One CPA's busy season solution.
The public accounting profession is increasingly becoming a seasonal business. With changes in the tax laws that forced more companies to end their fiscal years on December 31, more and more of our work must be done during the busy individual tax preparation season. The small practitioner must look at staffing, office space and other overhead costs in two time frames: the busy season and the rest of the year.
BUSY SEASON PROBLEMS
One older sole practitioner I know found a partial solution to some of these problems. The lighter work load in the last half of the year forced him to reduce his full-time staff to 5 people year-round, but the heavier work load in the first half still required 8 to 10 people to complete. In addition, since he was landlord as well as tenant in his office building, his occupancy costs were difficult to reduce.
For several years, he augmented staff in busy season by hiring per diem help. There were drawbacks to this solution, however. Most of the more productive per diem employees needed income during the rest of the year as well. Many of the valued part-timers managed to fill in elsewhere so successfully during the other months that they were hired full-time by other practitioners and were unavailable when busy season rolled around.
AN EXCHANGE OFFER
The solution came in a suggestion from one of his part-time busy season staffers. She had developed a small practice that she ran out of her home, but because she traveled frequently she needed coverage during her absences. It was especially important that her older clients have a base to call where someone would be familiar with them, instead of reaching voice mail or an answering service. She proposed that in exchange for being available during the busy season--and reducing her hourly rate for this work by 20%--the practitioner would provide her with office space and secretarial and administrative help.
This arrangement worked so well that he has since crafted similar deals with four other people. Each one is different, but each has unique benefits for both sides. The office space that otherwise would be empty is now occupied at least part time and the practitioner is assured of at least some per diem help to get the tax returns out the door.
SPLITTING THE TAB
After the last tax season, the CPA and another of his long-time per diem CPAS were complaining about the problems of training, scheduling and retaining part-time data entry and assembly personnel. The per diem CPA had a modest practice that wasn't large enough to support an administrative staff, while the older CPA had an efficient staff on hand year-round. While comparing notes, the two realized that if they pooled their resources and did their tax preparation together in the older Accountant's office, they would have enough work to justify full-time rather than part-time people in those functions. They worked out a cost-sharing agreement that they are to test this tax season.
Practitioners always seek new and better ways to cope with the busy season crunch. One sole practitioner found the solution to some of his problems by making mutually beneficial arrangements with fellow CPAs. The use of part-time per diem help in exchange for office space and administrative support as well as cost shaling with another part-timer helped alleviate some of the problems caused by the profession's drastic work-load swings. These and similarly innovative approaches may help other CPAS seeking ways to alleviate busy season burdens.
* THE PUBLIC accounting profession is increasingly becoming a seasonal business. Small practitioners must consider staffing, office space and other overhead costs for two very different seasons.
* ONE SOLE practitioner found a solution by setting up mutually beneficial arrangements with his part-time tax season help. One part-timer proposed that in exchange for being available every busy season, the sole practitioner would provide her with office space and secretarial and administrative help for her own small practice.
* ANOTHER TAX SEASON worker suggested sharing the costs of a reliable, full-time tax season staff. These types of arrangements alleviated some of the sole practitioner's seasonality problems.
For more information ...
The American Institute of CPAs management of an accounting practice committee has issued the book Seasonality: Practitioners' Suggestions for Managing Work Load Compression ($25; product no. 090400JA).
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|Author:||Blensly, Douglas L.|
|Publication:||Journal of Accountancy|
|Date:||Dec 1, 1993|
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