Here are some ways to save you and your tax practice some headaches this season.
1. I know you are busy getting corporate returns completed, but you should give priority to 1120S and 1065 returns where K-1s will be going to people that you do not prepare 1040s for. If these are not out by the middle of March, you will start getting calls from accountants and the participants looking for the K-1s since the client will tell them to call you. Make your life easier—give priority to returns that generate K-1s.
2. Do each extension as soon as you know a client will need one. Do not let them accumulate to just before the April 18 due date. Also include with the extension payment the first-quarter estimated tax. Prepare the remaining three estimated tax vouchers at the same time and send them to the client so you won’t have to do this in June and September if their returns are still on extension. When the return is completed, you can send them revised estimated tax vouchers.
3. Your tax reviewer should try blocking out two hours in the morning and two and a half hours in the afternoon for quiet time to review returns. They can be available at the remaining times to answer questions, assist preparers and go over errors with preparers.
4. Call a client as soon as you know there’s any bad news or a large or unexpected balance due. This will avoid having to take their call when they find out. It usually will be at an inconvenient time for you, and you will then be dealing with an upset client
5. Close the firm the weekend after March 15. Let your staff chill out. They will come back reinvigorated and be more productive, easily making up the lost time. If they know now they will have that day off, they will not call in “sick” on a weekday so they could handle some personal affairs they would have handled on the Saturday you closed.
6. Make sure you have an admin person in the office during the time accountants will be working late or on weekends. Anything the admin does to assist the preparer will make them more productive.
7. Deliver your mail to the local post office just before the final pickup from the box inside the post office, which is usually a half hour later than the last pickup from the mailbox outside the post office. This will also save you some express service delivery charges since you will save a day with some of those deliveries.
8. If you require a full content review, instead of having your reviewers check all of the input by the preparers, have another preparer perform that “ticking and tying” review process. You will save the reviewer time and elevate the skills of the preparer since they will get experience reviewing returns. Also, you will improve the quality of the preparers since they will not want their peers to see how many errors they make.
9. Partners should respond quickly to questions by preparers and not push their requests aside. Partners’ delays cause bunched-up rushes toward the end of tax season when the preparers finally get the responses.
10. If information is missing from a client, make frequent follow-up calls. My “test” is that if the client doesn’t call to complain the preparer is calling too often, then there are not enough follow-up calls.
11. For complicated returns, coordinate scheduling the reviewer with the preparer and then have the preparer available to make changes, if necessary, when the review is completed.
12. If better-quality returns are handed in by the preparer, there will be less review time and less time correcting mistakes. This will also reduce overtime hours and the overall stress level. Become a fanatic about quality.
Last call: Download 66 tax season checklists by clicking here.
Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is on the Accounting Today Top 100 Influential People List. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition.” Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com. Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.