As we near the midpoint of tax season, a few things are becoming obvious. Yes, you need a better system for who has to make the coffee. Yes, the donut shop across town is better than the one up the street. Yes, the guy in the cubicle next to you HAS to stop clearing his throat. But that’s not what we’re talking about.
Every year, you undoubtedly notice myriad things happening during tax season that make your job even harder. Maybe you even swear to yourself every year that you’re going to do something about them next year. But like clockwork, it hits March and you start asking yourself, “Why is it ______ happens every year?? Why haven’t we fixed it?”
We’d love to solve the coffee and donut problem, but honestly, that’s on you (and save us a chocolate glazed. But not if it’s from the shop up the street). But we do have some ideas for some of your bigger potential issues.
As tax takes front and center, everything else grinds to a near-halt
It makes sense, right? Urgent work needs doing, so other things fall by the wayside. Unfortunately, not all your clients might be so understanding. This problem is largely one of capacity (though that doesn’t always end up being the bottom line). As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, the accountant shortage has grown so severe (registration required), many firms are having to hire outside the U.S. just to cover tax season; nevermind bookkeeping, audit, advisory, or anything else the firm is doing.
What results is an extension of busy season. Even when the deadlines are met, you now face a backlog of unfinished work that needed to be on hold while tax season wound down. And don’t forget that for many accountants, “busy season” is kind of all the time now, anyway. Tax season is just icing on the cake.
The issue is especially vexing for small- and medium-sized firms, which have limited resources. It’s the classic business challenge: how do you afford more people without bringing in more work? And yet, you don’t have time to do the work you have. If you ARE hiring, the shortage we already mentioned makes finding quality talent extra difficult (and extra expensive).
For firms in this position, the challenge can seem insurmountable.
Seasonal workers are getting harder to find
If full-time talent is hard to nail down these days, seasonal workers are even harder to find. With thousands of jobs waiting to be filled, workers most definitely have the advantage in the hiring market at the moment. That means they can demand top rates, top benefits, and the most favorable schedules — and get them. That just makes seasonal work seem pointless.
The danger here is in failing to resist the temptation just to get a warm body in a proverbial seat; your standards for employment shouldn’t lower simply because workers are harder to find. But then what? Offshoring once again emerges as a possible fix, but also comes with its own challenges, not least of which is variable pricing that makes in-season workers more expensive than they are the rest of the year.
That’s not where the difficulties end, either. A recent article by hrdive.com suggests the average time to hire a new employee can be as long as 60 days. Which means in March, you’re already too late to get someone in and up to speed fast enough to help out, anyway. But you know that already, which hopefully means you lined up new employees, whether full-time or seasonal, a few months ago.
But if not? Ugh.
Client communication makes you want to stomp the tulips
This is the time of year you find yourself wondering if you can just record yourself saying, “I need your documents now,” and play it on repeat for all your clients through filing day. Especially for your tax-only clients, who you sometimes talk to as little as once a year, getting a response can be like pulling teeth.
And you have stuff to do.
Communications preferences for clients have evolved to something unrecognizable over the years. They now reflect an unholy mix of traditional and modern methods, each with its own special hell attached. This client gets texts. This one only responds to email. This one uses Slack. Or only does ZOOM conferences. Or wants a phone call. Or, or, or.
And then, of course, good luck getting any of that scheduled or working. You could likely spend almost your entire tax season doing nothing but chasing clients, but of course you don’t have that luxury. But it’ll get better next year, right? Right? Hello?
Tech is your solution
We aren’t just saying this because we offer a tech solution that builds firm capacity and drives success (though we do, and it’d be nice if you checked it out). Used properly, firms that employ technology see enormous ROI in terms of time saved and resources allocated, whether that’s analytics software, accounting software, client collaboration software, or something else.
Technology is a must in today’s firms, and it just keeps getting better. Botkeeper is an automated bookkeeping platform that combines artificial intelligence, machine learning, and some light human assistance to automate bookkeeping. The Botkeeper Operating System can take all the mundane, repetitive, and time-consuming tasks associated with bookkeeping off your employee’s laps, freeing them up to meet deadlines, communicate with clients, get other work done, and help rescue you from the time and expense of hiring more staff. Check it out today!