How to Manage a Longer Tax Season

Because of the coronavirus shutdown, the IRS extended the deadline for filing and paying 2019 taxes until July 15, 2020. At first blush, it might seem like you will now have more time to spread out your tax season, which will mean less stress. But it may not work out that way. 

Your tax season might get complicated if clients, thinking they have plenty of time, drag their feet even more when providing you with the necessary information you need to complete their taxes. 

Clients may also not be aware that, even though the tax filing deadline has been moved to July 15, they’re still responsible for their quarterly tax payments. That means your clients will not only have to have their 2019 taxes filed and paid by July 15, they’ll also have to submit 1st and 2nd quarter estimated 2020 tax payments by July 15. That could be a triple-whammy for them and a lot of paperwork for you all at once. 

Manage your workflow

Be sure to communicate to your clients the triple deadline on July 15 – clearly and often! Some people need to hear the same thing repeatedly before they act, and you probably know which of your clients need to hear it the most. Give them a guideline of when you need information for each item, so you can spread out your workload where possible.

Communication is key to getting information on a timely basis, so make sure you are specific about what you need and when. Particularly if your clients have been hit hard by the shutdown, they have a lot on their minds and are also under a lot of stress. Compassionate, clear communication will help them get through this. 

You can avoid sending a separate reminder to each client by creating a template email. You can just add your client’s name and attach a list of particular items you need from them. That will save you work and give them the very clear guidance they need. 

Take this opportunity to build your relationship

Your clients are struggling, and they need your confident guidance during this difficult time. Reach out to them, by phone, or email, or by creating a video or even a webinar, to help answer their questions and assure them that you are there to support them. Not only will this help you get the information you need, it will build your credibility in their eyes and they will really appreciate your compassion, concern, and expertise during an uncertain time. 

Follow a healthy regimen

Tax season is always stressful, and now more than ever, it’s important to manage your stress well so you can satisfy the needs of your clients while guarding your own health. Your clients won’t benefit if you’re burnt out, and neither will you or your family. 

Eat nutritious food, get your full 8 hours of sleep each night, and exercise regularly. These three basics are critical for healthy brain function and emotional balance. 

Most studies show that people concentrate better when they take regular breaks. Find a fit that works well for you – whether it’s getting up to stretch every hour, taking a walk at lunchtime, or splitting a 12-hour workday into three 4-hour chunks, taking time to go to the gym or have dinner with the family in between. 

That said, random interruptions are the great enemy of productivity. Tell friends and family that you’re in your busy season and you will get back to them during your break. Be available for clients, but let people leave messages when you’re concentrating on a client. 

Keep a clear, prioritized to-do list with deadlines. Maintain a checklist of what you still need from each client with the deadlines you need them by, and check them off when you receive them. This will greatly facilitate time management. 

By applying these principles, you should be able to manage the busy, elongated tax season and come out on the other side with even better and stronger client relations.