24th August, 2015
Getting your workflow running smoothly during tax season is of vital importance to ensure you can keep all of your clients happy and submit tax returns to the IRD on time. But when is the best time to focus on this? Hint – it’s not when your in the middle of it!. For 8 tips that can help you be best prepared, read on to see how you can take away the stress when you’re needing to be your best.
1. Catch up
Make sure you have completed all the accounts and filed all the tax returns for the prior tax year. If you still have loads of outstanding returns to complete and file, you are going to be behind before you’ve even started.
2. Determine capacity
Make sure you have planned forward and that you have sufficient capacity to complete all the jobs in hand. What new clients do you have as opposed to clients you’ve lost? What new clients are you likely to gain over the next 6 to 9 months having regard to client acquisitions achieved previously? Are there any special projects coming up which need to be factored in? Have any members of your team left, or are any going on extended leave? Do you have new staff that will take longer to prepare the jobs than normal? All these and more need to be factored into your capacity planning.
3. Contact clients
Whether you should contact all clients at the start of the year to prompt them for their accounting information is a difficult judgement to make. On the one hand, it’s good to remind the clients what you need so they can get everything ready. On the other hand, do you really want to prompt an avalanche of work all at the same time?
4. …Or not
In my view, a better approach is to let clients sort themselves out. Some clients like their accounts done early, and some couldn’t care less to the extent you have to hassle them to death. Others are middle-of-the-road and are happy to wait until prompted. After a while you will know which clients are which — so let it happen, and work around the clients.
5. Make it easy for clients
Whatever approach you take make sure the clients know exactly what information you need from them. It is much better to supply them with a specifically tailored list of information requirements rather than send out the same questionnaire to all clients — most of which either does not apply or they do not understand. Most small business owners have no idea what we accountants do and certainly do not understand accounting jargon so it’s our job to put everything into plain English and make everything as easy as possible for them.
6. Build in extra time
It’s always a mistake to schedule work back-to-back. Not only does this leave no room for jobs which suddenly become urgent or new clients you’re trying to impress, but in addition, the whole schedule can collapse if clients are late with their records or a team member is absent. Build in spare capacity right throughout the tax season.
7. Keep on pace
When you’re deep in the tax season, it is necessary to pass the jobs through the system with a minimum of delay. Monitor progress by measuring the average job turnaround time and compare this with prior years. In addition, it’s necessary to chase clients mercilessly until they supply you with all the information you need. Many and varied are the excuses clients use for putting off a job they do not enjoy, or understand, or want to pay for. It’s also unwise to leave this to team members because before you know it, they will have bucket loads of jobs in progress in various states of completion, yet they will happily start new jobs to make it look good!
8. Finalise jobs quickly
If you very sensibly prepare draft accounts and send these to clients for their approval it is also necessary to make sure that the accounts don’t stay in draft for too long. Press the clients for a meeting or for their approval to finalise the accounts. This minimises the working capital you have tied up in the business and means there are fewer jobs getting in the way in various stages of completion. Get the accounts finished, get them signed by the clients and get the tax returns into the IRD as soon as possible!
There’s nothing more satisfying than ploughing your way through the tax season and getting jobs
finished left, right and centre!