No matter what your industry, you know when your busy season is about to start. For retailers, it’s the holidays; for florists, Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day; for water parks or surf schools, summer. For accountants, of course, it’s tax season, where you can generate half your annual revenue or more for your accounting during these busy months. But how do you handle the extra workload during tax season without losing your sanity? Our tax season survival kit for accountants can help.
10 Steps to Help Accountants Survive Tax Season
Step 1. Create a Game Plan
You can’t go into any battle without a plan if you hope to win. The same goes for tackling tax season. Meet it head-on by developing a plan to guarantee the best outcome for success. The more preparation you put into your plan, the better equipped you’ll be when the inevitable snags and delays come into play. The following steps should be incorporated into your plan.
Step 2. Put the Word Out
Most of your family and friends who know your business expect you’ll be out of commission during tax season, so they’ll understand when you have to cancel plans or skip extracurricular events. But have you explained to your clients the stress and time limitations that go along with the extra work of tax season?
It’s important to explain that you may not answer their emails as quickly as you normally do or be able to call them back as quickly as you would like. Politely ask for patience and remind them you are spending the time working on their projects and tax returns. For your most important clients, consider giving them a special phone number or email address to use, and check those contacts more regularly so you can respond in a timely fashion.
Step 3. Hire Temporary Workers
An essential element of the tax season survival kit for accountants is hiring extra help, whether that means hiring more accountants or additional administrative workers. If you normally take care of responding to email, answering the phones, and paying the bills all by yourself, you’ll definitely need some extra hands during this time. No room for someone else in your office? No worries: You can hire virtual temporary help online at websites such as Indeed.com and Flexjobs.
If you’re offering your clients additional help with their businesses such as incorporation and business filings, having a full-service partner to handle the details alleviates the responsibility from you. Your busy season means more business and more sales, so you’ll be able to budget for more help to get through those long days (and nights).
Step 4. Plan for Problems
When everyone is so busy and moving fast, there are bound to be mistakes and setbacks. What will you do if there’s a power outage? What if your computer suddenly crashes or your network gets a virus? Your tax season survival kit needs a backup plan detailing what you’ll do to keep your accounting business humming along in case of an emergency. Have IT support numbers handy, back up all your data remotely, and have backup locations you can work from if needed in case of disaster.
Step 5. Delegate More
If you’re trying to build your employee bench or cross-train current employees, tax season is a great time to assign other employees duties that you usually handle. Get employees started now so they can learn new skills before the real crunch hits. Use tax time to see who works well under pressure and who can be trusted with more difficult tasks.
Step 6. Set Goals and Benchmarks
Set interim goals for yourself and your employees to keep you motivated through tax season. Keep everyone updated on a daily basis on how the business is doing. Make it a game and encourage friendly competition. For example, set a goal to have so many clients’ returns handled per day. Setting benchmarks and working to hit them is a great way to help your team keep their eyes on the prize.
Step 7. Plan Time Off Ahead of Time
It’s perfectly normal to tell employees not to take any time off during the busy tax season, but there are occasions when you’ll need to make an exception. School functions, doctor’s appointments and illness are understandable reasons employees may need some time off. In addition, the long hours and late nights rest can contribute to your staff getting sick.
Building in some time off for yourself and your employees is wiser than hoping nothing goes wrong. Play it safe: Make sure more than one person is handling each client so Employee B can take over if Employee A is out sick.
Step 8. Work to Stay Healthy
Prevent the spread of flu in the office by promoting good hygiene. Encourage employees to wash their hands frequently and provide hand sanitizer and tissues. Set up remote work options for employees so people who are sick can work from home instead of coming in and infecting others. For employees in the office, provide healthy snacks and encourage exercise breaks every hour or so. For example, you can set a time for everyone to stand up and stretch or walk around the office for 10 minutes. Finally, give your employees a treat by bringing in a masseuse to give your team a quick chair massage.
Step 9. Reward Yourself and Your Employees
Once the busy tax season is over, make sure you thank everyone on the team for their hard work. Give them extra time off, hand out bonuses, and/or treat everyone to a fancy dinner out to celebrate a job well done. But don’t wait until the job is done to reward your employees. Along the way, be sure to share positive results, compliments from happy clients, and praise for good work.
Step 10. Review the Results
Once everyone has recovered from the busy tax season, take an hour or two to assess what went right and what went wrong this year. Get your team’s opinions as well. How could you make the process run more smoothly next tax season? Conduct customer surveys and talk to your clients to get their feedback, too. Ask satisfied clients if they’re willing to review your firm online, make positive comments on social media. or provide a testimonial you can use in your marketing materials.
Finally, start planning ahead for next year. It’s never too soon to start building a tax season survival kit.