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Toward a less taxing tax season.

Toward a Less Taxing Tax Season

While planning my first column for the NPA, I spent sometime reviewing areas of accounting which would be both helpful and interesting to the reader.

However, when I realized that this article was for the March issue, I had second thoughts. As a former practitioner I'm well aware that taxes, not accounting issues, are uppermost in everyone's mind at this time of year.

With that thought in mind, I'd like to present a column which may make tax season a little less taxing. As we like to do in Washington, D.C., let's start with an acronym, with a group of initials that can easily serve as a daily reminder--Manage Organize Stress Time.

To make the "MOST" of tax season, it is necessary to manage, to organize, to recognize and handle stress, and to efficiently allot time.

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 principal interviewed the client, 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. A preparer would then select the appropriate return on a first in-first out basis. A careful log was kept on the movement of the return--from the preparer, to the computer, to the principal for review and signature, and then to final administrative processing.

The next step is organization. Taking time to stay organized will prove to be a valuable aid. The ideal situation would be having the time to handle each project separately. Realistically, half a dozen projects at one time 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 reviewing it for 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 and 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 your 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 the end of the day, before you go home, no matter how tired you are, take time to put things in order. You'll find it much easier to start the next day.

Third is stress itself. Learn to recognize its existence. Some physical symptoms are tense muscles, tight jaws and gritted teeth. Watch for increased irritability. 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 do take some home, limit your work hours at home. Make time for family and friends. Keep some leisure activities. A change of pace, even 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 in the office open. A short weekly staff meeting is a good way to keep in touch. You can discuss possible overload and reassignment of work if necessary. Have the meeting over lunch. After the gripe session, order pizza and give everyone a work break and a chance to interact.

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.

Time is essential. Take time to manage, take time to organize and most important, take time to recognize stress and to deal with it.

Remember, April 15th will come. It always does.
COPYRIGHT 1990 National Society of Public Accountants
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Schwartz, Marlyn A.
Publication:The National Public Accountant
Article Type:column
Date:Mar 1, 1990
Words:844
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