For Tax Preppers, Off-Season Offers Both Challenges and Opportunities

Use May to December to Sharpen Skills and Build Business

Tax preparation can be engaging work, but for a lot of pros in the business it’s a seasonal job.

“Making money doing taxes in the off season can be challenging to say the least,” according to a tax pro who trains tax preparers. “If you did make any money during the season, you are probably pretty exhausted from all of those laborious hours under the gun. The question is what to do now.”

Here are some ways other tax pros stay engaged and sharp in the off-season from May through December.

Tax Filing Doesn’t End April 15

To start, he said, realize that tax preparation does not have to be a four-month gig. For beginners, many people and companies who normally file on time have lately been getting extensions and filing late, meaning they may need assistance months after the normal April 15 deadline.

Further, while average joes may only need help in the weeks leading up to the filing deadline, business owners need year-round help with details like estimated tax payments, sales and city taxes and tax planning.

“Those preparers available and aware of these businesses’ year-round needs will be richer for their troubles,” said the tax prep trainer. “Intertwining your personal clientele with business clientele is a great way to keep yourself busy year round as a tax preparer, and you can make good money in the off season helping these businesses fulfill tedious IRS requirements.”

Take a Cue from Athletes

Other tax preparers treat the off-season the same way football players do – they train for next year, or in this case, drum up business.

Rebecca Nellson from Nellson Bookkeeping said she markets: newsletters, advertisements, reminders, early-season discounts and even birthday and holiday cards. “Consistency is a must,” she said. “When potential clients see your ad every month, they know that you are available all year long, not just at tax time.”

Staying visible in your community can make a big difference in your business, according to Nellson, who says she includes a picture in her ads. “You will be surprised how many people will see you in the community that will say ‘I know you from somewhere’ or ‘Aren’t you the bookkeeping and tax lady?’.” Put yourself out there!

To Stay Busy, Diversify

Los Angeles-based Pronto Income Tax says they offer more than filing as a way to stay busy through the summer and fall. “We actually work fairly hard year round,” the company said. Off-season work includes tax problem resolution, bookkeeping, notary public services, records retention and tax education.

Tax prep instructors The Income Tax School agree, suggesting bookkeeping, payroll, financial services, taxpayer representation, real estate brokering, insurance sales, Affordable Care Act brokerage assistance and tax education.

“Diversification means you need to learn how to do more than just taxes,” the company said. “There are a good number of options out there for tax preparers.”

Note, though, that moving into some allied fields means you’ll have extra expenses, too.

“Becoming a bookkeeper requires certification and bookkeeping knowledge, which may be acquired by taking a course such as the one offered by the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers,” noted Accounting Today. “Bookkeeping software will also be needed such as Intuit’s QuickBooks, which is the standard used by most bookkeepers.”

How About a Little You Time?

Of course, some note, the main filing season is busy enough that other aspects of a tax preparer’s life basically shut down. The off-season, noted Accounting Principals, is catch-up time: get back to healthy eating, take a vacation, study, volunteer, and reconnect with friends and family.

“During the weeks leading up to April 15th, most tax pros are consumed by high stress and long hours,” the site noted. “Having a life, connecting with friends and family, and staying healthy and active are next to impossible. Fortunately, most employers recognize this sacrifice and reward it with generous PTO policies and flexible schedules, allowing tax pros to make up for lost time from May through December.”

Jeff Schmerker

Jeff has extensive professional experience writing on a variety of topics, from pharmaceutical research to environmental history. He has published more than a half-dozen books, and he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor and restaurant reviewer. He lives in Missoula, Montana with his wife and son.

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