How to Prepare for the 2024 Tax Season: Best Practices for CPA Firms

We all know it; tax season can feel like a long uphill climb, especially when we’re less than six months away from the start of it. Let’s take a step back and consider a powerful truth: if nothing changes, then nothing will change. 

As we approach the 2024 tax season amidst a significant talent crisis, it’s time to explore some strategic shifts in our operations that can lead to a smoother and more efficient tax season. 

Remote Hiring: An Untapped Resource

The talent pool available for CPA firms is no longer confined to a 20-mile radius around an office. Remote work has shattered geographical boundaries, opening the door to an ocean of untapped talent. It’s time to cast a wider net and harness the power of remote hiring.

Imagine that you are a Houston-based CPA firm struggling to find a tax accountant. Instead of settling for hiring someone who doesn’t fit your exact needs, you decide to look beyond your local talent options and land a highly experienced tax specialist based in Seattle. 

If your team is currently 100% local and accustomed to working in the office instead of from home, there are additional considerations for hiring team members who will work virtually. This is why the time to prepare for tax season to ensure you have all of the people you need in the right seats- is now.

Outsourcing: A Game Changer

Outsourcing is a game changer for accounting and tax firms. Remember, clients hire you for an accurate return, tax efficiency, and strategic advice. You are responsible for delivering a quality finished product. It shouldn’t matter who initially prepares the return or who is doing the bookkeeping. 

Whether you choose to outsource offshore or onshore, remember to be intentional about including your outsourced team members in team communications.  Bring them into your culture as you would any full time local team member.  Set expectations, hold them accountable, and  celebrate their good work and accomplishments just like you would for members of your local team.

By choosing to partner with a company who does on or offshore outsourcing or staffing, you can preserve the bandwidth of your local team for more complex, advisory tasks. 

Rethinking the Tax Season Workflow

It’s all about the process. And, that process needs to be re-evaluated before every tax season. Essentially, you should start identifying what needs to change in May, and make sure all updates to the process are in place before the end of the calendar year. What are your internal due dates? How are you going to minimize time wasted chasing clients for documents? Do your engagement letters need to be updated to include a 7216? Can you have them electronically signed? 

Dialing in your process now will help identify the bottlenecks and remove both inefficiency and chaos from tax season. Because, as we all know, it will be here before we know it.  

Improving Client Communication and Setting Expectations

When it comes to managing clients, proactive communication and setting clear expectations are vital. Start by setting internal due dates and then communicating them multiple times via social media and email. Do not overestimate your audience. People are busy, and one email may not be enough.

Establish a protocol for document collection and a process for how often and who follows up on missing documents. 

Suggestion: If all documents aren’t received by the internal due date that has been communicated multiple times to clients, the team member in charge should reach out a maximum of two times. 

If the documents still haven’t been received, the firm owner may consider contacting the client and informing them of a rush charge or that an extension will need to be filed.

Time flies. 

It may feel like tax season is still so far off. After all, we are still working through extensions, but deadlines that aren’t well planned breed chaos. Given the unprecedented talent shortage combined with the need to focus our teams on higher value advisory work, proactively planning for how to efficiently manage compliance work is vital.

Tax season doesn’t have to be plagued with chaos and overtime. The path to operational excellence is paved with visionary planning and strategic implementation.

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