Surviving the final push to April 15

Attention CPAs in Chicago, New York and Houston: Your cities rank No. 1, 2 and 3, respectively, on the list of Top 10 Tax Procrastinating Cities in America.

And if last year is any indication, next week should be brutal. Intuit, which makes TurboTax products, based its list on the number of federal tax returns electronically filed last year between April 14 and April 17.

First, there are the clients. You know the type. The client who walks in with a paper bag full of receipts, incomplete records, and a wild-eyed look of panic. While many CPAs are finding that the promise of a stimulus check is making their usual procrastinators more conscientious, some just can't or won't change their ways.

But procrastination can hit accountants hard too. Here are some survival tips:

Get organized - Do a few quick tasks each day to give yourself a sense of control, advises the Ohio Society of CPAs. Take 5 or 10 minutes each day to tidy your work area. Put away old files. Categorize your e-mail. Prioritize your work for the next day. Putting it on paper may prevent you from making lists in your head in the middle of the night.

Remember the "e" word - Let your clients know you need information by a certain time to get your work done by deadline. If not, there's always an automatic extension.

Don't indulge in crankiness - It only makes things worse. "Walking around angry can release negative chemicals into your body," says the Ohio Society of CPAs. "On the other hand, smiling, even if you don't mean it, can release mood lifting chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin. It can lower blood pressure and boost your immune system (and who can afford to get sick right now?)."

Naps, steaks, books - A few accountants who wrote in to Rick Telberg's CPA Trendlines have their favorites. Curtis Park in Camarillo, CA, who said he has "too much to do in too little time," advises naps. Ron Mosocco in Williamsburg, VA, likes a juicy steak off the grill. Sole proprietor Liz Hegarty, of Atlanta, stopped taking referrals and raised billing rates this year. She talks to friends or reads a good book to wind down.

Rubber band wars, pranks - Bob Sytsma, a partner at Varner Sytsma & Herndon, who spoke to The Bellingham Herald in Bellingham, WA, said the break room is stocked with healthy snacks for energy, and firm leaders try to maintain a low-stress atmosphere. "Occasionally we make massages available to our team. We try to keep things light with rubber band wars, walks to Starbucks, and practical jokes." One joke stands out for Sytsma. "I remember some years ago when another CPA and I submitted our resignations to the managing partner on April 1. You should have seen the terror in his face before he realized it was a hoax!"

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