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The Season Offers Challenges, But Also Big Rewards

From the 2008

For tax-focused practices, whether run by experienced CPAs, EAs or other professionals,
the coming few months are obviously the most important time of year, with much
of their revenue coming from providing tax compliance services to individuals.
But the 1040 season can be critical even for practices that offer a broad array
of services, from write-up to retirement planning, payroll, business consulting
and compliance services for all taxable entities.

In addition to the primary tasks involved with client tax preparation clients
at this time of year, full-service accounting firms also have the opportunity
to strengthen their client relationships by recommending other services, especially
tax planning, that can provide options to help mitigate some of their tax burden.
Strategizing investments, charitable giving and generational wealth transfer
services also fit nicely into a client’s tax-focused state of mind.

Of course, time is often a limited asset during this time of year, so schedule
these engagements well into the future. This helps bring clients into your office
when they are a little more level-headed and perhaps receptive to additional
services that can help them financially or with their businesses.

But back to the task at hand: Tax Season. It will get busy, and it will probably
get hectic. You will probably work late and may see less of your family for
the next few months. But keep in mind what you’re working for: A successful
practice that helps individuals and business owners, and that helps you enjoy
your life away from work with your family and friends.

The technology you use during the year, both to directly provide service to
clients and to manage your practice, are essential to your productivity. So
during this tax season, make a list of things you wish could be better, easier,
faster, etc. Just jot things down as you go about your work, and at the end
of the season (and after your well-deserved post-April 15 vacations), use this
list to determine the sore points your firm encountered. This will be your starting
point to making the next tax year more productive and profitable.

Several of our recently profiled Productivity in Practice professionals have
offered a few tips and suggestions you might want to consider. To learn more
about the free Productivity Survey, visit (
Tax season tips from some of the professionals recently
profiled in our Productivity in Practice series:



Partner, Green & McCowan CPAs
London, Kentucky
Productivity Score: 430

  • E-file. Not much is said about the efficiencies and workflow
    productivity that can be gained by changing to all e-filed returns. We e-file
    every eligible return, and the processing efficiencies are tremendous. You
    can eliminate numerous processes in the tax return workflow by e-filing.
  • Go paperless. Ahhh, the world of paperless. Need I say
  • Change 10 processes in your workflow. In other words
    kick SALY (same as last year) out the door. I adapt new processes or change
    existing processes every single year.
  • Go home. Tax season is busy, and I work as hard as anyone
    … but tax season is not my life. With today’s technologies, there
    is absolutely no reason why professional team members and partners shouldn’t
    go home at reasonable hours and work from home during the busy season. Last
    year, I left at 5:00 and finished up working at home after I enjoyed dinner
    with my family. I feel more relaxed at home and, thus, more productive.


Miller, EA, JD
Director, Affiliated Tax Pros, Inc.
Portland, Oregon
Productivity Score: 150

  • Keep clients and employees happy by serving up fresh, warm, chocolate chip
    cookies (we use a toaster oven); we also offer hot tea.
  • Avoid surprises by giving estimates to every client possible.
  • Tout firm improvements on your website and/or newsletter (clients will
    never know unless we tell them).
  • Advise clients of the consequences for missing deadlines, etc.



Brim, CPA
Principal, Fiducial-OK
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Productivity Score: 385

  • It may not help this late, but preparing the tax return is the last step.
    In reality, it should be no more stressful than putting the finishing touches
    on a cake. If you’ve done your job beforehand in a timely manner, you
    already know what the cake is going to generally look like, and you know how
    it’s going to taste. Putting some frosting on it and putting it in a
    box is easy. My point is that the bulk of work should already be done by tax
  • Manage your clients (schedule appointments, etc.); don’t let them
    manage you. You can learn a lot about how to run an efficient service business
    from a visit to the doctor’s or dentist’s office.
  • Relax. Your inbox was full when you started working; it will be full when
    you leave.


Snow, CPA
Principal, Snow’s Financial Services
Orange, California
Productivity Score: 415

  • Keep plenty of refreshments and snacks in your refrigerator for both clients
    and yourself. If you don’t have a refrigerator, then my best suggestion
    is trail mix. If your brain is not fed, then your returns will not be the
    they can be.
  • Keep a cot in the back room for those evenings you just can’t make
    it home. I have a couch in my office that comes in real handy the final week
    of the season.
  • Keep smiling, no matter what. Your outside appearance forces an inner appearance
    to appear. If you appear happy, you will be.
  • Take a breath and continue, it will all be over soon. Keep in contact with
    your family even if it’s just to say goodnight to the kids and spouse.
    If you forget your priorities, that call will bring it all into perspective.
    Schedule a massage therapist to the office at least once a week. Again, a
    healthy and rejuvenated body will be better at keeping the stress out than
    one that is worn down.


McGillivray, CPA
Principal, The K.E.M. Group
Danvers, Massachusetts
Productivity Score: 364

To minimize the hours in tax season, maximize the use of technology. Consider
the following:

  • Dual monitors, for on-screen tax review and easier viewing of multiple
  • Document management software to organize and store documents.
  • Tax flow software to move and monitor jobs. We use FirmFlow from GoFileRoom.
  • Scan and organize client source documents. We use Copanion’s GruntWorx.
  • Scan, organize and populate tax information. This is emerging technology
    so check with your tax software provider for availability.
  • Secure file transfer to receive QB files from clients. We offer this through
    our website.
  • E-mail newsletters and surveys to communicate with clients and professional
    associates. We use Constant Contact.
  • E-file and e-deliver tax returns. We use Thomson Tax & Accounting (Creative
  • Automate your financial statement preparation and integrate software as
    much as possible. We use GoAudit, Excel and Word.


Koonce, CPA, CVA, CFE
Co-Principal, Ataraxis Accounting & Advisory Services, Inc.
Twin Falls, Idaho
Productivity Score: 270

  • Take at least one full day off a week. And that doesn’t mean taking
    the work home instead of doing it at the office, or checking your e-mail from
    your BlackBerry while out with your family. That means clearing it from your
    mind completely. Even if it means you stay an extra hour or so on other days,
    it is important to have “away time.”
  • Utilize the technology available to you. Get a small scanner for your desk
    and store documents digitally instead of getting up and walking to the copier
    every time you want to keep a copy. Use multiple monitors to provide simultaneous
    access to different sources of information.
  • Interact with co-workers once a week in a fun environment. Every Friday
    afternoon, our entire office takes a break to enjoy snacks and fun activities,
    such as playing Toss Across or Bowling for Bunnies. It does wonders to relieve
    stress and promote team building.