With income tax filing deadline days away, accountants don’t have to mind the pinch of their busiest time of the year.
During the weeks and months in the run-up to mid-April, there is plenty that firms can do to help ease the stress of days that stretch into nights and weekends that become part of endless workweeks.
With careful planning, flexible scheduling, working remotely, a sense of humor and frequent treats or perks, tax preparation season can be a palatable time.
“At this time of year, we’re spending more time together than we are with our families,” said Dan Nemura, a partner at Frey & Co. in Walnutport.
Staying on pace throughout the rest of the year also helps.
“We are in discussion with clients well ahead of time, [often] in August about proposed tax law changes, changes in regulations and accounting standards,” said Jake Katz, a partner at Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP in Wyomissing.
The early bird approach is meant to ward off hectic deadline scrambles.
Still, handling the long days, nights and weekend work hours means finding ways to manage the stress that’s part and parcel of tax time, which begins in earnest afteran. 1.
“We put our employees’ best interests first and make sure if they have major things in their lives, it’s OK to do that,” Katz said.
Baker Tilly offers remote work schedules and technology to include early morning or late evening hours to balance the demands of family and work.
“Our employees can literally work anywhere,” Katz said.
PIZZA, GIFT CARDS
Little things that mean a lot.
From lunch pizza parties to Valentine’s Day sweet treats, employee appreciation day to beer and wine happy hours, Baker Tilly employees enjoy regular themed breaks in the office to recharge before getting back to work.
“We have ‘thanks-a-latte’ days when we hand out gift cards,” Katz said.
A “happy-end-of-busy-season” party caps off the season.
“They’re goofy things, and we are constantly telling our people how much we appreciate them,” Katz said.
Nemura said his firm brings in a certified massage therapist.
The therapist arrives monthly to provide chair massages to ease physical tension and stress.
He said that by the end of the day, “people tend to get silly and let their hair down,” so after the office closes, the mood lightens and people tend to relax, even if their workday isn’t finished.
Having a more relaxed after-hours atmosphere helps employees get work done.
Campbell, Rappold & Yurasits LLP in Salisbury Township offers a number of perks during tax season.
They include “weekly Tuesday dinners, Saturday lunches and our staff shares in the occasion to provide Saturday breakfast,” said John R. Zayaitz, a partner at the firm.
He said some employees set a regular time to leave by the end of the workday, while others claim a specific evening to go home and not work.
“Overall, the spirit in the office is high,” Zayaitz said.
FLEXIBILITY FOR FAMILY
One firm only takes on new clients during tax season if they’re referred by existing customers, which keeps the workload from a fevered pitch.
“Our staff does not work evenings or Sundays during tax season,” said Cheri Hutchinson Freeh, a partner at Hutchinson Gillahan & Freeh in Quakertown.
Saturdays are a workday, but those who choose to attend a family event or function can work on Sundays instead.
She said the flexibility and philosophy have meant retaining highly qualified staff, resulting in less training time and low employee turnover.
“Ultimately, it makes our firm more efficient,” Freeh said.
REST AND A BONUS
Freeh said her firm limits its size and concedes that also means less revenue.
“However, [I] and my partners believe that it is a price worth paying,” she said.
The day after tax-filing deadlines is a paid holiday at Freeh’s firm, a day called “accountant’s mental health day,” she said.
Meanwhile, a tax season bonus is awarded to employees based upon the team’s profitability.
“Everyone benefits from our hard work,” Freeh said.