Tax Pros During Off Season. What Do You Do?
Congratulations! You survived another tax season. How will you take advantage of the slow time ahead?
Tax preparation can be a feast or famine business. The period before tax-filing deadlines can demand 60- or 80-hour workweeks, pushing your endurance to the limit. Meanwhile, the slow period afterwards can leave you with hours of time to kill. Whatever happened to the happy medium?
In any case, the slow season provides an excellent opportunity for you to recharge your batteries. You can begin work projects you’ve neglected for months. These are important because they fortify you for next year’s crunch.
What’s more, off seasons give you time to recover from months of high-pressure tax work. As you know, the human mind, body and spirit do not cope well with unrelenting periods of stress. They need time to recover. So if you do nothing but relax during your off season, that’s OK. They will let you know if and when they’re ready to ease into other projects.
Three Off-Season Activity Buckets
Before you do anything else, take a break! This can involve going on a vacation, doing local day trips, or just staying home to read, watch TV or putter in the garden. Whatever you choose to do, make sure to do it long enough to purge your body of excess stress hormones.
After that, you can select from three buckets of activities:
- Professional work
- Professional development
- Personal time
Let’s take a closer look at each one.
The slow season is great time to tackle neglected work projects. There are many possibilities, which will make your business more capable and efficient. Here are some to consider:
- Assessing staff. How well did they (and you) perform during the “crunch” season? Was their productivity high? Did they hit or exceed your goals? How were their customer-satisfaction metrics?
- Evaluating tax-preparation technology. Did your production software perform well? If you’re using an older version, is it time to upgrade to a newer one? And how does it perform against competing packages?
- Evaluating your marketing program. Did your marketing plan produce sufficient volumes of tax work this year? If not, what other tactics should you add to your marketing mix?
- Touching base with clients. Consider sending out a customer-satisfaction survey. You might combine that with a focus group with a limited number of clients or some informal phone calls. The point is, identify the tasks you should stop doing, those you should start doing and those you must do better next year.
Another possibility is doing non-tax client work. For example, you might counsel your clients on increasing their profit margins, on making business or personal investments or on updating their retirement plans. Alternatively, you might do payroll, bookkeeping or forensic accounting for them during your slow season.
The off-season is a great time to expand your tax, bookkeeping or accounting skills. Whatever topic or topics you decide to pursue, you will find plentiful resources for professional development. Here are a few of them:
- The IMA Management Accounting Competency Framework. Serves as a comprehensive knowledge base to enhance your accounting skills. Covers topics such as strategy, managing performance, reporting systems, IT, operations and more. Also offers useful tips for how to develop your accounting knowledge.
- The National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP). Provides multiple courses and tools on the in’s and out’s of preparing tax returns.
- QuickBooks Connect. Focuses on bookkeeping techniques and the use of technology to enhance productivity. Also covers small-business financial topics, including how to apply for a business loan.
- American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). The place for physical and online conferences, books and other learning materials.
- Professional advancement. Where non-CPAs go to study for the CPA test. Also helps CPAs acquire a relating credential, including the Personal Financial Specialist® (PFS), Accredited in Business Valuation®(ABV), Certified in Financial Forensics® and Chartered Global Management Accountant® (CGMA).
What personal activities did you let slide during tax season? Pursuing hobbies, going to the gym, doing spa days, going out to dinner or to the movies? Hanging out with friends and family? Well, here’s your chance to make up for lost time. Do what gives you joy. Invite friends and family members to share these activities with you.
Most importantly, live life to the fullest. Because before you know it, the next tax season will be upon you and the work crunch will begin anew.
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