By Dr. Tanae Wolo Acolatse
Faculty, Kaplan University
Published April 2016
Calling all tax professionals! IT IS TAX SEASON and time to get down to business. You have renewed your PTIN number (check), organized your strategy for signing on new clients (check), rekindled relationships with old clients (check), and prepared your business plan for maximizing profits (check). However, in the midst of your euphoria lies one pitfall that could derail your plans: STRESS. Stress can arise from anywhere and in any form to limit your ability to move forward.
As you take an assessment of your processes—from the volumes of tax documents awaiting review, including the interpretation of new tax laws, coupled with additional requirements intended to help prevent identity theft etc., not to mention frantic calls from clients submitting their documents at the “last minute” with unreasonable expectations of receiving refunds immediately—you are ready for a break! Are you feeling overwhelmed yet? Where is April 15?
Don’t give up; help is on the way! Simply mastering these four steps will help to diminish stress and keep you cool, calm, and collected with your clients during the tax season.
1. Plan your strategy before the season begins.
Checklists are your friend! First, set goals for each tax season using information from the prior tax season. Identify areas where you lacked expertise or experienced the most difficulty. Then, find a solution. If estimates point toward an increase in the workload, plan to hire an assistant.
2. Use your website and social media to share important tax deadlines.
Websites are an excellent starting point for communicating key tax deadlines. Examples include document checklists, deadlines for filing returns and extensions, new requirements, and tax laws among others. In the 2016 tax season, identity theft is a huge problem. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is asking tax payers to verify who they are by providing a driver’s license number or state issued Id, including issue and expiration dates. Make sure to communicate this change to your clients. Also, sharing great content and tax tips will encourage clients and other interested parties to choose your practice every tax season. A great example to follow is the 2015 Tax Season Toolkit, which provides key changes and information for the current tax season (Reynolds, 2015).
3. Streamline the data collection process.
Provide clients with alternatives for submitting tax information by increasing the use of technology like Google sites, email, and faxing. Think green—save trees! Using technology will reduce the time spent in face-to-face meetings with tons of paperwork, and provide an excellent opportunity to keep your clients happy. Guess what? They don’t want to be stressed either!
4. Communicate expectations and provide a teaching opportunity.
Before the season begins, contact old clients and remind them that the new tax season is on the way. Share updates on what they will need for the new tax year to meet filing requirements. After completing their returns, take the time to educate them on what they could do differently to take advantage of tax benefits. It is not enough to say it; show them by creating action plans, providing tools, and follow up on the discussion ('Tis the season to shine; Elevating your clients' experience during tax season, 2016).
Also, clients are interested in the answers to these 2 questions: “What is my refund?” and “Where is my refund?” Your best approach is to be honest. Share the IRS estimates with them or add a link to the refund tool to your website. This gives your client the opportunity to check their refund status as often as they would like. According to Needleman (2015), every client wants to feel important. If you fill this need, your client will remain with you because they believe that you care.
Remember this: your clients are looking to you for expertise and guidance. Using these four steps will allow you to spend more time helping your clients, building your practice, and enjoying a productive and stress-free tax season!
Dr. Tanae Wolo Acolatse is a faculty member at Kaplan University. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University.
Getting - and keeping - clients; Exploring the role of CRM systems at accounting firms. (2015). Accounting Today, (10).
Reynolds, B. (2015). Tax season toolkit: resources you need to hammer away at busy season. California CPA, (6). 8.
Filing season quick guide--tax year 2015. (2016). Journal of Accountancy, 221(2), 60.
'Tis the season to shine; Elevating your clients' experience during tax season. (2016). Accounting Today, (1).