6 wise choices to start this tax season strongly

GettyImages-497325655If you are like many of the tax practitioners I’ve talked to lately, the 2020 filing season felt like a rambling run-on sentence.

Because of the pandemic, last year’s April 15 filing deadline was extended to July, which ran into fall extension season and bled into more tax legislation. Now we are staring down another April 15 deadline probably not as rested and refreshed as we usually are in late February. 

However, to put things in perspective, I’d like to share one of my favorite quotes (I routinely say some version of this to my teenager, whether she wants to hear it or not):

“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.”

Roy T. Bennett

With those thoughts in mind, here are some wise choices to make now and over the next several months.

Take care of yourself.

That might mean going for a run, taking a yoga class, drinking enough water, eating healthy food regularly or all of the above. It’s difficult to give clients the needed focus and energy when your battery runs low. A trick that works for me is to put exercise on my calendar and treat it like an appointment. Also, take advantage of meal delivery services — I find they have healthy options and it’s a real time saver!

Talk to your clients early about a potential extension.

Outstanding guidance is still needed in several key areas related to tax legislation. Combining that with the lingering pandemic could mean an extension may be the way to go even for clients who previously have resisted one.

Maybe you have a client that qualifies for the employee retention credit in 2020 but time is needed to determine which wages to use for amending the 2020 Forms 941. Or, you have a complex individual client who doesn’t like to extend because they think it increases their audit risk. Help your clients understand that an extension isn’t bad and, in this case, it could be a wise choice.   

Remind clients to share the amount of their economic impact payment(s) with you.

Everyone who received a payment should have received Notice 1444 and/or Notice 1444-B. A percentage of your clients likely didn’t keep that notice or didn’t make a note of the payment amount. Individuals can securely access their online account to determine that amount.

To save time, provide your clients steps on how to get this information. You could use your tax software analytics to gather information for those taxpayers whose 2019 adjusted gross income (AGI) qualified them for a payment.

Encourage clients to get their information to you as soon as possible.

Even for clients who are filing extensions, find ways to motivate them to do this.

Provide a deadline to clients who aren’t going on extension for when they should provide ALL (OK, most is probably more reasonable) of their information to you. Incentivize your clients with a discount or discourage them from providing information late with a surcharge. And, if you haven’t heard from your clients, gather the information needed to file an extension using this letter.  

Don’t click on that email link!

Phishing attempts are increasing. Make sure you and your colleagues are on high alert for these types of emails. They may look legitimate since they look like they’re coming from a company you know or trust. Often, these phishing emails have typos, incorrect grammar or dummy websites. The IRS recently issued an urgent electronic filing identification number (EFIN) scam alert to tax professionals.

Check on your staff and co-workers.

This has been a hard year for many reasons. My optimistic side believes we will emerge on the other side with a lot of lessons learned. But, with tax season here and life still not back to “normal,” a lot of folks are struggling. Take that extra minute and ask how your staff and co-workers are doing and listen to their answer.

I wish you a safe and productive tax season. You’ve got this!

April Walker, CPA, Lead Manager — Tax Practice & Ethics — Public Accounting, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants