preseason

Pre-Tax Season Checklist for Tax Preparers

The end of extension season is just around the corner so you know that means: tax season itself is going to be here soon. That means making outreach efforts to potential new clients and pinpointing which major tax law updates existing clients should be aware of prior to making an appointment with you. However, there's several other moving parts that come into play when preparing for what we hope is a successful tax season.

Here's a checklist of things you should take care of prior to tax season so that everything runs smoothly.

Make sure your e-file information is up to date.

Look into your state and local e-file regulations as well as federal so that you're compliant with the e-file mandate. If any of the information attached to your EFIN has changed, make sure to update it right away or apply for a new e-file account if necessary. Don't forget to train your staff in using software and e-filing tools properly.

Start reaching out to clients early in November.

Send year-end tax letters detailing the most relevant tax law updates to your particular client base, including state and local updates. November is the ideal time to reach out to clients because December is too late for them to want to make year-end appointments, and holiday travel and time off also factor in. November mailings provide enough notice to get appointments in before it gets too hectic with other tax season preparations.

Provide clients with a checklist of items they need to have handy for timely return preparation.

Since many clients don't use premade tax organizers, be sure to give them a checklist detailing the items that they need to bring with them to their appointment. For clients who are habitually late with making appointments and missing items, give them a deadline to get their information to you so that their return will get filed by April 15 otherwise it has to go on extension. If the client has been repeatedly difficult to work with and doesn't honor these deadlines, terminate the relationship.

Have a staffing and training plan for your office.

You never know if a tax software update is going to leave the interface alone or drastically change it, or if a federal, state, or local regulation is going to completely change your processes. Make a plan for your staff to get used to any changes in your tax software and complying with new regulations. If you rely on contingent help during tax season and have freelancers or services you'd like to use again, make sure that they are available ahead of time so you're not looking for overflow assistance at the last minute during the busy season.

Tax season can be stressful but it's easy to mitigate this stress if you have a solid plan in place and follow this checklist. By preparing for tax season early, you can avoid technical and administrative snags and make January-April run as smoothly as possible.