In accounting, you know full well that tax season doesn’t end in April as it often extends well into October. So, now that another season has come and gone, you endured all of the things you swore you’d never do again this year, what is going to actually be different in 2024 and beyond?
Seriously, each year I speak to tax pros and accountants who have tax work at the core of their practice. I listen, I read what they share on social media and it always seems to be the same. They swear they’re going to get rid of clients who regularly extend into October, but they still have to hound them until the last week, or days, leading to the IRS deadline (and not one they’ve set for their clients).
They rail against the IRS and lack of guidance, or the hours spent on the phone trying to get answers, or resolve an issue for their clients. They exclaim “this is the last year I’m going to…” and yet, little to nothing of significance changes. With accountants getting increasingly frustrated with their careers and less coming into the profession, it is up to you to say what will change.
So again I ask you all, what do you need to change to make it more enjoyable, bearable, and even productive for you? Here’s a few suggestions based on my observations, take them for what you will.
1. Learn to Say ‘No’
I know I’ve said this before, I share #FindYourNo as often as I can on the socials. I talk to practitioners when I hear them wish something would change and it almost always revolves around the time spent on X or wanting more time for Y.
The one sure way to make that happen is to say ‘No.’ This is to clients who consistently file late or don’t have their documents or follow the processes you laid out at the beginning of the year and continually remind them of. No to too many weekends, hours spent on client work o on the phone with the IRS, and finally to working when you really could use a break. Remember, you set your deadlines, not clients or the IRS.
When you say ‘No’ to the clients who don’t pay you on time or fight your fees, a certain freedom comes with it. Sure, it may be lost business in the short term, but it is also gained sanity. Business will come. Some of the clients who don’t push back on fees will even pay you more.
You will have more time to spend on higher-value work, quality work, with clients who do appreciate you and, again, are willing to pay you your worth. You may even find the time (if you say ‘No’ and make it happen) to take a small vacation during your busiest time so that you can unplug and refresh.
2. Charge More
Now, I know what you think. “I’ve been told for years to increase my fees, but I may lose clients and it’s not a magic wand.” I get it. You will probably lose some and no it’s not a quick fix. But if you plan to do so in certain areas, even your prep work (which you know has become more involved in some ways), you will find that similar level of freedom you do when you say No.
Look into a subscription model, figure out who can go on fixed-fee and what those services include. Ask around, but definitely at the very least increase tax prep costs of you do that work. Sometimes it’s not a matter of just saying “I am now charging X when I charged Y last year,” but earning more for what you do is key.
Take a hard look at what you and your staff are actually doing and you will figure it out. That feeling of being paid for what you do will go a long way towards, at the very least, reducing the frustration you feel from all of that time you do put in for what you’re charging.
3. Fire Clients
Much like the aforementioned, this is not an earth-shattering revelation or nothing you haven’t heard before. But, again, if you want to make a change that is going to have a positive impact on your practice and mental health, take a good look at your client base and figure out who you need to let go. Kindly, professionally, even refer them on if you need to. But if they are eliciting any of the above behavior they need to no longer be your client in 2024.
Think about it this way, and I’ve heard a practitioner say basically these words: “Every accountant knows clients they want to fire, but if you have any confusion whatsoever, look at the name on a list and see which ones make you cringe the most.” Here’s another trick, which clients elicit the same reaction when the call or email you? Start with them.
There are a whole lot of things you can do organizationally, technologically, or even with staffing or service expansion. Definitely consider those things and put the wheels in motion to make them happen, even one thing. But if you really don’t know where to start, take a good look at the list above. Pick one and follow through. You will be glad you did.