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Tax Season Wrap Up

End of the roadCongratulations – you have made it through another tax season! 

Take the requisite time to mourn the loss of your time, sleep and missed social events.  Enjoy some much needed rest and relaxation with an activity of your choosing.  Then, if you have not already done so, take the advice of Kool & the Gang and celebrate!

No matter how many years pass, this song always manages to lift me up. So, whether this is your first or 50th tax season, it is an accomplishment and should be celebrated. Embrace the hard work that you have put in and give yourself a pat on the back.

Even as a perpetual optimist, I too fall victim to feeling down when I am exhausted, have hit a roadblock or have experienced a failure. In my many years in tax practice, I often came out of tax season telling myself this was my last. But guess what? By the beginning of the next tax season, I was hyped up and couldn’t wait for those first returns to come in the door.  

When watching the live video of Kool & the Gang performing, I imagine that they came running onto the stage with boundless energy at the start of the show, then felt like collapsing after a successful event.  So too are you, CPA tax practitioners,  the stars of your own performance and likely have a large audience of client supporters out there who are grateful for what you have done.

Once you are well rested, this is the ideal time to reflect on the details of the past few months. Use the freshness of those memories to record what went well and what didn’t. Include anything you feel strongly about, and don’t cut things off your list because you don’t see a solution in the moment. Here are a few probing questions to get you started:

  • Did you find that certain days were more productive than others?
  • What time of day did you feel the highest energy level?
  • Imagine signing the completed returns, what feelings arise?
  • Which returns were most interesting to review? (This checklist and sample worksheet can give you ideas for other services to offer those clients.)
  • Which clients were you most excited to visit with again? (Send them a brochure to encourage a repeat visit for tax or business planning needs.)
  • Which clients did you dread seeing? (You may want to download this Client Disengagement Letter from PCPS.)
  • Which staff member had the highest number of repeat review points?
  • How user friendly was your software? (Check out the results of last year’s Journal of Accountancy software survey to explore options.)

Once you have all of your thoughts down, step back and assess the words looking back at you.  Are there any trends?  Does any particular note cause a stronger reaction than the others?

If your answers to the top two questions indicate you were most productive on Saturday afternoons, ask what that might mean. Perhaps you wear jeans and sneakers on Saturdays, the staff takes a lunch break and eats together, or there are no scheduled appointments.  Use this knowledge to brainstorm possible changes in the way you work. Some options might include adopting a business casual dress policy or including Friday as an allowable jeans day. Another might be forcing yourself to stop and take a break for lunch every day, even if you eat your sandwich in the lobby or take a few spins around the building. And something I did when in practice was to set “client meeting days.” I only met with clients on those days, with few exceptions, and spent the other days being productive by preparing and reviewing returns.

Thinking about your technology or client work may reveal that it is time for change. If you feel you are ready to go paperless, explore new tax software or prune your client base, you should trust your instinct.

Finally, take this time to assess your staff. Working with people during periods of high emotion can sometimes skew your outlook. The truth is that right now is probably the best time to honestly say which staff members really came through during busy season, and which were less engaged than you expected. Perhaps someone is in the wrong role, or needs extra training before next year.  January isn’t the time to fix it, but now is.

If you are still not quite convinced, remind yourself why you got into this profession in the first place. Allow yourself to wind down, celebrate all of your victories (regardless of size), and remember that you are one of the premier providers of tax services and we here at the AICPA are rooting for you every day of the year!

Cari Weston, CPA, CGMA, Director – Tax Practice & Ethics, American Institute of CPAs. 

End of the road courtesy of Shutterstock.

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