After a long, snowy January, February marks the beginning of tax season. The next three months will be the busiest season for many accountants. Most firms generate a significant portion of their revenues during this period, so staying focused and working efficiently is crucial.
For accountants, there are several ways of reducing your stress during tax season. Here are some tips on how to survive the coming months.
Tip 1: No one works alone
If you’re a junior accountant, remember that you are part of a team. Senior staff look over tax returns as part of the quality control process. So if you’re unsure about your approach or your work, be assured that there’s a safety net.
“Every day, remind yourself that you’re not alone,” says J. Rolland Vaive, founder of Vaive and Associates. “The success of the Firm is not riding on any one person’s shoulders.”
Tip 2: Be organized
It’s rare to sit down and begin working on a tax return from start to finish, with all the necessary information at hand. It’s far more common to work on various parts of a client’s tax return as the information comes in, and you will have many tax returns in process at any given time. “Understanding your workflow is very important,” says Vaive. “You’re going to have many different balls up in the air at once, so you to have to be organized to keep on top of it. Find a system that works for you.”
Tip 3: Beware bottlenecks
In most firms, tax returns are touched by many different people. The returns are prepared, reviewed (sometimes twice), delivered and discussed with clients and efiled. A slow down in any one aspect of the process can pose serious problems. It’s important for Senior accountants to continuously monitor these workflows and eliminate bottlenecks as they arise.
Tip 4: Compartmentalize your work day
What is the best time in the day to answer email? How about reviewing a complex tax return?
Different people work more efficiently during different times of the day. Tax season will put higher demands on your time and energy, and one way to maximize your efficiency is to determine what time of the day is the most productive for you. If you work best in the morning, work on the most difficult tasks that require your concentration during that time and leave more routine work, such as invoicing and responding to internal emails, for later in the day. Keep the easy jobs for when you know your energy will be low.
Tip 5 – Trust your process
Tax season is a time for your procedures to shine.
“For nine months of the year, you’re able to work on and refine your workflow process,” says Vaive. “This is the time to believe in your process and follow it. If you’ve done the hard work in the offseason, you will have success during this time and get the efficiency that you’re looking for. In our Firm, we start looking at next year’s tax season on May 2nd. Knowing what worked, didn’t work and almost worked is an important part of making next year better. We do this while it’s still fresh in everyone’s mind.”