Rick Telberg
Rick Telberg

Tax Practitioners Feel the Heat

Will the recession pose a problem for billings and collections? Join the survey; get the answers.

March 2, 2009
by Rick Telberg/At Large

The economic crash is taking its toll on CPAs this busy season, with clients running late, coming in disorganized and worried about paying their fees.

As a result, CPAs are working as hard as ever, but remain concerned about collections from tax-season business and a post-season drop-off in new billings.

Indeed, last year at this time, when the economic downturn looked like a mere blip, only about a quarter of accountants in our surveys mentioned general business conditions as an issue. So far this year, it's the single biggest concern for accountants, with almost two-thirds citing the general economic situation as one of their chief concerns.


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"Clients are slower than in prior years in bringing in their information," says the owner of one small firm, who worries "that I will be unable to collect from clients for work performed."

At the same time, the tax code is getting more complicated and operations at the IRS seem to have been affected by machinations in Washington, D.C. One solo practitioner tells me that he's doing more complicated returns this year, which would be a good thing. Except that everything would be a little easier if "the IRS would have all forms released and have all forms e-file-able at the beginning of e-file season."

At a mid-sized local firm, a senior partner is also worried about collections in this economy. Plus, he says, "New rules and disclosures are expected to increase our cost of preparation. The economic situation makes it hard to pass additional costs on to clients."

Steve Miller, the owner of his own firm in Dallas, has been grappling with computer problems and software conflicts. Tongue-in-cheek, he's ready to chuck it all and start over, saying he wishes that his tax and scanning platforms could "run on Apple computers rather than Windows."

Rose Grant, at East Vander Woude Grant & Co. P.C. in Sioux Falls, S.D., is also feeling the affects of the recession. "People are slower to come in and they're asking for discounts."

Our friend Ralph Mooney, at Mooney & Thomas in Aurora, Ill., is seeing the same thing. "Clients have delayed sending in their information," he says. Plus, he's had "a fair number of appointment cancellations."

On top of that, Mooney is dealing with some ill-time staff turnover. "We had two experienced support people leave and required replacing," he says, wishing he could "inject tax season experience into their souls."

Dale Thompson in Rock Hill, S.C., is also dealing with late clients, incomplete tax information and a more-complex tax law. He calls it "a very bitter cocktail to swallow."

If he could wave a magic wand and wish for just one change this tax season, it would be to extend the end of the season to June 15 from April 15. "With all of the changes," Thompson says, "we will need extra time to insure thoroughness and accuracy."

I'm not sure how many of his colleagues would want the tax season to last any longer than it must.

HOW'S YOUR BUSY SEASON SO FAR? Join the survey, compare results with your peers.

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Copyright © 2009 CPA Trendlines/BSG LLC. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission. First published by the AICPA.

About Rick Telberg

Rick Telberg is editor at large/director of online content.

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