Up for Tax Season
Run an Efficient Practice While Ensuring Success
2007 - Corporate tax filings are an annual endeavor for companies
across the country. The value of finance and accounting staff
with tax experience is particularly high during this time
of the year, when long hours, increased stress, and tight
deadlines are commonplace. Given the time demands and growing
list of priorities for finance and accounting staff, effective
management of human capital is crucial to ensuring a successful
tax-return preparation and submission follows a similar
cyclical workflow each year. As a result, preparers can
prepare for the process far in advance. Doing so can lead
to a more proactively managed approach when tackling the
demands and challenges of the tax season’s heavy workload.
important part of planning ahead is ensuring that staff
is continuously educated on process changes in a timely
fashion. This lead time is important in providing staff
at all levels with the right information, while allowing
ample time so they may overcome any learning curve associated
with process adjustments. Maintaining this open dialogue
with employees will ensure a well-organized and efficient
planning tips include the following:
questions and concerns as soon as they arise, easing concerns
and allowing for more time to focus on delivering solutions
as deadlines quickly approach.
Use prior years’ experience as a tool for planning
the upcoming year’s strategy
- Learn from what was and was not effective
in the past, and think about new challenges that will
need to be overcome.
- Ask yourself and your colleagues: Will
this year be more complicated? Will additional resources
or time be necessary?
Corporate tax work is often very detailed and complex, making
staff with direct experience even more essential. Although
it is only a portion of an employee’s job description,
it is important for accounting and finance hiring managers
to consistently look for individuals with tax experience
when interviewing and selecting staff. This will ensure
that the organization is consistently staffed with the appropriate
manpower as tax season approaches each year.
managers should actively identify additional internal accounting
and finance staff who can pitch in on other activities to
relieve the burden during the busiest portions of tax season.
In doing so, be careful to ensure there are sufficient resources
focused on day-to-day objectives so that nothing falls through
the cracks. Set clear expectations among staff in planning
their workloads or any additional hours needed to complete
all required tax and regular work assignments. Using the
expertise of experienced employees is also a great way to
prepare newer staff before tax season.
tactics for managing staff include the following:
high-performing employees to facilitate tax training courses
or to act as mentors for new hires who must get up to
speed quickly. Leveraging the experience of seasoned professionals
is imperative, and employers should reward high performers
appropriately to keep them on board.
Allowing flexible work arrangements is one way to increase
employee satisfaction, thereby improving retention. Although
companies often require weekend work during tax season,
consider letting staff spread their hours as they see
fit in order to achieve a better work–life balance.
If possible, provide home or other off-site access to
e-mail and network files to increase staff productivity
while simultaneously providing further flexibility.
Prior to tax season, corporate tax managers must assess
whether they have the skills and capacity in-house to manage
the process effectively. Oftentimes managers view temporary
staff as a solution for low-level administrative tasks,
but well-trained and experienced temporary resources are
also available, and they offer employers highly specialized
season presents a short-term need for increased support,
and temporary staff can be a great resource to help manage
this crunch time successfully. Furthermore, temporary employees
often do not receive the same benefits and compensation
as full-timers, thereby presenting a cost-effective approach
to solving the short-term need for additional resources.
Retired corporate tax professionals and top accounting students
are great examples of temporary staff who can increase a
company’s diversity while adding valuable intellectual
capital and experience to the business.
temporary staff also provides a test period whereby an employer
can evaluate the performance of a worker before deciding
whether to hire the temporary staff member full time. If
all goes well during tax season, employers can make a well-informed
hiring decision when open positions become available. This
provides more valuable performance information than can
be obtained during a half-hour job interview or brief phone
conversation with professional references.
well-informed and -prepared tax professionals is especially
helpful in ensuring that a firm has a staff that is knowledgeable
and up to speed on the constantly changing tax code. Chief
among recent regulatory changes are the Sarbanes-Oxley Act
(SOX)—particularly section 404, regarding internal
controls—and the IRS’s new electronic-filing
requirements for corporate tax returns.
issues have forced tax staff to overhaul their processes
to ensure compliance with these new regulations. This can
be an arduous task for tax managers, often resulting in
increased time, staff, and money spent making the appropriate
adjustments to remain compliant. These challenges become
particularly apparent during tax season, making it necessary
for companies to stay above the fray by being well informed
about changes and prepared to overcome these hurdles as
early as possible.
the impact of SOX and other financial accountability requirements,
accounting staff is often needed to manage day-to-day processes
aimed at maintaining internal controls or producing detailed
reporting. This leaves staff little time to assist during
tax season. When this happens, employers can look outside
the company for solutions. As such, outsourcing can be a
viable option to consider as part of a plan for executing
a successful tax season.
tax-return preparation lets staff focus on providing the
more valuable services necessary to meet regulatory and
other business obligations. It is important, however, to
appropriately assess internal capabilities before looking
outside the organization. If process efficiencies, including
the use of new software or other technologies, can be initiated
to manage tax season internally, it might be preferable
to try these solutions before turning to outsourcing.
Cyndi McDermott is a senior vice president
with Ajilon Professional Staffing (www.ajilon.com),
a unit of the staffing firm Adecco.