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Make the "MOST" of tax season.

It's that time of year again and in deference to the fact that taxes and not accounting are uppermost in everyone's mind, I would like to repeat a column which I hope will be helpful during this busy season. So once again let's start with an acronym, with a group of initials that can serve as a daily reminder: Manage, Organize, Stress and Time (MOST). To make the "MOST" of tax season, it is necessary to Manage, to Organize, to recognize and handle Stress, and to efficiently allot Time.

Management

The first step is Management. Start by making a list of tasks to be accomplished. Assign a priority to each task. High priority tasks should be handled first. Delegate low priority tasks if possible. It is not necessary for one person to handle every detail.

Plan the firm's work flow based on the size and capability of the staff. One of the firms for which I worked had an excellent system. After the client was interviewed, the tax return was coded as simple, medium or difficult. Returns were then logged in and placed in a "to be done" bin. Each staff member was assigned a level of difficulty based on his/her skills and experience.

A preparer would then select the appropriate return on a first-in basis. More experienced preparers also reviewed the work of newer staff members, thus making it easier to catch simple errors before the return went to the principal for signature and review. A careful log was kept as the return moved from the preparer, to the computer, for review and signature, and finally to final administrative processing and delivery.

Organization

The next step is Organization. Taking time to stay organized will prove a valuable aid. The ideal situation would be having time to handle each project separately. Realistically, half a dozen concurrentprojects is a more likely occurrence. Try to keep them as separate as possible. Try to concentrate on the return in front of you, particularly when you are doing the final review before signature.

If possible, schedule your phone calls rather than allow calls to interrupt your work. Have someone take a message when a call comes in, then schedule a time of day to return those calls. You will be better able to give full attention to that client. Obviously, this is not always possible due to the client's time constraints, but the more this scheduling can be done, the smoother the work will flow.

Keep your desk and office in a state of "organized clutter." Make a point of knowing where each return is. Separate your work into those returns you're presently preparing, returns waiting for review and signature, and returns with incomplete information. At day's end, no matter how tired you are or how late it is, take time to put things in order. You'll find it much easier to start the next day.

Stress

Third is Stress itself. Learn to recognize its existence. Some physical symptoms are tense muscles, tight jaws and gritted teeth. Watch for increased irritability. (Your staff or your family will let you know.) It's time for a break. Take a walk, have a healthy snack, or just get up and stretch. I know one accountant who would shut his office door, lie down on the floor and snooze for half an hour. He'd then be ready to tackle his work again.

Leave work at the office. If you take any home, limit your work hours at home. Make time for family and friends. Keep some leisure activities. A change of pace, even if only for a short period of time, will provide necessary relaxation and a refreshed readiness for the next day's work.

Remember that everyone in the office is under stress. Keep the lines of communication open. A short weekly staff meeting is a good way to keep in touch. Common tax problems can be handled. One staff member may have suggestions which will be helpful to others. You can discuss possible overload and reassignment of work if necessary. Have the meeting at a group lunch. After the gripe session, order pizza and give everyone a work break and a chance to interact.

Time

Finally we have Time management. Set reasonable deadlines. Be careful to make realistic promises to clients regarding delivery of returns. Don't be afraid to pick a cut-off date for receipt of information from clients in order for timely processing. Call late clients and let them know their return will probably go on extension if data is received after that time.

When a return is missing only two or three pieces of information, go ahead and process it. Get it as close to completion as possible without duplicating work. It's much easier to add a couple of additional numbers during the end-of-tax-season crunch than to prepare the return from scratch. If the necessary information is not available by the due date, it will be easier to project the amount due on the extension.

Time is at a premium during tax filing season. But it is equally as important to take time to manage, to organize and to recognize stress and to deal with it as it is to complete those tax returns. Remember, April 15 will come. It always does.

Marlyn A. Schwartz Director of Education & Professional Development
COPYRIGHT 1992 National Society of Public Accountants
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:manage, organize, stress and time
Author:Schwartz, Marlyn A.
Publication:The National Public Accountant
Date:Feb 1, 1992
Words:886
Previous Article:Closing the tax gap: alternatives to enforcement.
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