The ac­count­ing pro­fes­sion’s cal­en­dar is chang­ing

Accounting Today - - Contents - BY DANIEL HOOD

One of the more com­fort­ing as­pects of the cal­en­dar is its seem­ing im­mutabil­ity — day fol­lows day, month fol­lows month, and sea­son fol­lows sea­son in the same per­pet­ual or­der that has held for what seems like for­ever, and we can reg­u­late our ac­tiv­i­ties ac­cord­ingly, con­fi­dent that every­one else will do the same.

And yet, cal­en­dars can change. They are al­most en­tirely ar­bi­trary struc­tures, and can be bent to our in­di­vid­ual needs. This should be par­tic­u­larly clear to that hand­ful of pro­fes­sions that over­lay their own sub-cal­en­dars on the main cal­en­dar — teach­ers, for in­stance, with their school year that crosses cal­en­dar years, their long sum­mer breaks, and their semesters of vary­ing length, should un­der­stand that cal­en­dars are mu­ta­ble. So should ac­coun­tants. How­ever, the pro­fes­sion’s year — the Her­culean ef­forts of the manic first quar­ter of non-stop tax mad­ness, the gen­er­ally slow sum­mers, and then the sev­eral-month build-up to face tax sea­son again — has been the norm for so long that it may seem a per­ma­nent struc­ture, handed down from the mists of ac­count­ing’s past. It is, how­ever, a fairly re­cent con­struc­tion, and, per­haps more im­por­tant, it looks very likely to change in the near fu­ture.

Leave aside the fact that that year is largely de­ter­mined by the April 15 due date for fed­eral taxes (it has only been that since 1955; prior to which it was in March), and let’s look in­stead at how it’s chang­ing.

While no one ex­pects tax sea­son to stop be­ing hec­tic, more and more prac­tices are look­ing to make it less so, us­ing tech­nol­ogy, out­sourc­ing and ex­ten­sions to re­duce the bur­den dur­ing Fe­bru­ary, March and April. The de­sire to make those months less painful for staff, cou­pled with the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice’s de­ci­sion a decade or so ago to con­cen­trate all ex­ten­sions on Oc­to­ber 15, has cre­ated a “mini-tax sea­son” in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber that is a far more prom­i­nent part of ac­coun­tants’ years than it used to be.

At the same time, while many firms are mak­ing a point of giv­ing their staff reg­u­lar time off in the sum­mer — half-day Fri­days, for in­stance, or clos­ing the of­fice ev­ery other Fri­day — they have also been work­ing hard to keep them busy in the months af­ter April 15. New ser­vice lines that can be of­fered at any point in the year are help­ing firms spread their rev­enue more evenly, and make the most of their staff’s pre­vi­ous down­time. As the pro­fes­sion stream­lines and de-em­pha­sizes its tra­di­tional com­pli­ance ser­vices, and moves more to­ward higher-value-added ad­vi­sory ser­vices, this shift of more work to the sum­mer months can only con­tinue. Af­ter all, a true trusted ad­vi­sor can’t leave a client ques­tion unan­swered for weeks just be­cause it’s tax time.

Over­all, these changes will mean a work year that looks more like those of the av­er­age busi­ness, with the work­load more ra­tio­nally al­lo­cated across 52 weeks. There will still be heav­ier pe­ri­ods — but they will be less heavy than be­fore (if only be­cause newer gen­er­a­tions won’t put up with that) — and there will still be slower pe­ri­ods, but they won’t be as slow.

Firms should em­brace this newer, more “nor­mal” cal­en­dar whole­heart­edly; it will fight work­load com­pres­sion and burnout, en­hance re­ten­tion and staff en­gage­ment, of­fer bet­ter ser­vice to clients, and both boost rev­enue op­por­tu­ni­ties and spread cash flow out more evenly across the year.

It won’t even re­quire buy­ing new cal­en­dars — just think­ing dif­fer­ently about the old ones.

Daniel Hood Ed­i­tor-in-chief

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.