Meet Randi Sorenson, CPA, CFF, CFE, president of Sorenson Business Consulting, Inc., a full-services tax and accounting practice in Westlake Village, Calif.
For more than 20 years, Randi has worked with small- to mid-sized businesses, setting up accounting and point-of-sale departments. She develops policies and procedural systems so that her clients can manage their business finances on their own or with a staff, and offers forensic accounting services as well. On the tax side of her practice, she works with businesses in tax planning and tax preparation – and that’s what we talked about, with regard to her advice for other tax professionals who want to stay as efficient as possible for this year’s tax season.
Scott Cytron: Thanks for sitting down with me to talk about tax season. Even though we are now knee-deep in tax season, what is your advice to other tax pros who want to get a head start on the season next year?
Randi Sorenson: You have to get organized as early as possible. For example, make a schedule as to when you are going to send out engagement letters, tax organizers and other documents, and tell your clients what you need from them to complete their return as quickly as possible.
Remember, you don’t know what they don’t know, which means your clients probably won’t remember that they should be proactive on their end to know when to contact you for tax season or any other matter. They are busy running their businesses – as they should be. It’s up to you to contact them early on to get and stay organized.
SC: How can you make sure they return the materials to you on time?
RS: Set a deadline for them to return the information to you and stick to it. Let’s face it: not everyone is going to pay attention to the deadline, but do the best you can to enforce the timeframe. You are in control of your own season, so look at the calendar and decide the last possible date you’ll accept tax year 2016 documents and electronic files – such as QuickBooks® Online – to generate their return on time. Otherwise, advise that they will be put on extension.
SC: Speaking of software, what is your advice on how tax pros can get more efficient?
RS: That’s easy; prepare your software ahead of the season. Know which one you are going to use for every type of tax form preparation, including W-2s and 1099s, and do a trial run with it. It’s all about “fit;” finding the right kind of software that is a good fit with your practice. Software suppliers frequently offer different levels of their software, depending on the volume and complexity of your clientele. If you were happy with last year’s choice, then use it again.
SC: How do you maintain good client relationships?
RS: There are two things that come to mind. First, I think it’s all about communication. Take the time to answer your clients’ emails as they come in, even if the answer is, “I will get back to you on this next Thursday.” Also, take the time to reach out to your clients on a regular basis. Chances are, they want to hear from you more than once a year. Second, a good relationship is based on the ability to get accurate information from your clients – there should be no secrets, of course, when it comes to tax planning and preparation. And remember, no matter how well you know the client, you can’t guess – however educated that guess might be – about the information on a tax return. You’ll just end up taking more time to fix or amend it later.
SC: Is there any other way to remain efficient?
RS: Yes. Set up your return preparation center before you even run your first return. Make sure you have enough “Sign and Date Here” tabs, as well as paper, envelopes, mailing labels with the IRS and state agencies, and whatever else you need. There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of tax season and having to search for something you could have had ready in January.
Editor’s note: Want more efficiency tips from seasoned tax professionals? Find out about Dawn Brolin’s efficient workflow in this ProConnect™ Tax Pro Center article.