Now that tax season has passed, take some time to rest, recharge, and set yourself up for a successful rest of the year.
Once tax season draws to a close, what’s the next step for tax accountants? Most have plenty of bookkeeping, extended tax returns, tax planning, and financial statement preparation work to keep them busy. But many professionals also take time off, catch up on continuing education hours, and invest in work on their business instead of in it.
Hopefully, after tax season you have some time to rest and recharge. A vacation, sleep, and self-care should certainly be on your to-do list.
But there are also steps you can take to reflect on what went right and what went wrong over the last few months so you can set yourself up for a better remainder of the year as well as a better tax season next year.
Here are our 5 key ways to use the time between filing deadlines.
1. Take a Break to Recover
Many bookkeepers and accountants close their offices the day after the April 15 U.S. filing deadline (or April 30 in Canada). That’s usually a nice day to sleep in, spend time with family, or get outside for some much-needed fresh air and sunshine. But one day really isn’t enough.
It’s easy to get caught up in the next deadline, but taking time off is crucial to your mental well-being and long-term resilience.
Not convinced? According to research cited by the Society of Human Resources:
- A majority of bosses agree that vacation improves an employee’s focus (78%) and alleviates burnout (81%)
- Employees who report that their company encourages vacation time are much happier with their jobs than those who work at places where vacation time is discouraged or managers are ambivalent about taking time off
For accountants, spring is the perfect season for a vacation. (Summer is a close second.) Plan to take real time off—and encourage your team members to do the same.
2. Hold an After-Action Review
An after-action review (AAR), sometimes called a postmortem, is a method for reflecting on a project and identifying strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement.
Hold your AAR soon after the end of the busy season, while events are still fresh in everyone’s minds.
It’s a chance for you and your team to talk openly and honestly about:
- What worked
- What didn’t
- Why it worked/didn’t work
- What you would do differently next time
For example, you might conclude that the tax and accounting software you implemented last year worked well. But maybe your process for collecting client documents didn’t work, because clients were emailing you W-2s and payroll reports, putting sensitive data at risk.
As a result, you decide you could benefit from a better document collection and client collaboration solution next tax filing season.
Revisiting the just-completed tax season may be the last thing you feel like doing after you’ve crossed the finish line. But it’s the best time to identify those areas for improvement that will set you up for success—and a less busy tax season—next year.
3. Update Processes and Technology
The summer is a good time to go through a process/workflow improvement initiative and demo or implement new technologies identified during your after-action review.
Technology can help you free up time to focus on providing more value-added services for clients. However, even the best technologies fall short if you don’t have the right processes for using them.
The key to getting the most out of your technology is to review and update your processes to work with it. Optimal workflows are consistent, efficient, and provide a high level of quality and profitability.
Be sure to document your processes and review them regularly, looking for opportunities to automate tasks or take advantage of new integrations. This will help you get the biggest return on investment from your tech next tax season.
4. Work on Professional Development
Outside of tax season is also a great time to get continuing education (CE) hours in and work on developing new skills or deepening your existing skillset.
Look beyond your required continuing professional education (CPE) credits or CE hours for professional development opportunities. While technical proficiency will always be important, the most successful accountants and bookkeepers are generally those who take the time to develop other skills and abilities that assist them in their career.
For example, you might take a leadership development or public speaking course, learn more about data analytics or marketing, join a professional accounting or bookkeeping association, or become a certified advisor or consultant.
The FreshBooks Accounting Partner Program is also a great resource for certification and ongoing skills training, as well as learning from a dynamic community of fellow accounting professionals and industry peers.
5. Improve Your Client Experience
Many accountants look for ways to gain a competitive advantage, get more of the right type of clients, and hold on to those they have. One way to do that is by paying attention to the client experience (CX).
Client experience isn’t the same as client service. While both are important, CX is about more than human interaction and directly supporting clients. It’s the sum of the client’s entire journey with your firm, from their first visit to your website or office to becoming a happy and loyal client.
And it’s not just “nice to have.” According to a study from PwC, companies that deliver a great client experience can charge up to a 16% premium on their products and services and enjoy increased loyalty.
While the client experience will look different at different firms, you might consider:
- Using cloud-based tools and applications that make it easy for clients to collaborate with your team and complete the tasks you request of them
- Regularly sharing content on your blog and social media channels that provides actionable advice and answers client questions
- Leveraging technology that allows clients to sign engagement letters, e-filing authorizations, and other documents securely using a mobile device
You can also consider sending client surveys to get input directly from clients on what they value and what you can improve.
So, What Do Tax Accountants Do in the off Season?
By looking for innovative ways to improve the client experience, you’ll make it easier for clients to work with you. In turn, they’ll engage your practice for more service and refer family and friends, providing that pipeline to increase profits that everyone is looking for.
While taking some well-deserved time off is important, don’t let the end of tax season send you into a summer slump. Instead, use this momentum to propel you into preparing for a better tax season next year. If you do that, you, your firm, and your clients will benefit.
about the author
Janet Berry-Johnson, CPA, is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience working on both the tax and audit sides of an accounting firm. She’s passionate about helping people make sense of complicated tax and accounting topics. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Forbes, and The New York Times, and on LendingTree, Credit Karma, and Discover, among others. You can learn more about her work at jberryjohnson.com.