This article was updated on July 6, 2018.
For accounting professionals like Craig J. Wild, a partner at Wild, Maney & Resnick LLP, the CPA busy season between November and April might best be described as a race to the finish line. With tax submission deadlines (April 15, for example) looming and the clock ticking ever-louder, client work piles up and CPAs spend late nights in the office drinking coffee and double checking figures.
Wild shared his experience with his unique CPA busy season during a recent interview:
Q: Could you tell us what "busy season" means to you and describe what it looks like?
Wild: Our busy season starts in early November. We start with tax planning, and all of our corporate clients and individual business owners get a written tax plan by Dec. 15. We don't want our client surprised with a tax bill, so we let them know what is due by Dec. 31, and what will be needed for pension and taxes by April 15. From there, we then move into preparing 1099s and gearing up for tax prep season. Of course, in the middle of this time and all this activity, our larger clients need audits and reviews prepared for them, so by Jan. 15 we normally start working extended hours. Our client meetings start around Feb. 1, when the software is ready and when most of the forms have been sent out. From Feb. 1 onward, the entire office works Saturdays and accountants work at least two nights a week. I tend to work four nights a week, and if Sunday work is required, I come in then, too. This is my tax season.
Q: What are three to five strategies you follow after the busy season is over to re-engage with your clients?
Wild: First, we try to get out and meet with the clients, as well as send them information to educate them about upcoming law changes. Since most of the larger clients are on extension, the summer is the best time to connect with them and get the information needed to complete their work.
We also meet with clients to review any questions that were brought up during our tax meetings that we said we'd need to follow up on. Additionally, we use the summertime to review the client workload and determine if there are any additional services the client might require that we can provide. Finally, during this "slower" time, we reevaluate our staff and do additional training to enhance their service capabilities.
Q: Which of your busy-season strategies helps you the most, and are they transferable to all professionals/small businesses who have busy seasons?
Wild: Let me offer two which I think are transferable. First, I think organization is extremely important during any busy season. With our in-house software, for instance, we track every tax return that comes in and who is working on it. So if the staff is holding onto the return too long, the partner is automatically notified and can follow up. Second, I think it's important for professionals to pace themselves in their work so as not be so exhausted that they cannot think clearly. I know too many CPAs who work crazy-long hours and, when you are tired, it's so easy to miss something.
It's a challenge, but after more than three decades in the accounting profession, Wild has learned the best ways to adjust to the rhythms of the annual tax season.
Wild, Maney & Resnick LLP was a client of ADP, LLC. at the time of this article's publication.