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solo tax practitioner

5 Ways to Find Out if Your Practice is Ready for Busy Season

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With Oct. 15 behind us, the 2015 tax season has wrapped up … and now, it’s time to look forward to next year! If you are like me, this is the time of the year you identify tasks that need to get started, with an eye toward increasing efficiency and making sure we maximize our opportunities.

Here are five initiatives I am thinking about right now to help me get ready for busy season:

  1. Supplies need to be ordered. As much as I like the idea of going completely paperless, my clients have told us they like getting a paper copy of their returns. This means I need plenty of copy paper, and I need to make sure we have the cover stock for the returns. Try to customize this with your firm logo and maybe use raised foil lettering. This kind of presentation conveys quality and will help with pricing and retention.
  1. Prepare the engagement letters. First, make sure you are using engagement letters and collecting them from every client. I meet too many firms these days that are ignoring this because they are so busy. Stop that. The engagement letter will protect you and the client, and without a strong set of expectations, you and your firm could be responsible for much more than you planned. Get them printed on letterhead, and have them ready to be mailed or emailed as soon as tax season starts.
  1. Document your workflow. This is a big one. Think about how this year’s tax season went down. What was frustrating? What frustrated clients? Where did communication break down? How many clients were last minute? Then, put together a set of written Share them with your staff and notify clients of changes in your process. Don’t be afraid to change things every year – your job is to improve your service, and you must lead from the top to get it done.
  1. Set up an electronic signature system. One of the major improvements we have seen at our firm over the last couple of years is implementing an electronic signature for our engagement letters, 8879s, 2553s and power or attorney documents. Clients like it, and we hardly see any long-term “waiting on signature” situations. There are several options on the market, and if you are using one of the Intuit® ProConnect™ platforms, you have options built right into the software with eSignature. This is the time to learn how to use it and train your staff.
  1. Get deposits. OK, this is one you can’t really do now, but it is important, so I want to mention it. Start getting deposits from clients before you start their work. Yes, I know clients who have been with you for 10 years won’t like it, but I don’t care. It is a good practice and ensures you are not scrambling around all tax season trying to impress clients with last-minute tax planning just to get paid. If you charge $500 for a return, the deposit is $250. The rest is collected before you e-file the return. Once you get them used to it the first year, they will pay it year after year.

I skipped a couple of routine tasks, including organizers and tax software, but those are tasks you have done every year and probably did not need mentioning. Take the time to work these tasks and you will see dividends this tax season – I promise!

Editor’s note: For more information on eSignature and other efficient add-on programs to Intuit ProConnect Tax Online, Lacerte® and ProSeries®, read “Learn How Connectivity Tools Can Transform Your Practice!

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