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Tax Season vs. Christmas: Are Holidays Heading for Extinction?

Updated: Jul 15, 2021

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History repeats itself and here in the accounting community – we all know it too well. When AccountingWeb labelled the last tax season as the ‘worst January ever’, it was revealed that January 2019 was riddled with last minute clients, messed-up records and 700,000 taxpayers who missed the deadline. This year, as January 2020 approaches, the tax season stress levels are coming to a head, and slowly eating away at accountants and maybe their holidays too.

The End of Sea, Sun and Sand Holidays

Holidays are at risk. Some recent aberrations in work and break patterns of accountants hint at the shift toward inability of accountants to draw a line between work and break.

QXAS UK CEO, Dishant Desai has witnessed many accountants skip vacations to make up for the last minute clients and tax return workload but then there were some who took early vacations to keep themselves prepared for late December or early January rush.

“I once had a client who took a two-month long vacation way before the holidays so that we he could come back to jump into the tax season with his both feet. It was a little ironic – to take holidays for the sake of being able to do more work not vice versa,” - Dishant Desai, CEO, QXAS

Across the pond, the bargain is even trickier. Firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) in New York City, offer flexible working hours, easier commute facilities and some more perks to keep accountants at work even during breaks, weekends and public holidays. A similar trend can be spotted in London where emerging startups and young firms offering free food and ping-pong tables encourage people to stay at office or shorten vacations to get more work done. Clearly, for accountants – traditional holiday time is no longer a break from work but rather working during break, even when you’re away from office.

How Taxes stole Christmas!

Many might say it’s a mockery on the profession as the final stage of an accountant’s self-assessment season coincides with Christmas breaks and New Year. Chasing clients, meeting with them and the last minute clients slowly steal away at any leftover Christmas spirit that you have got left from last three months of incessant tax preparing.

Encoursa’s Liz Briggson fell victim to one such Christmas time anomaly.

“I remember a busy tax season when a recurring client reached out about a project right before the holidays, requesting a response by 1st of the New Year,” said Briggson, CPA, Encoursa. “The only thing to do was to carve out time to work over the holidays to meet the client’s needs. In that situation, I would have loved to have remote colleagues support me on that project so I could have spent more time focusing on my family.” -Liz Briggson, CPA, Encoursa

The slow disappearance of colleagues and the thinning of office crowds bring in even more pressure for the owners to manage late December and early January work – leaving them to either stop the influx of new clients and revenue or shell out money on temporary staff members to finish the work during Christmas time.

If you are still chasing clients for personal data while your colleagues are away on holiday you should download our Self-Assessment Tax Return Checklist here.

Put an end to Stressful Januaries

One can make a strong case in the favor of the rising cult of overwork in accounting but deep down, we all know holidays are equally important too – they give us time to reflect, disconnect from our lives so that we come back anew and help us re-establish the fizzling out work-life balance in our lives. So, what do we do differently this year? Most accounting firms we work with – ranging from small, mid-size and large firms – all struggle with problems that revolve around staffing.

So, we came to two conclusions that have become the core components to maximise profitability during tax season:

1) Share Your Workload Wisely

It’s not the holiday time for most people on the other side of world. Outsourcing a share of your workload to a trained team of experts can often save you the expenses of hiring temporary staff members or creating burden on your in-house staff members during vacation time. Moreover, due to reduced costs and quick turnaround of tax processing, tax season outsourcing has already worked wonders for several accounting firms in the UK.

Checkout QXAS’ tax season content hub that hosts some of these success stories and offers free resources to help accountants make the most of this last minute tax season rush -- identifying advisory leads; inviting new clients or managing burnout and staffing issues during holidays.

2) Yes, it is possible to have it all: a nice long holiday, new clients and profits during Christmas

For most accountants, the last two months of tax season are mostly comprised of calls, emails, days filled with client meetings – hence, anything but the actual work of preparing tax returns.

Our only advice is that at this eleventh hour in the tax season, act like an advisor – after finishing those long days filled with appointments, give yourself the liberty of vacations, family time and focus on building relationships – with new and existing clients while establishing your position as an advisor amongst them. In fact, here’s what most firms that work with us have figured about what really works for increasing profitability:

  • Focus on what really matters and will draw long-term business – advisory leads, existing clients and productive in-house staff members.

  • Realize that at this deep end of the tax season, actual work of preparing taxes is often secondary. So, figure out ways to share the workload efficiently and cost-effectively.

Below, let’s review, how to focus on what really matters using some of our popular resources to make the most of this tax season:

Download Your Guide to a Healthy De-tax

Download Your Tax Season Battlecard to win new Clients This Tax Season

Closing Thoughts: Is Tax Season Really More Wonderful than Christmas?

Craig Smalley of CWSEAPA PLLC, finally said it: Despite the workload, Tax Season is “the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.’’ Smalley points out how most accountants make about 40 percent to 50 percent of their income for the year during this time and invite a major influx of cash for themselves.

However, if you’ve been stuck in a loop of work yielding minimal to average profits, maybe it is time to reflect on the previous year’s self-assessment season to introspect on whether you are doing anything differently:

  • Are you skipping invaluable family and vacation time for just preparing tax returns?

  • How to make the best use of your work hours based on what will eventually drive you more business: spending hours digging up documents for clients or advising them on the financial future of their business?

  • What are your and your firm’s priorities? And are you meeting them?

You may already know the answers to all of these – without even giving it a second thought. It is also okay if you are still figuring out ways to focus on what really matters during tax season – holidays or tax season workload or a way to ace both.

Thanks to the cyclical nature of the business, we can always make use of the last remaining days of this tax season or prepare better for next one. There’s always a next time, this knowledge itself is nothing short of Christmas Miracle.

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