Checklist for preparers to start tax season

Checklist for preparers to start tax season

Tax season is here, which means it’s time to make sure everything is in order as you prepare for the busiest season of the year. While there’s no way to completely remove the stress and pressure from this challenging time, being as ready as possible beforehand can help mitigate it. Once you’re in the thick of it, you might let key information or deadlines slip through the cracks if you don’t have a plan in place.  

However, there are some simple steps you can take to as prepared as possible for the 2023 tax season. Below is a list of seven useful tips that can help you start tax season on the right foot.

7 tips for your tax season checklist   

1: Review the previous tax season 

Before the start of the upcoming tax season, it’s helpful to hold a little retrospective for the last one. During this assessment, you’ll want to think about what worked well and what could be improved this time. 

If you have multiple tax preparers working with or under you, some key questions you’ll want to answer include:  

  • Were all employees trained on our tax software? 
  • Were all staff members informed of relevant changes to tax laws? 
  • Did everyone work well together as a team?  

Teamwork is key to tax season success, so any “no” response to the questions above should drive some efforts at improvement during this tax season. In addition, you should consider how well your processes worked, especially those around engagement letters, data gathering, document scanning, review and delivery of returns and billing. Be honest with yourself about what worked and what didn’t because you don’t want to make the same mistakes twice.  

2: Brush up on current tax requirements 

Tax laws change every single year, and alterations to guidelines surrounding tax deductibility can be complicated. You and your team need to stay informed of these updates to best serve your clients.  

To keep up-to-date on tax laws for the upcoming tax season, you should review any continuing education (CE) courses that cover recent changes to these laws. For example, Surgent Income Tax School offers a Tax Law Updates & Ethics course that goes over everything you need to know for the current tax season. 

3: Assess your company culture 

Employee retention and satisfaction can take a nosedive during and after a grueling tax season. That’s why it’s important that your staff members feel appreciated, supported and engaged during and after the tax season.  

While tax season is always going to be a bit crazy, there are steps you can take to make it easier on your employees. For example, you could offer flexible paid time off or mental health days, and regularly check on your employees to gauge their workloads. Set an example by maintaining your own work-life balance and plan time outside of the office to de-stress as a team and have a little fun. 

4: Get your clients ready 

Tax time is often stressful for your clients, too. Help reduce their burden (and yours) by making sure they have all the information they need to submit their returns correctly the first time.   

Every client’s list of required documents is going to be a bit unique. Some might have multiple properties; others might have multiple employers. Providing a list of documents  and forms broken down by categories can help them gather all of the materials they need to file their return. This list should include:  

  • Personal information (SSNs, bank account details, photo ID, etc.) 
  • Income information (W-2s, 1099s) 
  • Income adjustments (loan payments, IRA contributions) 
  • Deductions and credits (donation receipts, medical bills) 
  • Taxes paid (vehicle tax, self-employment tax)  

Providing a tax preparation checklist to your clients as tax season approaches will allow them to get their documentation in order so their tax appointment runs smoothly. 

5: Prepare your personnel 

Many tax firms hire seasonal or overflow help during the busy tax return season. If that’s the case for your business, make sure you have properly onboarded all temporary employees before the tax rush begins. That means completing employment documents (applications, I-9, W-4, etc.) and ensuring all new associates are properly trained on your policies and procedures. Any new tax preparers should have completed their CE courses and gotten a firm handle on any tax software your firm uses.  

All tax preparers — newly hired and long-term employees — should be informed of any changes to the tax law relevant to the upcoming season. They should have obtained or renewed their PTINs through the IRS and signed their employment agreements, including non-compete, non-solicitation and confidentiality provisions. Prior to the start of tax season, hold a companywide meeting to go over expectations, responsibilities and the first month’s schedule. 

6: Cover the logistics 

Now it’s time to make your personal preparations for the start of tax season. This includes ensuring all your equipment is in working order, your offices are ready to receive visitors and your tax preparation software is set up.  

This step includes a few mini-checklists of its own, which are listed below and organized into three categories: software and hardware, pricing and policies, and office to-dos.  

Software and hardware 

Be sure you: 

  • Install current year tax software with customized fields, for pricing, client sources, etc.  
  • Establish a refund transfer bank relationship if applicable 
  • Set up your e-filing system 
  • Verify that all office computers are in good working order (and buy new ones, if necessary) 
  • Update all computer software 
  • Arrange computer support personnel in case technical issues come up 

Pricing and policies 

  • Set fees and charges for the new tax season 
  • Review and update any policies and procedures 

Office to-dos 

  • Take inventory of all maintenance issues and make a repair plan  
  • Ensure all signage is properly lit and in good working order 
  • Order office supplies and update your inventory 
  • Clean office interiors and windows 
  • Make sure all phones and utilities are working at all tax office locations  

Of course, this is just a general list, and you might need to add to it given your own tax practice’s specific needs. 

7: Get the word out

Just before the start of tax season is a great time to market your services. After all, people are looking for tax preparers. It’s also a good time to reach out to any current or former clients and let them know you’re ready for their repeat business. For example, you might send letters to current clients and encourage them to come in early to have their taxes prepared before the big rush.  

Other marketing activities you should complete as tax season kicks off include:  

  • Sending cover letters to complex return clients and scheduling appointments with them 
  • Writing and sending newsletters 
  • Preparing a content plan for your website and social media profiles 
  • Arranging for any PR campaigns (i.e. guest blogs, press releases) 
  • Scheduling tax prep seminars 
  • Creating and printing flyers, marketing materials and brochures 
  • Creating a digital marketing plan (including Google and/or social ads) 
  • Purchasing any advertising (newspaper, direct mail, TV, radio, sponsorships, etc.) 

Are you ready for tax season? 

There’s no denying that tax season is stressful. But proper preparation can make the difference between a “mad dash” and an organized business, and the steps listed above can help you move more toward the latter.  

If you are a tax business owner and want to find out more about growing your business, we’ve got some excellent resources for you. Our tax practice management tools will help you operate a successful tax office, grow your business and help you compete with national tax firms.