.  Contrarily, clients have to be made aware of the importance of their quick response to requests for additional data and their timely review of what they receive from their accountant.

Buy-In.  Tax preparation is a very serious undertaking and the four areas above need to be implemented with a resolve that insures the best service possible for the clients and a sane and calm tax season.  That requires buy-in by management and the entire staff. The culture of the firm has to be where only the best work done the right way at the right time is acceptable.

It’s supposed to get better.  Not working toward that end and having your worst tax season ever is not growth and progress.  You better act to make it better starting now, or you deserve what you get!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 30, 2013 2:46 pm

    Thought provoking and very helpful to plan next tax season

  2. April 30, 2013 7:02 pm

    Great post and love the tips. While we will work to see if some relief is possible with our federal government, your suggestions will make it easier regardless. Thanks for the mention!

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