Beat Back Busy Season Burnout With Accounting Automation Software
Accounting is such detail-oriented, urgent work that burnout is inevitable. Even the best accountants can’t help but become worn down after a while. Though this can happen at any time of year, it is especially common during the busy season, when financial reporting is compounded with tax services.
The tax season for most accountants begins in January and carries through mid-April in the U.S., when tax payments are due. It’s a time of intense preparation, mountains of paperwork, urgent filing and endless stress for the accountants taking on the work. It seems nearly impossible for accountants to maintain a healthy work/life balance in the first months of the year.
Fortunately, there are tools available to help stay afloat during the busy season — namely, accounting automation software.
A look at your average accounting firm during the tax season
Imagine yourself in the office of an accounting firm as the busy season begins. Maybe everyone starts out hopeful at the beginning of January. They won’t make the same mistakes that led to so much stress last year. But, inevitably, the work piles up. Everyone is stressed. Clients are late in submitting the documents they were asked to submit weeks ago. The team is working late or coming in on weekends to finish the rush work — and there’s always rush work. Social lives or time to relax are practically nonexistent all the way through April 15 in the U.S..
Before the pandemic, the turnover for accountants at small U.S. accounting firms after tax season was 10-15 percent. This number spiked after the pandemic changed the landscape. According to a report by Bloomberg Tax, there were a total of 1.63 million accountants and auditors employed in the U.S. in 2021, a 17-percent drop from the numbers in 2019. Although many accountants wait until immediately after tax season to quit, there's no doubt that the high stress of the busy season is a factor.
Other consequences of accounting’s busy season
Turnover at accounting firms, especially smaller ones, can be a serious issue. However, it is not the only negative outcome of the busy season. Other consequences include:
Subpar work during this time is a common problem among accounting firms. Because of the sheer volume of work during busy season, many accounting firms begin to focus on getting work done instead of getting work done right.
When you're at crunch time, stressed and without an outlet to relax, the quality of work inevitably begins to slip. This becomes a problem because accounting work done poorly, especially during busy season, can have consequences for both you and your clients.
Dissatisfied clients resulting in lost business
While mistakes are inevitable, mistakes made during a critical time can result in dissatisfied clients. If your customers aren't satisfied with the accounting services you provide, they’re likely to find a new account for next year’s work. You may have a high volume of customers from January through April, but if your work quality takes a big hit due to the busy season crunch, you’ll experience a significant dip after the season is complete. This can be a problem not just for you but for the firm as a whole.
Not enough staff
As stated above, there are far fewer accountants employed now than there were a few years ago. Finding accountants — especially those willing to start work during busy season — can be a challenge. Many small firms have an immense volume of work but not the staff to tackle it. Of course, it’s always possible to cap the work that you have and turn customers away, but no business wants to do that, least of all an accounting firm.
Backlogs for future busy seasons
There’s no question that the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic threw taxes into chaos for most people. Extended deadlines meant that busy season itself was extended. Processing times took significantly longer. And even now, three years later, we’re still recovering. Many accountants found themselves slogging through 2021 backlogs in 2022, and they may find themselves working through 2022 backlogs in 2023. Without an efficient work system, you may find yourself in a perpetual cycle of backlogs each year.
Busy season is the peak time for accounting cybersecurity threats. If you do not have adequately secured and encrypted software, hackers can access both sensitive financial information belonging to your clients and information belonging to your firm. This is one reason why many firms are moving to software that offers more encrypted security for their client’s financial information.
How automation in accounting can relieve stress
Fortunately, accounting software has been updated to account for these hectic times. Automation in accounting, in particular, can offer relief to stressed accountants weighed down by work. A few ways that automation can help accounting go more smoothly include:
Accountants — often find themselves working 60-70 hours per week during busy season, Even with all that overtime, it can feel as though there’s never enough time to finish everything. But by streamlining the workflow, automated accounting software eliminates mundane, time-sucking tasks and ultimately saves hours of time. With software like Caseware Working Papers, you’ll be able to get more work done in less time — and hopefully with less stress.
Helping illuminate the big picture
During busy season, it’s easy to lose the forest in the many, many trees. Accounting is always a detail-oriented industry, but during this period, those details can become overwhelming. Automated accounting software like Caseware’s helps to lay out the full scope of work to help you focus on the big picture. With a clear view of your client's accounting needs, you’ll be able to efficiently help them, which will lead to higher client satisfaction.
Carrying numbers over from previous years
One of the biggest challenges during the busy season is finding financial information from past years and comparing or combining it with financial information from the current year. While both accounting firms and clients can keep records, of course, this still means sifting through paperwork, trying to find the right information and making sure everything is correct.
With automated accounting software, everything is saved within the software’s storage. You can easily carry over numbers from previous years and save all of the client’s financial information and history together to make each subsequent year even easier.
Driving efficiency and helping to retain staff
Automated accounting software keeps all of your paperwork and tasks in one central location, automatically organizing your workflow and cutting out needless busy work. This drives efficiency, making busy season feel like less of a crunch. When accountants see their firm putting their needs first in this way, they feel cared for and respected, are able to establish a work/life balance and are far less likely to quit.
Beat back busy season accounting burnout with Caseware Working Papers
With Caseware Working Papers, you’ll work smarter and faster throughout the busy season, which will help you keep burnout at bay.
We offer a powerful document management platform that all authorized users can access from any location or device. Our financial reporting automatically links client data and creates PDFs you can share with your clients in a single click. Importing and exporting are also easy, with the ability to import from over 60 accounting packages, plus Excel and ASCII. You can link tax codes to your client's chart of accounts and export balances to various tax packages for more efficient tax filing. Perhaps most importantly, you can communicate with clients in real-time during busy season to easily track and manage requests.
Want to learn more? Request a demo of Working Papers today to see how it can revolutionize your busy season.