Every accountant is wondering how to survive tax season. I know you all are crazy busy right now so let’s jump in with some tips and tricks on how to survive tax season. These will help you keep your sanity as you work through your busy season.
1. Take Care of Yourself
How to survive tax season starts with taking care of yourself first. Self-care is a critical element to get through tax season successfully. When you’re busy, it’s easy to let yourself fall in your list of priorities.
If you don’t take care of yourself first, how can you help anyone else? Are you getting enough rest? Drinking enough water? Getting the exercise you need? Treat yourself like a client and the client will be treated better.
Need a little pick me up? Consider doing desk yoga. In six easy exercises you can increase flexibility, focus, and fun.
Maybe desk yoga isn’t right for you. My own secret weapon in the battle against stress is taking a short walk between meetings. Getting up and taking a short walk can make a huge difference in my day.
2. Plan and Prepare
Plan and prepare for the increased workload using systems and workflow to support the client document collection process. Put together a document check list for your client that lets them know which documents to bring to get their taxes done. Leaving a return out there half-finished stresses you out as much as the client. If they know what to bring the first time, nothing is hanging out there in limbo.
Create a second document that shares an estimated timeline for completion of the client’s taxes and sets an appointment for them to come in to get them. This can be filled out when the tax package is accepted.
Make sure all your front office and temporary team members use these documents, so you know every tax package has everything you need to complete it when you start. This can be a huge stress reducer!
3. Prioritize Every Day
Prioritizing your work is great for how to survive tax season. Schedule your most challenging clients when you are at your best. Use time blocks based on difficulty to help keep you fresh during your best times.
A simple priority system with a scale of 1 to 3 can save you time when working on taxes. Think of 1 as easy and 3 as I’m going to need help on this one. This way you have the right resources you need to get your cases done in a timely manner.
Take time every day to see what the high priority projects are on your schedule. Successful accountants invest time in knowing what’s on their desk and what may be coming in.
4. Make it Easy
Another tip on how to survive tax season is to increase your people skills with others. With a little planning, you can make it easier for everyone in the office. A little extra courtesy goes a long way when dealing with different people. If you’re the manager, you can use contests and little prizes to help keep office morale high. Maintaining the right attitude is key to how to survive tax season.
I had an accounting friend who had a putter and coffee cup in his office during tax season. When a person came into his office for anything, they’d get a piece of candy for a successful putt. He had a score board and gave a gift card to the person with the lowest score for tax season.
5. Set Goals and Benchmarks
Increase productivity by setting goals and benchmarks to keep yourself and those around you productive. Take time to determine clear goals in advance and keep track of the results. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the work and lose track of what you’ve accomplished. Take time to celebrate when things are completed.
Recognize people who do an outstanding job. Take a quick 5 minutes to share the wins every day. People love recognition. You can also give out prizes for top performer of the week, a nice dinner can do amazing things for morale at home. Don’t ignore this tip if you’re a solo accountant. Acknowledging wins is just as important, if not more so, when you’re on your own.
6. Stock Your Refrigerator
What’s in your fridge? Make sure you have a number of options available for the different members of your team and clients who come in. Keep track of what people prefer for refreshments, either you or your office manager. Make sure you have something for everyone when practical. You can stock small packages of snacks for people between meals. Depending on your stress levels, you may want healthy or unhealthy.
7. Create Shared Projects
Another great tip on how to survive tax season is to delegate by breaking larger client cases into teams. Make sure all of the team members know what their responsibilities are. It’s a crazy time of year so make sure everyone knows what’s happening on their shared projects. This allows them to manage their own schedules more easily. If you want people to schedule more accurately, make sure everyone knows why it is so critical.
8. Handle When Things Go Wrong
You know there will be times when things go wrong. It’s how you handle the recovery that determines if you keep the clients. Plan in advance on how certain problems will be solved or escalated.
Know when to say when. Be willing to get a manager involved in the discussions so that things get handled quickly. You and your client will be glad you did.
9. Prepare Temporary Workers
One of the best ways to survive tax season is to hire temporary workers. Hiring temporary workers can be a very cost effective way of handling significantly more work in your accounting practice. To make this a stress reducing decision, make sure your temporary workers know what’s expected of them. Unclear delegation causes stress for both the delegator and the delegatee. Share an assignment sheet so they know what’s expected in advance.
10. Communication is the Key
Ultimately communication is the key to how to survive tax season. Take time to communicate to everyone throughout the organization. Make sure everyone knows what’s expected and, as importantly, you know what they need from you.
Tax season 2020 will be gone before we know it. How to survive tax season is a combination of getting through each day, as well as keeping your eye on the future. This year, instead of breathing a sigh of relief and going back to business as usual at the end of the tax season, start planning for next year. Make a list of best practices, debrief everyone for what went well, and what could be improved. It’ll make surviving next tax season even easier!