The last month of tax season has just begun and if you’re like most firms, it’s going to be the busiest time of the year. Three ways to lighten the workload and create a lighter atmosphere are for everyone to follow the system, improve planning, and shift some of the work from reviewers to preparers.
Using your system
Following the systems is a matter of course and is the responsibility of management. If you have a system then it should be followed. If not followed, replace it with what is being done. Otherwise, chaos will ensue or, at the very least, uproar, confusion, disorder and waste of time. Capturing that wasted time can only bring benefits and doesn’t seem to take much effort. Either you have a system or you don’t. It is up to management to ensure that there is full compliance with the system.
Improved planning is a simple process that coordinates people who will be working on the same returns, projects, or engagements. Since tax preparation is the season at hand, I offer a suggestion that can be implemented quite quickly and without much effort. This involves coordinating the availability of a reviewer with the preparer for complex or complicated returns. Here are some steps:
- Schedule the reviewer when the return is assigned to a preparer.
- Coordinating schedules means that the preparer is available to make changes, if necessary, after reviewing the statement.
- An example of this is for a return that could take the preparer two days to work. Schedule the reviewer for first thing in the morning after this second day and make sure the preparer will be available to make changes as soon as the reviewer is finished. It will be fresh in the mind of the preparer. As soon as the corrections are made, it can be reviewed, processed and forwarded to the partner for review and signature. If the examiner’s schedule is not coordinated with the preparer, it may take a few days for the examiner to get there, and then the preparer may not be available for a few days afterwards, which could turn something that could be smoothly handled in a last minute rush. . Either way, any work that needs to be done will eventually get done. However, delays would likely add wasted time to re-acclimate staff upon return as well as to process and “touch” the file.
- If bottlenecks develop with reviewers, try to shift some of the reviewers’ work to the preparers. This will reduce reviewer bottlenecks and reviewer time, elevate picker performance and allow for a smoother flow in the office.
- Part of this work might include reviewing entries, preparing schedules, reconciling the return with the original data such as gross sales for capital transactions, or 1099s for interest, dividends, or investment income. independent work, or K-1 entries, or explanations of surprises. or unexpected results.
Accountants are said to see things simply in black and white, with no shades in between. I disagree with that, but I do agree that we look at things based on what makes sense or not. I challenge you to tell me what is not logical in all that has been suggested above. If you agree with the logic, why not make some changes to what I suggested?
Have a great tax season and remember to keep order and have fun.
Do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected] with your questions about practice management or assignments you may not be able to complete.
Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is a partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPA. He is on Accounting Today’s list of the 100 most influential people. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns”, co-authored with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition”. He also writes a blog twice a week dealing with the issues customers have with www.partners-network.com with the Pay-Less-Tax Man Blog for the bottom line. He is an adjunct professor in Fairleigh Dickinson University’s MBA program and teaches end-user applications of financial statements. Art of Accounting is an ongoing series where he shares autobiographical experiences with advice he hopes his colleagues can adopt. He welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 743-4582 or [email protected].