2020 is coming to an end, and with the extended tax deadline, both you and your clients haven’t had much of a chance to relax. But just because you’ve had a shorter off-season doesn’t mean you and your clients should ignore any preparation that needs to happen before tax season.
As we dive into another tax season, here are five things you’ll want to do to get your clients ready.
Review your processes
Take some time to review your previous tax season. Take stock of what worked and what didn’t and identify any bottlenecks in your process. For example, you may not have an easy and efficient way for clients to submit their documents to you. If that’s the case, signing up for a program like TaxAct Professional Client Xchange can help manage that process.
Or, you may have certain clients that routinely ask for last-minute work or drag their feet when it comes to paying their bills. Review your communication with clients and look for ways to ensure those time-consuming headaches don’t happen this tax season.
Remind clients of what you’ll need
It’s likely that every year, without fail, you have a client who can’t remember what they need to give you. It may be top of mind for you, but most clients don’t keep a list of what they need to collect each year to file their taxes. Make this easier for everyone by sending them a checklist. They can start to get what they have ready now, and then they’ll also easily look for things that are missing.
Remind them of how to get these documents to you. If you use the TaxAct Professional Client Xchange, remind them that it’s your preferred method of receiving important documents.
Set and communicate deadlines
Do your clients know your deadlines? Or, do you still have clients who walk in with their documents on April 14th and can’t understand why you’ll have to file an extension for them?
Before heading into tax season, there should be no confusion about when you need information. If information received after a certain date will mean you’ll automatically file an extension for your clients, tell them. If they need to have an initial meeting with you by a certain date, let them know. Even if you think you’ve shared dates with your clients in the past, they likely don’t remember. Set your deadlines and send them to your clients, so everyone knows what to expect this tax season.
You may also want to remind clients of deadlines for any necessary transactions, like charitable contributions and retirement plan contributions. We all get busy, and as your clients head into the holiday season and jump into the New Year, reminders about deadlines can help them take the action they need to take.
Share an easy way to book meetings
You may find that this year you’re dealing with more questions than you have in the past. Clients may wonder if they need to recognize their Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) income or how to report early withdrawals from their 401(k).
Offer your clients an easy way to book meetings with you, whether in person or over a video call. Share a calendar with appointment times and encourage them to book early. An easy way to book a meeting, combined with the deadlines you’re setting for your practice, may encourage some slow-moving clients to work a little harder to get you the information you need.
Brief them on the latest tax scams
Unfortunately, tax scams are something that your clients need to be aware of. During tax season and in times of crisis, tax scams can pop up and threaten your client’s financial wellbeing.
While you don’t want to scare your clients, you want to educate them on what common scams exist and how they can take measures to protect themselves. Each year, the IRS publishes the “dirty dozen” — 12 tax scams that taxpayers should be aware of. This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, tax scams might be even more prevalent, and taxpayers need to be extra savvy to protect their money and personal information.
Send a summary of these scams to each of your clients and encourage them to reach out to you should they encounter something that doesn’t seem right.
Working on your tax season processes and communicating with your clients right now will pay off. Advanced preparation can mean a smoother tax season, happier clients, and a healthier tax practice.