As a tax pro are you ever able to be on vacation on April 15? I was! That’s right. I was in Mexico at the beach during the final weekend of the 2019 tax season. Yes. I had my laptop with me and yes, I did a few hours of work. However, there were no late nights or being cooped up in my hotel room all day. Instead, I was able to relax by the pool, soak up some sun and check-in with a couple of last minute tasks for an hour or two on April 15. Once April 16 came you can bet I totally disconnected. How’d I overcome challenges and keep my cool as the filing deadline approached? Here’s how.
First, I start connecting with my clients early. Once the calendar hits January, I reach out to all my previous year’s clients with a welcome letter and tax organizer. My tax organizer is designed to help my clients gather the data necessary for filing an accurate and complete return. They can either fill it out completely or use it as a guide for information needed to complete their return. Only a handful of my clients receive a paper letter and organizer in the mail. Instead, most of them get an email with links to download my tax organizer which I schedule ahead of time to send via my email marketing software, MailChimp.
Using email marketing software has also helped me overcome other communication gaps with my clients. I schedule reminders to go out about deadlines including the deadline of getting me their paperwork in order to file on time. Setting a deadline is important because it makes my clients respect my time and many people work better with a deadline on the calendar. Having a deadline has also helped me not feel pressured or rushed as the filing date approaches because I have all the data I need well before the filing date. Using email marketing software allows me to compose and schedule these reminder emails in January so I’m not doing extra tasks in the thick of tax season. One less thing to think of or worry about is always helpful, right?
Why is this helpful? Because it allows me to focus on my clients during my busy season. It keeps me on task and less distracted by not having to nag my clients for their documents. I also utilize task management software to keep me organized and on task. I currently use Asana, but there are many to choose from including JetPack Workflow, AeroWorkflow, Trello and more. I create the following columns - Prepare Return, Waiting for Answers/Updates, Get Signature, Waiting for Payment, Return E-filed.
Once a client gets me their paperwork, a new task gets created. Within each task I can also create subtasks with deadlines and even assign the work to an employee should I have one. You can even create Project templates to use to avoid repeating the same thing over and over. As the client moves along the process, they move to a new column until their return has been e-filed. This workflow makes sure I don’t lose track of where each client return is in the process. Without a workflow, I would find it harder to track client updates, payments, signatures and whether or not a client return has been filed successfully.
Being your own boss has its ups and downs. It means you wear many hats and can easily face challenges. One of the biggest challenges I find that tax pros face is time. We not only work on a strict deadline, but we also are stuck waiting for client paperwork before our process can even begin. Overcoming these challenges is what keeps me on track and able to take that vacation at the end of tax season!
About the Author:
Heather Ryan, EA is the owner of Tax Queen LLC, a tax firm supporting mobile entrepreneurs. As both a QuickBooks and Xero ProAdvisor with years of bookkeeping experience, she also offers tax services as an Enrolled Agent. She continues to support her clients through educational blog posts and has written a book to help explain tax law to the small business owner. She currently travels full-time in an RV with her husband and two dogs exploring the greatness of North America.