Today's Features

5 Small Leaks That Can Sink a Tax Season

Tiny businessman standing on dripping faucetShut them off before they cause great damage.

By Ed Mendlowitz
Tax Season Opportunity Guide

Some people are micromanagers and anal with details. Others are big-picture managers, letting details take care of themselves.  Neither is completely effective and both disciplines need to be balanced.

MORE: 5 Tax Review Keys | 4 Reasons to Push Ahead with Tax Question Research | Help Tax Clients Help You | Bill with the Tax Return, Get Paid Faster
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There is a time for details and a time for big-picture thinking. When setting up procedures and processes it is essential that all details be considered and planned for. Once the process is set up, there should be brief but continuous monitoring. And then the big-picture thinking should take over – that is where you will make your money.
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Accountants Cautiously Bullish on the Economy

The CPA Trendlines Busy Season Barometer. Join the survey. Get the Results
The CPA Trendlines Busy Season Barometer. Join the survey. Get the Results

“Local optimism” a bit better than last year.

The CPA Trendlines Busy Season Barometer
New year, new strategies.

Join the survey. Get the results.

By CPA Trendlines Research

When CPAs talk about the economy, people listen. They listen because accountants have their finger on the pulse of the economy. They look at real numbers all day. They look at where the numbers are coming from and where they’re probably going. It’s what they do.

MORE: Pros Improving Performance | Can the IRS Enforce the Tax Code? | Tax Pros Upbeat on Cusp of Busy Season | IRS Undertakes Overhaul
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For that reason, CPA Trendlines’ 2020 Busy Season Barometer steps back from strictly tax issues to ask how things look economically. The answers are always interesting.

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SURVEY RESULTS: Tax Pros Forecast a Better 2020

Difficult clients? Show them the door.

The CPA Trendlines Busy Season Barometer: New year, new plans?
Join the survey. Get the plans.

By CPA Trendlines Research

Last year was rough on tax preparers – the overhaul of the tax code on top of the government shutdown, the forms and schedules unavailable, the obsolete software.

MORE: Tax Pros Upbeat on Cusp of Busy Season
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But as they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And according to the early results of the CPA Trendlines 2020 Busy Barometer, those who survived last year have learned some lessons and are making changes.
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Why Recurring Fees Could Kill Your Practice

Businessman sleeping with a giant dollar bill for a blanketFight the complacency trap.

By Martin Bissett
Business Development On a Budget

As you know, the traditional accounting firm model is firmly based on the reality of recurring fees that come in from clients every year. We can rely on these and forecast accurately how much revenue they bring in which hopefully covers overheads and direct expenses of the business.

MORE ON BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT: Banish the Idea that Selling is Difficult | How to Win Your First Client | 5 Ways to Make Selling Easier to Swallow | You’re Selling All the Time

This is a good thing, right? Well, maybe not as much as you think.
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Slow Start for Tax Pro E-filing

Data chartTax pro market share down 409,000 from year-ago.

By Beth Bellor

As of the week ending Feb. 7, the latest data available, the Internal Revenue Service had received 28.7 million individual income tax returns, down 0.4 percent from the same week last year. It had processed 27.5 million, down 2.1 percent.

MORE: Data Points Down as Tax Season Opens | The Fight for New Tax Clients
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The IRS had processed 96.1 percent of returns received.

E-filing receipts READ MORE →

Have You Gauged Your Staff’s Enthusiasm?

You should be eager for this feedback, not dreading it.

By Steven E. Sacks

Have you ever conducted a job satisfaction survey of your firm’s staff?

MORE: Managing Difficult Personalities in the Workplace | Knowledge Maintenance: Gaining Employee Buy-In | How Does Your Firm Leverage Its Talent? | The Lost Art of the Interview | The 5 Keys to Success in Accounting Careers | The Holy Grail: Finding the Right Talent | The Power of ‘Real Influence’ | Stop Wasting Time in Useless Meetings | Is Your Firm’s Culture a Magnet? | Outsourcing the C-Suite
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Every so often you should conduct a survey that asks anything ranging from clarity of purpose and level of commitment to flexibility and advancement. It costs nothing to do but will yield important anecdotal data to be addressed by senior leadership. You may find that staff wants more input on developing business or increased exposure to clients and customers.
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Social Security as an Asset Class

Scale with coins on one side, alarm clock on the otherWithdraw funds from elsewhere.

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

If you have ever worked in the United States or were married to someone who did, the chances are you will eventually receive Social Security benefits.

MORE: When Clients Don’t Know | When the Kids Don’t Want to Take Over | Staff May Surprise You with Leadership | Problem Clients | When Pushing the Pencil Pays Off | When to Say No to Pro Bono Work | I Used to Hate QuickBooks | Things Change
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There are different ages when regular benefits can start beginning at age 62. The longer the benefits are delayed, the greater they will be … until reaching age 70.
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5 Mistakes to Avoid When Seeking New Clients

Are you holding yourself back?

By Sandi Leyva, CPA

As an accounting professional, you’re likely very talented at delivering the service you offer your clients. But when it comes to marketing and selling yourself, many of you didn’t voluntarily sign up for that part.

MORE ON SMALL-FIRM GROWTH STRATEGIES: Survey Quantifies Link Between Online Reviews, Revenue | Major Search Algorithm Change Could Affect Your Rankings | Is Your Client Newsletter Stuck in the 1990s? | Outsource or In-House? How Does Your Marketing Get Done? | Making Content Marketing Part of Your Growth Strategy | Do You Know Your CAC Number? | Beyond Referrals: Getting New Clients
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Many of you are resisting (kicking and screaming) marketing yourself. If that’s you, that could be why your business is slow or not growing at the rate you’d like it to.
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Does IRS Need a Practitioner Services Division?

Typing numbers for income tax return with pen and calculator

Practitioner orgs say “Yes!”

By CPA Trendlines Research

The Internal Revenue Service has less than six months to provide Congress with a comprehensive strategy for providing taxpayers with better service. The report, due July 1, is mandated by the Taxpayer First Act of 2019.

MORE: IRS Urged to Form Tax Preparer Strategy | Accountants Cautiously Bullish on the Economy | SURVEY RESULTS: Tax Pros Forecast a Better 2020 | Can the IRS Enforce the Tax Code? | Tax Pros Upbeat on Cusp of Busy Season | IRS Undertakes Overhaul
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The IRS is already hammering out a strategy on several fronts – enforcement, technology, modernization, training, cybersecurity, overall structure and organization, and, yes, taxpayer experience.
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When Clients Don’t Know

Two older businessmen talkingInvestigate motive before diving in.

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

We all have clients who wonder what their business is worth and sometimes imagine getting away from it all.

MORE: When the Kids Don’t Want to Take Over | How to Waste Lunch Hour | What’s Your Negotiating Style? | How to Make Your Own Opportunities | How I Became a Published Author | Large Clients We Landed from QuickBooks Consulting | 26 Value-Added Benefits Clients Need to Know | How an Out-of-Work Tax Preparer ‘Saved’ Our Lives
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Some even sell, but many more talk about starting the process but are not really committed to selling.
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2020 Outlook: Making Volume Manageable

Remember who's watching.

By Tamera Loerzel

A big issue that I have seen firms struggle with is volume. To help manage and reduce the volume to free up time for proactive, future-oriented initiatives, firm leaders need to get laser focused.

MORE: 2020 Outlook: More Engagement, Less ‘Efficiency’ | Non-Traditional Hires Might Be the Answer | Focus on Business Development | Innovate and Anticipate | Balance Advisory and Compliance | Talent Shortage Drags On | Demand Is High | Business Development Goes Borderless | Data Import on the Rise | Becoming the Most Valuable Advisor | Top Three Tips for 2020 Success | Where Do You Want to Be? | Dicey Disruptions | Upstream Mergers | Staffing Gets Creative
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Three places you can start and take incremental steps to make progress in truly driving change in your firm include:
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IRS Urged to Form Tax Preparer Strategy

Portrait of Bridget T. Roberts
Roberts

Taxpayer Advocate says it’s long overdue.

By CPA Trendlines Research

Every year by legal mandate, the National Taxpayer Advocate, who heads the Taxpayer Advocacy Service within the IRS, files a report to Congress. The report identifies problems within the IRS and offers recommendations to solve them.

MORE: Accountants Cautiously Bullish on the Economy | SURVEY RESULTS: Tax Pros Forecast a Better 2020 | Can the IRS Enforce the Tax Code? | Tax Pros Upbeat on Cusp of Busy Season | IRS Undertakes Overhaul
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This year, the acting director of the TAS, Bridget T. Roberts, has identified the lack of a comprehensive strategy for the tax practitioner community as one of the IRS’s most serious problems. Although 80 million Americans depend on tax preparers to do their civic duty, the IRS’s efforts to serve practitioners is focused mostly on misconduct issues, not on helping them get the job done.
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Tax Season Is Hacker Season

Checklist: Five things to do today to protect your firm and your clients.

The CPA Trendlines Busy Season Barometer:
New year, new strategies

Join the survey. Get the results.

By Jess Coburn
Applied Innovations

Businesses of all sizes are targets from what has become the most vicious, innovative, and lucrative criminal endeavors we’ve ever witnessed. And tax practitioners are particularly easy targets.

MORE ON BUSY SEASON 2020: IRS Urged to Form Tax Preparer Strategy5 Small Leaks That Can Sink a Tax SeasonData Points Down as Tax Season OpensThe Fight for New Tax Clients5 Tax Review KeysTax Pros Forecast a Better 2020 |  See all Tax Season 2020 coverage here

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The financial services industry is perhaps the most targeted because of the value of data it possesses. And the most frequently targeted are CPAs and those who prepare tax returns.

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Open-Source Smart Home Standard in the Works

Logos of affiliated companiesApple, Google, Amazon and the Zigbee Alliance announce plan.

By Rick Richardson

The smart home market is currently badly fragmented because each vendor has been focusing on creating a separate ecosystem with devices that are difficult or impossible to connect with those of their competitors.

MORE TECH THIS WEEK: Do Not Abbreviate 2020 | Replace All Your Wi-Fi Hardware with a Tiny 5G Router | Make Your Gadgets Much Harder to Find and Steal | China’s Congress Passes Cryptography Law | New Storage Tech on a Glass Coaster | Go Paperless with the Best Smart Notebooks | Want Faster WiFi? Of Course You Do
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This situation may be about to end with the announcement of a new project called Project Connected Home over IP.
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Data Points Down as Tax Season Opens

Data chartDIYs, refunds are up.

The CPA Trendlines Busy Season Barometer: New year, new strategies?
Join the survey. Get the results.

By Beth Bellor

Filings were behind last year's marks as tax season opened, according to the IRS, and pros handled about 35 percent of e-filings.

MORE: The Fight for New Tax Clients | 5 Tax Review Keys | Treat Review Procedures Like Quality Control |  SURVEY RESULTS: Tax Pros Forecast a Better 2020 |  Can the IRS Enforce the Tax Code? |  Tax Pro’s Upbeat on Cusp of Busy Season |  Use Tax Return Prep for Training and Growth |  IRS Undertakes Overhaul  | All 2020 Tax Season Coverage
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The Internal Revenue Service received 15.8 million individual income tax returns for the week ending Jan. 31 – the first of the season and just five days long – down by 1.6 percent from the year before. It had processed 12.9 million returns, down 2.7 percent, for a processing rate of 82 percent.
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