Tax Season Preparation: Organize, don’t Agonize!!

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It used to be the case that if you had duct tape, you were prepared for anything! But if you’re like most practice owners, your tax clientele has grown every year and a crazy amount of work has to get out the door, in a very short space of time.
Preparation is of course key! Here is a checklist of some of the key items to consider, in order to stay ahead of the game:


The most streamlined practices I’ve consulted had a system for contacting clients and getting them on the schedule – rather than wait for them to contact the office. This gives you much more control over the spread of work, which is so key to getting a lot done in a short space of time.


The other bane of tax preparer’s lives is getting the information in so returns can be finalized. The most organized and streamlined practices have someone appointed to do the necessary, if unwelcome task, of following up with clients, to get the data so the preparers can stay working on returns that can be completed. This is the role of the Client Services Co-ordinator – a vital role in any tax practice.


Reviewing your post tax season “post mortem”/analysis from last tax season – to ensure that all headway made is continued this year. This will ensure any ideas that were generated regarding how to avoid problems, are implemented this year. This can include such items as a better checklist to make review easier and faster, better control on who collects payment so AR is kept low, etc – basically, making sure that any changes decided upon after last tax season are fully implemented.


Ensure that there is sufficient internal communication – e.g.  meetings scheduled throughout the season to go over status of returns, and provide for co-ordination among team members to keep work flowing smoothly;


Review all procedures and workflow with staff prior to tax season, especially if you have new hires;


Ensure there are checks in place to avoid letting returns sit unattended;


    Make sure wherever possible, that preparers fix their own mistakes;


If you have the software to capture the data, measure productivity on a per preparer basis:


Implement fee increases – at least cost of living, or more if necessary. Fees should go up annually!


Accelerate work as much as possible! This I have seen be very key to practice growth. E.g. getting business returns prepared in January frees up much needed time later on in tax season and helps circumvent the need for extreme hours.


Implement or re-ignite a system for generating referrals from clients, as well as reward those who do refer you work. There are many great referral campaigns that practices have much success with over the years.

Hopefully, one or more of these items above, will help you have the best tax season ever!

About Ciara


Having worked with accounting practices for over 17 years, and prior to that working as an attorney in a set-up, very similar to a CPA practice, Ciara MacMahon, CEO of Phase Two Management Consulting, has successfully boosted revenues of accounting practices by 3 – 4X, while allowing the owner to take more time out of the practice. Accounting practice owners are faced with endless deadlines and the challenges of managing workflow, finding the right staff, staff training as well as securing the acquisition of quality new clients! They are also often tasked with the not too pleasant responsibility of imparting bad news regarding taxes due, that the unprepared client is unhappy enough about, to oftentimes ‘shoot the messenger’!

Structuring the practice to be able to withstand these challenges and get far enough ahead of them to not only allow for expansion, but less stress and more time off for the owner, is routinely achieved by our strategic planning and consulting program. As no two practices are the same and each owner has his own vision for what he/she wants, the first step is a Planning Session to work out the owner’s goals and a strategy to obtain them, in the fastest time period, and for the highest return. To schedule your one on one complimentary practice analysis and consultation, email Ciara MacMahon at [email protected] today. 

Services Provided to expand Accounting Practices:
• Strategic Planning, customized to each practice so you have your own 3 – 5 year Business Plan

• Marketing

• Efficiency/time management training

• Hiring

• Gaining agreement/buy-in from staff

• Staff performance review/management

• Exit Strategy – some of our clients have sold practices to other clients of ours, so having a lot of contacts in the accounting industry, has helped clients out both with buying for growth, as well as selling for exit strategy.


“I just opened my own CPA practice a little less than two years ago.  What is unique in my situation is I had over twenty five years of experience as a manager and employee  of small CPA practices.   I met Ciara and we decided to work together  to help me develop a better administrative structure, and a better marketing plan to help me achieve the type of growth I wanted to achieve for the practice.  With Ciara’s guidance, I began to focus my efforts on my strengths, streamline my internal processes and more aggressively market my practice.  She helped me see the value of social media and numerous other marketing techniques.  She has superior knowledge on how small accounting works and knows what is needed to make the jump to the next level.  My practice has grown with her guidance to the point I will need to hire help for the upcoming season!  There is no doubt her guidance helped me get there.  I recommend her services to anyone!”

Mark G. McNelis, CPA


“Ciara provided me with business management and development advice over the years that enabled me to more than double my CPA practice and finally sell the practice as I move into retirement. Her assistance has been invaluable ”

Howard J Crane CPA


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