It's Always Tax Time

  • Article by: ROBERT ELSENPETER , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: August 25, 2008 - 2:14 PM

Summer is a great time for accountants to get ready for tax season. It’s also a good time to help clients get ready, potentially avoiding serious problems. Taking some steps now can give you extra knowledge, and it can help you get a jump on your work next April.

Taxes might be the last thing on your mind right now, but for an accountant it's a great time to get ready. There are two ways an accountant can prepare - learning new tax techniques and getting a jump on the season.

"Things tend to be slower in the summer, so it's a great time to start planning for fall and winter deadlines," says Jennifer Carlson, division director of Robert Half Management Resources. "It's also the time when you should begin networking with other tax professionals and potential clients. If you plan to work during tax season as a tax consultant, summer is a great time to begin meeting with specialized staffing agencies who can help you locate those positions as they become available."

Education
Tax knowledge is readily available."The easiest way to prepare is to become a member of the Minnesota Society of CPAs," advises Carlson. "As a member of the MNCPA, you have access to current relevant tax topics and courses that they offer."

Most of the Society's tax update courses are offered in the fall, and its biggest event is the 54th annual tax conference in November.

But there are some courses offered during the summer months that can help broaden an accountant's tax knowledge.

"In the summer, we run more specialized classes," says Barb Wente, director of education for the MNCPA.

"Many classes are for complex returns," says Todd Koch, a partner at John A. Knutson and Co. "For instance there are classes about how the alternative minimum tax structure works, estate work, and how to run their clients' businesses and lives better."

Clients
While you probably aren't doing complex tax preparation this time of year, there are some little things you can do now to lighten the load in April. Clients can help you help them by thinking about tax issues now.

"Start getting ready with charitable contributions," says Koch. "If you have your clients keep their information in a desk drawer or an envelope or a shoe box, you'll save a lot of time in the future."

Given the state of the economy, those people who have taken second jobs should be aware of their withholding levels.

"This can create a surprise next April" if they owe money, says Koch. "Those are unpleasant phone calls to make."

It may mean advising clients to decrease their exemptions or put a little money into a savings account, advises Koch.

Ultimately, keeping up on education and client needs helps the accountant prepare for tax time.


Robert Elsenpeter is a freelance writer from Blaine.
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