How companies can run an efficient process while ensuring success.
Corporate tax filings are an annual endeavor for companies across the country. The value of finance and accounting staff with tax experience is particularly high during this time of year when long hours, increased stress and tight deadlines are commonplace. Given the time demands and growing list of priorities for finance and accounting staff, effective management of human capital is crucial to ensuring a successful tax season.
Corporate tax return preparation and submission follows a similar cyclical workflow each year. As a result, it is possible to prepare for the process far in advance of its annual arrival. Doing so can lead to a more proactively managed approach when tackling the demands and challenges of tax season’s heavy workload.
An important part of planning ahead is ensuring staff is continuously educated on process changes in a timely fashion. This lead time is important in arming staff at all levels with the right information, while providing ample time so they may overcome any learning curve associated with process adjustments. Maintaining this open dialogue with employees will ensure a well-organized and efficient tax season. Some additional planning tips include:
Address questions and concerns as soon as they arise, easing concerns and allowing for more time to focus on delivering solutions as deadlines quickly approach
Use prior year’s experience as a tool for planning the upcoming year’s strategy
Learn from what was and was not effective in the past and think about the new challenges that will need to be overcome
Ask yourself and your colleagues, will this year be more complicated? Will additional resources/hours be necessary?
Answering these questions up front will go a long way towards ensuring success this coming tax season and beyond
Corporate tax work is often very detailed and complex, making staff with direct experience even more essential. Although it is only a portion of an employee’s job description, it is important for accounting and finance hiring managers to consistently look for individuals with tax experience when interviewing and selecting staff. This will ensure your organization is consistently staffed with the appropriate manpower as tax season approaches each year.
Further, actively identify other internal accounting and finance staff that can pitch in on other activities to relieve the burden during the busiest portions of tax season. In doing so, be careful to ensure there are sufficient resources focused on day-to-day objectives so that nothing falls through the cracks.
Set clear expectations among staff in planning their workloads and/or any additional hours needed to complete all required tax and regular work assignments. Utilizing the expertise of experienced employees is also a great way to prepare newer staff before tax season. Some additional people agenda tactics include:
- Train high-performing employees to facilitate tax training courses and/or act as mentors for new hires who need to quickly come up to speed. Leveraging the experience of seasoned professionals is imperative, and employers should reward high performers appropriately to keep them on board.
- Allowing flexible work arrangements, for example, is one way to increase employee satisfaction, thereby improving retention. Although companies often require weekend work during tax season, think about letting staff disperse their hours as they see fit in order to achieve a better work-life balance.
- If possible, provide access to email and shared drives from home to increase staff productivity while simultaneously providing further flexibility for employees.
Prior to tax season, corporate tax managers must assess whether or not they have the skills and capacity in house to manage the process effectively. Oftentimes managers view temporary staff as a solution for low-level administrative tasks, but well- trained and experienced temporary resources are also available and offer employers highly-specialized skills.
As tax season presents a short-term need for increased support, temporary staff can be a great resource to help manage this crunch time successfully. Further, temporary employees often do not receive the same benefits and compensation as full-timers, presenting a cost-effective approach to solving the short-term need for additional resources. Retired corporate tax professionals and top accounting students are great examples of temporary staff that can expand your company’s diversity while adding valuable intellectual capital and experience to your business.
Hiring temporary staff also provides a test period whereby an employer can evaluate the performance of a worker should they wish to hire them full time. If all goes well during tax season, employers can make a well-informed hiring decision when open positions become available. This provides more valuable performance information than can be obtained during a half-hour job interview or brief phone call with professional references.
With the impact of SOX and other financial accountability requirements, accounting staff is often needed to manage day-to-day processes aimed at maintaining internal controls and/or producing detailed reporting, which leaves staff little time to assist during tax season. When this happens, employers can look externally for solutions. As such, outsourcing can be a viable option to consider as part of a company’s plan for executing a successful tax season.
Outsourcing the preparation of tax returns enables staff to focus on providing more valuable services necessary to meet regulatory and other business obligations. It is important, however, to appropriately assess internal capabilities before looking externally. If process efficiencies, including the use of new technologies and/or software, can be initiated in order to manage tax season internally, try to put these in place before looking outside.
A well-planned process is a smart process!
Tax season brings with it increased demands on a company’s resources. Creating a strategy that appropriately utilizes the various tools at your disposal is key to planning a well-organized process. Although executing an efficient and compliant tax season can be challenging, there are clear steps corporate tax managers can take to ensure this annual practice is successful for both their business and staff.