Tax season is the time when accounting firms and CPAs earn the biggest part of their profit. At the same time, it’s the most stressful period for them. Loads of work drastically increase, as well as the time pressure and mental load.
The general workload of the busy period includes getting the end-of-year info from clients, reconciliation, working with tax receipts, income reporting slips, preparing for tax returns, and more. During such a crunch time, it is critical to have a solid action plan, remain focused, and be able to relax. Otherwise, it’s easy to turn life hectic and burn-out.
In this article, we’ll share some cases on how to organize and manage your activities throughout the busy season geared with handy apps.
But first, let’s have an expert view on the challenges that professional accountants face.
Challenges of the busy season
We talked to Tanya Hilts – the founder of Cloud Bookkeeping Services – a cloud-based bookkeeping service provider for small business, also she is the founder of Tanya’s Bookkeepers Bootcamp – an educational coaching/mentorship program where she works with accounting professionals to help them tighten their workflows and increase their profitability. And we can give you firsthand account on the busy season’s challenges and how to deal with them.
What is the busiest season for CPAs and accounting firms during the year?
The busiest season for accounting and bookkeeping firms, of course, is the personal tax season. January to April. We’re closing up the year ends for all the sole proprietorship businesses, preparing T4’s and then adding in about 500 personal tax returns to the regular workload for March and April.
How do you prepare for this season? Do you have any little rituals that help you tune-up and be productive?
We make sure that we have everything organized and ensure we follow our protocols. We need a tight workflow to stay on track.
What is most challenging about this time?
We have our regular workload, and then add in 500 personal income tax returns with myself being the only ones who actually work on the returns. We have a tight workflow, and we don’t take on anything new until after tax season ends.
Which of the accountants’ activities, in your opinion, are too time-consuming, and what would you better spend this time for given a chance to free it?
The day-to-day entering and reviewing of the receipts as well as the first look at file reviews. I train my team to be able to handle some of these when they are ready. And of course, anything administrative is the first to pass down to the team.
How does Business Importer help you to solve the time problem?
Business Importer helps us by taking the reports that are provided in spreadsheets, and that data can be imported individually by date, which would have taken us hours to enter manually. We can also collaborate with our clients and help keep their costs down by having them enter into a google sheet, and we manage the importing of the data from this sheet. This enables us to get daily, detailed information into the books without taking so much of our time, and this gives us the end data for advising our clients.
What do you like most about the tool?
The google sheet integration for sure. And the fact that it recognizes duplicates and doesn’t let any duplicates through.
In your opinion, how else can automation help enhance accounting practice?
I’m sure in ways I haven’t even thought of yet.
Leaving aside automation, do you follow any best practices that help you prepare for the taxing season and help your clients the best way possible?
We just make sure that we are completely caught up on everything and follow our protocols. That keeps us on track during this otherwise hectic season.
How do you evaluate the job done? What are your success criteria?
If the job is finished, fully compliant, the client is happy, and we are still sane – it’s a complete success.
Leveraging apps to save time and remain productive throughout the tax season
We gathered several cases of how CPAs can leverage technology to prepare for the busy season, keep the work-life balance, and remain productive during it.
1. Minimize manual work and free up to several hours a week
Preparing clients’ books for the tax season often implies plenty of manual operations, such as importing data into accounting platforms like QuickBooks, Xero, etc. It can take hours or even days to do the work. Also, errors can occur due to manual data entry, which can result in more time spent on finding and correcting them. Automating this kind of operation can free hours, if not days, and let accountants focus on more significant tasks.
Business Importer is a real time-saver designed to help accountants efficiently deal with tedious data entry activities.
The app allows importing transaction data, such as invoices, bills, SRs, JEs, POs, attachments, etc. in QuickBooks, Sage One, or Xero from a variety of sources, including CSV, files, Excel and Google sheets, etc. It also lets users export the necessary data, and, if needed, delete data from the platforms in bulk.
How it works: having integrated Business Importer with a chosen accounting solution, all users need to do is upload files, map necessary fields so that they correspond with those of the platform, preview, and see the results in their QuickBooks or Xero account. The tool can perform on the background, so users don’t need to wait until the import is over to start working on other tasks, which is especially helpful, as if one needs to import thousands of transactions, the import can take a substantial amount of time.
- Ready-made templates to automate the mapping process;
- Possibility to schedule imports and run them automatically in the background, so users can perform several imports simultaneously (which is extremely handy if someone needs to import thousands of different transactions);
- All kinds of support available, such as through live chat, by phone, and by email.
Pricing: Business Importer comes with a 14-days free trial to let users examine the app and check its features. Paid plans start at $10/mo.
2. Take control over communication
Working with loads of data requires one to be extremely focused, which is impossible when you get distracted with the necessity to answer working and personal calls, emails, or solve problems out of the professional activities. Experienced CPAs advise to minimize social contacts during the tough accounting period and plan professional communication to prevent unexpected distracting calls or meetings.
Calendly is a solution that helps to organize and plan all your business communication in a smooth way, convenient for both you and your clients.
By nature, it is a scheduling tool that connects with up to six of your calendars and automatically tracks your availability to help you connect with clients in the time that you plan for communication. But it has some great features under the hood that let it work great for both independent CPAs and accounting firms.
How it works: After signing up, users can set up periods in which your contacts may choose available time slots for different kinds of events, such as conference calls, meetings, training, etc. Then they can share their schedule by email or embed it on a website.
- Daily limits – the app allows to set the number of available slots per day;
- Ability to schedule for large teams, based on the availability of each member;
- Ability to host multiple invitees at the same event for webinars, training, and more.
Pricing: a free version is available with limited functionality. Paid plans start at $8/mo.
3. Leverage the cloud to have all you need at hand
Having access to all the necessary documents is critical for a CPA to ensure the work for a client is done correctly and on time. But it’s quite an often story when an accountant urgently needs a document, and a client is out of town, or can’t find it right away, or sends an outdated copy, etc. Besides, as accountants deal with documents that often contain clients’ sensitive data, security concerns arise. How to ensure data security and prevent its loss when transferring documents from clients to the CPA’s place?
Storing important documents in the cloud can address all these issues.
Google Drive – is the most obvious solution that allows users to store, share, and update documents in the cloud, ensuring security and instant access to all the necessary up-to-date data for all parties. The solution lets you keep all your work in one place, view different file formats without buying extra software, and access your files from any device.
How it works: After registration, users get access to spacious storage, where they can keep and manage their documents, sharing them with chosen people, and many more.
- No special setup needed;
- Ability to create shared documents and folders, together with multiple sharing options;
- Possibility to work on the same document simultaneously.
Pricing: Google Drive is absolutely free. An extended professional G Suite solution that comprises a set of productivity and collaboration tools comes at $6/mo per user.
4. Take care of healthy eating
No one can function efficiently without energy. It is a fact. Working up to 60 hours a week, which many CPAs experience during a tax season, it’s hard to control how you eat. However, healthy eating is the insurance of effective work. Here, food delivery can be more than ever helpful.
UberEats is an app that comprises hundreds of restaurants to choose food delivery. Available in many countries and cities, this app ensures that you’ll have fresh food delivered right to where you are with just a little effort from your side.
How it works: the app is uber easy-to-use. The only setup needed is connecting the card to the app. In the app, users can either scroll through the offerings on the main screen or search for a particular restaurant or cuisine. Tapping on the chosen option will immediately send it to the cart. Users can see the delivery time estimates, as well as price with tax and delivery fees included.
- Available in a wide range of countries and cities;
- No cash needed;
- You can track your order in real-time.
Pricing: UberEats is free.
5. Have some peace of mind.
One of the results of the excessive workloads and time pressure that accountants face during the tax period is the increased level of stress. Psychologists claim that constant stress can result in sleeping disorder, low concentration, worry and panic attacks, irritability or depression, and many other quite unpleasant things. So it is important to make time for relaxation. To cope with stressful states, psychologists often recommend using special techniques of relaxation and meditation. They allow for regaining peace of mind within a short time.
Headspace is an application designed to help users lessen stress, get more focused, and sleep better. It gets users acquainted with meditation and mindfulness basics offering a set of guided meditation sessions for everyday use. Behind the app, there’s Andy Puddicombe – a former monk and meditation expert.
How it works: the subscription gives you access to an even bigger collection of meditations aimed at a wide range of use: from anxiety to better sleep and self-awareness. There are also super-short meditations that take you just minutes a day, as well as over 40 mindfulness exercises for daily activities like cooking, eating, commuting, etc.
- New meditation is sent to your phone every morning.
- Animation Library with lots of videos to help improve your meditation practice and answer the most common questions.
- Possibility of getting a meditation teacher’s guidance and supervision.
Pricing: the app offers a free version that includes only meditation basics. Paid subscription starts at $12,99/mo.
The tax period is a tough time for independent CPAs and those that work with accounting firms. Though tech solutions are not a magic bullet, they work pretty well on helping organize the working process, saving time, and keeping you productive.