7 tips to help you tackle tax season

GettyImages-506870706Around this time last year, 12 months and 135 years ago to be exact, we binge-watched “Tiger King” and pondered Prince Harry and Meghan’s royal departure. In early March 2020, we also worked through what we thought would be another conventional tax season. Remember when we were laser-focused on improving our client services and figuring out the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) and the term Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) wasn’t in our vocabulary? That all feels like a lifetime ago.

The COVID-19 pandemic turned our lives, communities and ways of working upside down. We grappled with remote working and technology, dealt with IRS operational issues, struggled to keep up with new tax laws and guidance and took on new advisory roles while dealing with a never-ending tax season.

Now, we’re in the throes of a new tax season. Some of us probably feel like we never had a respite. In some ways, it seems to be a repeat of last year’s tax season issues, but with added tax laws (including more potentially on the way) and a heightened alertness for data security threats. How do we pivot and adapt to a sequel of last year’s dynamic tax season?

Here’s some advice to help you tackle the challenges of the 2021 tax season.

Check off tax season must-dos.

Whether this is your first or 20th tax filing season, you need to carry out some essential activities at the beginning of the year, such as reviewing e-filing requirements and client acceptance procedures as well as testing tax software. Run through these handy checklists on what to do now and throughout busy season.

Stay up to date on the latest.

With the constant revolving door of tax legislation and IRS guidance, keeping up with what’s current can be daunting. Stay in the know by visiting and following the AICPA Tax Section’s tax season hub. You’ll find news on the latest tax provisions, a state-by-state outline of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) tax treatment and the Tax Section Odyssey video series on emerging issues, such as the employee retention credit. Plus, you’ll find CPE learning to take deeper dives on technical topics to quickly learn what you need to know.

Talk to your clients now about extending.

Will the IRS extend the April 15 tax filing deadline? There is no definitive answer yet. The AICPA sent a letter to the U.S. Treasury and the IRS asking for more certainty on the tax filing deadline. But, in the interim, it’s best to start the extension conversation with clients to balance your workload as you get deeper into busy season. This extension reminder letter will help you get started.

Connect with IRS online tools.

The IRS still struggles with the backlog of unprocessed 2019 tax returns and erroneous notices that make getting answers from the IRS possibly difficult again this year. Use this suite of IRS online tools to help you and your clients address some of these matters.

Safeguard that data — it’s your responsibility.

As a tax CPA, you are held to a professional standard to protect your client’s information, which includes distilling proper quality control procedures in your practice. With the latest headlines centered on identity theft fraud involving unemployment benefits and scams on electronic filing identification numbers (EFINs), it’s more crucial than ever to safeguard your client’s data. Refresh your know-how on the professional data security responsibilities as a tax professional. And, if a client experiences tax-related identity theft, be sure to check out our Tax Identity Theft Toolkit to help them navigate the complexities.

Brush up on virtual currency tax treatments.

Virtual currency transactions are becoming popular, and your clients are probably dabbling in this space. It’s good to catch up on all the latest tax developments and guidance related to virtual currency.

Keep your skills fresh.

For more guidance and professional development, visit the AICPA Tax Section hub to learn how we can help you this tax season. Explore our expansive resource library, news and membership benefits, such as 15 hours of free CPE and the Annual Tax Compliance Kit, which contains engagement letters, organizers, checklists and insightful practice guides.

Although this year seems like another sequel, it also has some additional layers of complexity. Your best bet is to stay informed and arm yourself with some top-notch tax resources to help you stay on track.

Minh Graham, CPA, Lead Manager — Association of International Certified Professional Accountants