Navigating Tax Season by Alex Hoffman
Navigating Tax Season: Embrace Tech, Minimize Stress, and Find Balance – A Comprehensive Guide for Accountants to Thrive During Tax Season
by Alex Hoffman
Tax season is here and with it come the joys of late nights, long hours, high levels of stress, and a lot of takeaways. While this time of year is when accounting firms and CPAs tend to turn a great profit, it’s a taxing time, in every sense of the word. Finding a way through this time that doesn’t lead to burnout is no trifling matter.
What’s the answer?
In this article, we will explore effective strategies to make tax season less taxing by leveraging technology, streamlining workflows, and prioritizing self-care. Discover how to approach the workload, eliminate repetitive tasks, and find a healthy work-life balance during this demanding period. Let’s turn tax season into a more manageable and rewarding experience!
Unload your plate
During tax season, you may feel that you’ve simply got too much on your plate. Let’s consider a few ways you could unload some of these burdens. Here are four key areas you might want to consider:

  1. How you gather your documents: Do you wait for clients to drop off physical documents or send you emails? If so, you could save a lot of time by asking them to scan and upload documents for you using tax automation software. This helps you to act proactively so that all the necessary documents aren’t suddenly coming in as tax season begins.
  2. How you organise and prepare tax returns: Do you have an easy way to get hold of last year’s data? A variety of tools can help automate the tax return process by bookmarking and organizing tax documents.
  3. How you review your tax returns: Do you review all tax returns manually? Once again, you could be using software to speed up the process.
  4. How you deliver returns: Do you manually submit returns? If you incorporate tech into this part of your process, it can be a lot quicker and simpler.

If you’re still using Excel for everything, you may want to reconsider. While we all love a good spreadsheet, many tools require a lot less human input to assist with tax work.

Pro tip: Using cloud accounting software helps you to ensure that you have all the files you need whether your client is present or not. Plus, cloud software keeps your files secure.

Automate where you can
There are a lot of tasks over and above tax that you repeat time and again. By automating other tasks that still need to be done during tax season, such as reporting or sending engagement letters, you can free up time for the tax season specific tasks. Plus, it’s a lot easier and cheaper to use software for this than to hire extra staff just for tax season.

Software designed for accounting firms can relieve a lot of stress by transforming your workflow, improving efficiency, and freeing up your time so that you can focus your energy on more strategic tax work. What’s more, this tech can help you to be proactive about meeting the needs of your clients.

Over and above tax automation software, there are several other useful tools that you can implement at work to help reduce those tax season headaches. Tools such as Notion and Asana can help you to keep track of your to-dos and tag members of your team to help keep them in the loop, while Zapier is handy for connecting different tools to automate the entire workflow.

Likewise, tools such as Syft Analytics give you better oversight over your clients’ financial information and help you automate much of the creation of insightful professional reports which can free up time for you to work on tax. Moreover, Syft has tools to help you consistently monitor your clients’ VAT.

Find a sense of balance
After automating numerous time-consuming tasks, you’ll still face long hours, stress, and less family time. But a sense of balance and mindfulness can actually lead to a more productive tax season. You may think that skipping lunch to stay on top of your work is a better idea than taking a stroll through the rain, but by neglecting your health at this critical time, you run the risk of exacerbating your levels of stress and the potential for errors in your work.
Healthy Ireland notes that being mindful of your mental health in the workplace can help enhance your focus and overall performance while also decreasing stress and the likelihood of burnout. When it comes to taking care of your mental well-being at work, they recommend:

  • Using your lunch break to get some fresh air;
  • Participating in team activities such as fun runs or park walks;
  • Setting clear boundaries between work and home; and
  • Chatting to a colleague, manager, or someone in HR if you feel stressed at work.

While these actions are useful any time of the year, they’re especially important to consider during tax season, a time when you are most likely to slack off on your usual healthy habits and develop a new ritual of midnight coffees.

Someone in front of a computer and writing on a notepad
Here are a few ways you can work to bring more balance, structure, and health into this time:

1. Plan quick and easy meals ahead of time

Making sure that you have nutritious meals at the ready is a sure way to set you off on the right path during tax season. To make this easier, you can buy ready-made meals or cook and freeze meals in advance so that when you’re pressed for time, all you need to do is pop them in the microwave.

2. Set aside 15 minutes a day dedicated just to you

15 minutes isn’t a lot of time. It’s short enough that even when you are very busy, you should be able to find 15 minutes to spare. Whether this be listening to music, meditating, or reading the paper, having time to yourself is vital for preventing burnout during busy season.

3. Fit in bursts of exercise

I’m calling this a burst because there’s really no need for you to sign up for Iron Man. Exercise of any kind has great benefits for your health, mental clarity, and energy levels and, when it comes to surviving tax season, taking a quick walk around the block is better than sitting slumped at your desk all day.

4.Take time to communicate what’s expected of your staff

Making sure that they know how things will differ during tax season and what their responsibilities will be is critical. Plus, you may want to impart tips to them as well – especially with your more junior staff who may need a bit of hand-holding.

5. Eat your elephant one bite at a time

As rights activist, Desmond Tutu, once said, “There is only one way to eat an elephant: one bite at a time.” Even when your work is daunting and seems near impossible, all you need is a gradual approach – taking it one step at a time. Break your work down into neat chunks and set daily goals which you review as you go along.

Light at the end of the tunnel
While there’s no getting around the added stresses of tax season, the latest tech really can help lessen the load. This, coupled with taking bite-sized chunks and focusing on your health means that the future of tax season is likely to improve.

With an abundance of tools out there, you can take control of the busy season rather than letting it control you. Treat it as your beloved elephant treat – eating it one bite at a time.

Alex Hoffman smiling at the camera
Alex Hoffman
Engagement Manager at Syft Analytics.

Alex is in charge of Syft’s content strategy across all channels, as well as the BeyondAnalytics blog and various aspects of Syft Campus, Syft’s online learning platform.

To find out more about Syft Analytics, visit their website.