10 Real Tax Season Problems: Solved

The SmartCenter Blog

Tools, tips and insights for how to manage your tax business the smart way.

10 Real Tax Season Problems: Solved
December 11, 2014

By Jen Cook

This week, we’ve created this infographic to show you all of the problems you might experience or have had to deal with during tax season, and the solutions for those potential problems. (click the image to get a closer look.)

Tax Season Problems

Let’s look a little closer at 10 of the most common tax season woes.

1. You’re pulling all-nighters

It’s not uncommon to chug coffee and work till the wee hours of the morning. This means that you’re not being as productive as you should be. And in turn, you’re not getting enough sleep, which contributes to you being even less productive.

There are several things you can do to avoid those long hours. First, stay organized. By keeping your client data and documents stored in the cloud, and being able to access them all in one place, you’re saving all the extra time and energy it would take you to rifle through your tax software and physical folders to find things.

Next, implement a workflow system into your practice. If you’re prone to getting sidetracked or distracted, you might be wasting time trying to figure out where you left off. With a workflow system, you’ll never lose track of your work.

2. You and your staff aren’t productive enough

This goes hand-in-hand with pulling all-nighters. If you don’t have systems in place, you’re just creating more work for yourself. So, in order to be efficient, implement the right systems to get work done the right way every time.

Having a workflow system will help you to make sure things are getting done right, and on time. Keeping your documents organized online will eliminate the time it takes to look for stuff. Implementing a CRM will save you the time it takes to look for client info. And storing your docs and data in the cloud will keep everything in one place – all helping to shave off wasted time and energy.

3. You lost a document (or 5) / You’re wasting time looking for client info

Losing documents is easy if you’re still relying solely on file cabinets to stay organized. Not only does this waste your precious time, but it increases the risk of losing those documents for good, should a ...situation arise.

Do yourself and your clients a favor, and store your documents in a professional, cloud document management solution. They’ll be easy to find, they won’t disappear, and you can get a little more sleep at night.

4. Your client shows up unorganized

There’s nothing like a client who pawns their giant pile of this year’s “stuff” off on you. Yeah, you’re here to help them, but sorting out their mess isn’t your profession.

Train your clients to behave to your firm’s standards, so your time isn’t wasted dealing with unnecessary issues. And if your client doesn’t want to adhere to your rules, it’s time to fire them, and open a spot for a client who will respect your work and your firm.

5. Your staff doesn’t know the status of all client work

When a client calls or shows up to your office, everyone involved with that client in any way should know exactly where they stand.

Example... Client: “I’m calling to follow up on that meeting we had last week. Did you get my documents via email?”

Everyone associated with that client should know the answer to that question. And they should do so by having a CRM and a workflow to quickly refer to.

The CRM should store the client’s record, along with references of emails sent, phone calls made, documents received, and any interaction that client’s had with the firm.

If there are any projects or tasks in the works for that client, they should be mapped out in a workflow engine, so the status can be confirmed at any time. Anyone involved in that workflow should have access, so no one’s left out of the loop.

6. You’re constantly worried about an audit / You made a mistake on a tax return

It happens. We’re all human; sometimes we make mistakes. Audits usually don’t happen, however, because of something you did intentionally.

Because most errors are simple keypunch mistakes, the best way to protect yourself is to have a system in place for checks and balances. The easiest way to accomplish that is to have someone re-checking your data entry work before each return is filed.

Create a “review checklist” of the key areas of each return that should be looked at before it is filed, and then complete that checklist for each return. You can feel at peace with your work and relieve some of your anxiety about mistakes.

And if you make a mistake, remember that we’re all human. Be upfront and honest with your client, have a plan mapped out (before you contact them) to show them how you’re going to make things right, and move on. You’d be surprised how forgiving people can be when you’re real with them and just let them know, “hey, I screwed up. Here’s what I’m going to do to fix it…”

7. Your client is thinking about DIY taxes this year

There are clients who need their taxes professionally prepared, and there are those who don’t. Some people just have complicated financial lives, and they need your help. Those with simpler finances may be able to do their tax return by themselves, but they may need your help in other areas of their finances.

Step 1: Know your value. Why did your client walk through your door in the first place? If you don’t know your value, you have to take a step back and find it, for your business’s sake. Here’s the complete guide to finding it.

Step 2: Communicate your value. Once you’ve found your value, you need to show your client why they’re your client. Even if they can just do their own tax return, you have to help them realize you’re giving them more than that.

If your client isn’t convinced, maybe they just don’t need a tax professional. Let them go on good terms, and if their lives become more complex in the future, they’ll know who to run to for value.

8. Your client isn’t paying their bill

This is another scenario where you need to enforce your rules with your client. Tell them exactly how and when they need to pay their bill. Let them know that if they don’t pay for your services, they can’t remain your client.

Too many tax professionals are too busy to realize when their clients are taking advantage of them, and do nothing about it.

Your services are too valuable to be free, so convey to your clients when they need to be paying. If the non-payment continues, get rid of ‘em!

9. Your client complains about your prices

There are a few solutions to this problem, depending on the scenario.

  • You’re not communicating your value to your client. If they don’t have any justification for the price, they won’t want to pay it. Make sure they know exactly what they’re paying for, and there won’t be any room to complain.
  • They weren’t aware of the price in the first place. When you on-board a client, they should be signing an engagement agreement and seeing some type of pricing menu that explains what they’re getting. Once they see it, sign it and then go on to be your client, they can’t go back on the agreement later.
  • Some clients are just that way. If your client insists on complaining and being difficult for no reason, now’s a good time to fire them.

10. Your client failed to report income

There’s only one thing to do here – fire this client!

You wouldn’t lie to your doctor; your life and health depends on your honesty.

The same goes for your financial advisor. Lying or hiding things from your tax professional puts both parties in jeopardy, and is inexcusable. See ya!

* * * * * * * * * * 

That about sums it up. As you can see, many of the problems you may be having can be routed back to the same few solutions.

Feel free to reply with any problems you might have in your practice (in or out of tax season), and we’ll hone in on those solutions in a future blog! 

About Jen Cook Jen is the ambassador of visual execution for SmartCenter. When she's not designing, she's painting, or most likely indulging in good food. Follow Jen on Twitter - @jenncookk