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Tax Practice Development

The Home Stretch: Strategies & insights for today’s tax professionals as their busy season concludes

Nadya Britton  Enterprise Content Manager for Tax and Accounting at Thomson Reuters Institute

· 5 minute read

Nadya Britton  Enterprise Content Manager for Tax and Accounting at Thomson Reuters Institute

· 5 minute read

While some say there is no longer an end to the tax season these days, the traditional tax season is less than a month away from “ending” — and for tax professionals there are a few reminders as they rally into the home stretch

It’s a given that for almost every tax professional, their work/life balance can get severely disrupted between the months of January and mid-April (assuming such balance exists the other days of the year). The busy tax season brings a flurry of deadlines and pressures that can test the tenacity of any tax & accounting firm.

The challenges range from ensuring that tax professionals get all of their clients’ tax related information in a timely manner to making sure they have what they need to perform their work.

What some firms did to help with busy season

Tax work has become more complex for a host of reasons, from increased regulations and changes in tax laws and policy to clients’ becoming more demanding. For some tax & accounting firms, trying to counteract these and other challenges by adopting various strategies is an everyday struggle.

Indeed, professionals from most tax & accounting firms indicated adopting more advanced technology would play a crucial role in helping drive efficiency and streamline processes in their workday, according to the Thomson Reuters Institute’s 2023 State of the Tax Professional Report. Automation and software solutions can significantly reduce manual tasks, allowing professionals to focus on more complex aspects of their work, which is a huge boon for tax & accounting firms.

In general, most US businesses outsource some part of their overall operations, and according to a survey cited by TeamStage, 57% of them said doing so allowed them to focus more on core business, improve service quality, and solve capacity issues. For tax & accounting firms, outsourcing has become a viable option for handling routine tasks, thus freeing up staff.

When considering outsourcing or right sizing the workforce, tax & accounting firms need first to consider their own staff’s collective skills. By reviewing which tasks are matched with which internal professionals, firms can assess the appropriateness of skill levels and decide whether additional training or education is needed or whether it is more appropriate cases to try to increase the skill-levels of certain employees or consider reassigning them to other tasks. Firms that are able to get these questions correct not only increase their efficiency but possibly generate more staff satisfaction.

Tips & tricks for surviving the busy tax season

Whether a tax & accounting firm has incorporated the above suggestions or not, or whether it is full steam ahead in trying to improve efficiency or streamlining work processes, there is still a level of businesses that all the technology in world will not be able to fix. As tax & accounting professionals rally through the busy tax season, we offer a few suggestions that will hopefully be a salve, a quick respite as the light at the end of the tunnel gets brighter. These simple and fun suggestions are a way to acknowledge firm members’ efforts and offer a gracious thank you for the work they do.

      • Making simple gestures like impromptu ice-cream social or pizza parties not only boost morale but also reinforce the team’s cohesion. Understanding that time is a precious commodity, a 30-minute ice-cream social in the afternoon or a one-hour pizza party at which everyone gathers and does not talk about work, will be a welcome respite.
      • Regularly checking in with staff to ask about their well-being can make a significant difference in morale. Importantly, reminding everyone that they’re all almost over the surge in work that comes this time of year helps maintain perspective and motivation.
      • Encouraging staff members (and management) to get some exercise — there are plenty of studies that show the positive effects of a physical workout. Note: a workout can be as simple as walk (preferable outside), and studies also show the benefits on sunlight on physical and mental health. Yoga and breathing exercises are also helpful.
      • Promoting laughter work is serious, however finding some humor each day can be a significant stress reliever.

Preparing for success: Looking ahead to 2025

Looking ahead, tax & accounting firms can take several steps to ensure they are better prepared for future busy seasons. For example, firm leaders should take time to perform a retrospection on the current year’s tax season. Reviewing and identifying what practices worked and what could be improved is essential, and this includes analyzing client feedback, staff input, and workflow efficiencies.

Anticipating regulatory changes is another important step in preparing for the next busy tax season. With tax regulations constantly evolving, firms that stay ahead of these changes can better serve their clients and reduce last-minute scrambles. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provisions that are expiring soon is one such area requiring attention.

Further, increasing automation and improving efficiencies should remain perennial priorities for firms. In fact, many tax & accounting firm professionals continued to list improving efficiency as a strategic priority, according to the Tax Professionals Report, which also showed that organizing clients by complexity and establishing advance deadlines for preparation can streamline workflows and reduce stress.

As tax & accounting firm leaders navigate the complexities of the busy season, the blend of technological innovation, strategic outsourcing, talent optimization, and a focus on staff well-being forms a comprehensive approach to overcoming challenges. By looking ahead and preparing strategically, firms can not only survive their busy season, but thrive during these demanding periods, setting a foundation for continued success and client satisfaction.