You're going to make it out of tax season alive. That's a statement, not a question.
To achieve this, the first thing you need to do is be brutally honest with yourself. This prep-step will come in handy when the stress hits — and it will, in one form or another.
Stay on top of your game... and your mental health.
The end goal is to be as productive as possible and to avoid putting yourself in a reactive situation as you work your way through year-end and tax season. Reactive responses can often take a toll on our mental health, especially when the stress involves your engagements with small businesses and other professional relationships.
It's okay to make mistakes — after all, we're human and we all do it! But you need to learn how to recover quickly so you can follow through on your commitments on time. These tips will help you be prepared, stay focused, maintain composure and allow you to stay on top of your game.
TIP: Template your process so next year you can be a tax season rockstar.
1. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize.
By this time of year, most of us have a good idea of how much attention each client needs. Outside all of the regular tasks that you've already completed throughout the year, year-end tasks require more time and attention to detail — especially if your hands aren't the only hands in the books. Tax year-end reviews should involve a mini internal audit of sorts.
TIP: This is the perfect opportunity to review your client engagements during this step.
How to start prioritizing your workflow.
Here is a high-level example of how to start prioritizing your workflow:
1. Organize your clients based on the importance and complexity of their compliance obligations.
2. List each compliance component for each client. You can refer to your client engagement letter or pull from some examples below:
Corporate taxes or installments
3. Map out all the tasks that are also important to your tax season, including:
Follow up with clients who are missing information.
Ensure trial balance from previous year matches.
Gather or verify source documents.
Digitize or scan documents.
Asset & liability reconciliations.
Review general ledgers (GLs) — Be sure to count those recurring bills, such as phone and utility!
Year-end compilation and submission.
4. Map out the actual due dates. For example, you can include due dates for:
Clients to give you required information.
Tax information filings
Payments to be funded (if required).
Keep track of important dates with our 2021 Canadian Small Business Payroll Calendar
2. Time block — everything takes time.
How many hours of the day are you actually being productive? Be honest with yourself and work around that.
For example, if you know that your brain takes a bit of time to wake up in the morning or that your brain is rather porous after 3 pm, schedule less complicated tasks during those times. This is also a great opportunity to determine if you can delegate those tasks to other members of your team.
Self-assess real-life expectations.
When you're time blocking, you need to self-assess your real-life expectations. Here are some important questions to ask yourself:
How much sleep can you survive on? More accurately, how much coffee can you throw back? 😉
How important is it to include exercise, stretching or meditation?
How much will your family (or furry child) need or miss you?
How much attention does your own business need?
Use your self-assessed productive hours and work backwards, starting with your list of priorities. Time block everything into your calendar and set reminder notifications so you can stay on track. Most importantly, don't forget to schedule breaks and time to connect with your team!
TIP: Tax season can have a lot of surprises and you need to be flexible enough to accommodate any change. Block a few minutes every day to re-evaluate your priorities and adjust your schedule.
3. Control your expectations.
After your schedule is time-blocked and colour-coded (we all know that happens), sit back and take a deeper look. Can you actually do it all? Not only do you have to complete your tasks, but you also need to give yourself room to meet the needs and expectations of people involved in your practice, your clients, your team and your family.
This is probably the hardest part for bookkeepers and accountants because we have the tendency to power through tasks. Doing the actual work is one thing. Nurturing relationships with each other, our team and our clients are a whole other ball game — especially when we're head-down in the thick of year-end!
If looking at your schedule makes you feel overwhelmed, don't get down on yourself. It's time to explore your outside options.
4. Get extra help — outsource!
Outsourcing doesn't mean giving up control, nor does it necessarily mean reaching out to a company outside your country.
What it means is that you need to look around to other professionals in your community. It could be as simple as hiring a virtual assistant (VA) to handle phone calls and emails, a marketing or social media manager to keep up your online presence while you are head-down, or a coach to help you stay on track and encourage you along the way. It could also mean handing data entry or bookkeeping tasks to a trusted colleague. You define what it means.
The benefits of outsourcing.
Here are some benefits to outsourcing administrative tasks:
Frees your time to do more complex compliance work.
Only a temporary commitment — you can dissolve the relationship after the busy season is over.
Can be hired as a contractor — they don't need to be on your payroll!
Connect with professionals who may have more experience in other areas or industries than you.
Connect with professionals who may have more experience with other technology that you haven't had time to implement in your practice yet.
Build trust and relationships with other professionals.
Get advice when you need it.
Make company year-end work for you.
At the end of the day, your client engagement commitment needs to be met, no matter how many hours you have available. Being prepared and incorporating technology to help create your perfect system can be very helpful.
My all-in-one go-to resource for workflow resources is a Facebook group run by Kellie Parks called The Workflow Wateringhole — but there are so many other amazing workflow and practice management tools available to help you. As you work through year-end, be sure to plan ahead, be realistic and template everything as you go so you don't have to recreate the wheel every year-end or for every client.
The advice we share on our blog is intended to be informational. It does not replace the expertise of accredited business professionals or the responsibility of the business owner to ensure compliance. To qualify for complimentary T4s with Wagepoint (included as part of your standard fees) — a business must run a minimum of two payrolls in the current calendar year. Remittance and reporting capabilities within Wagepoint vary by location.
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