Accounting pros counting the days

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Published: April 9,2007

From all corners of the state, it’s a countdown to April 15. Or, as is the case this year, April 17 because the 15th falls on Sunday and the 16th is a little-known holiday in D.C. called Emancipation Day. Per a notice from the Internal Revenue Service, this tax season has two extra days.

Even with two more days, CPAs must handle the stress, issues, clients and workloads of tax season and some have plans for relaxing following April 17.

Oxford CPA Bill Taylor will be going on an annual April fishing trip with his dad. (It’s the 36th or maybe the 37th — they’ve lost count.) The main part of the Water Valley resident’s business is managing retirement plans and the associated consulting.

“Like many accountants, I do some tax returns this time of year to earn a little play money,” he said. “Still, because we part-timers tend to do returns at night and on weekends, it can get pretty hectic leading up to April 15. I watch the calendar. Although I don’t have the level of stress I did when I was in public accounting full time, I still keep the same mindset — I can take anything for [a few] more days!”

Many of his clients are retirees and some are living on their savings. They owe more money this year than expected due to the higher interest rates in 2006 and 2005.

“The Pension Protection Act of 2006 also opened some pretty nice opportunities for estate planning with their retirement assets, so we are spending more time this year talking about estate planning, even with clients who have never been willing to discuss it before,” Taylor said.

Tax-time traditions

Dorothy Gray says things are going very well this year at GranthamPoole CPAs in Jackson. “Our staff is made up of a great group of people. They enter this busiest time of the year mentally prepared and ready to ‘run the race.’ We do everything we can to arm the staff with the training, technology and procedures to make their work as efficient and effective as possible,” she said.

Each year after the April 15th deadline, the group brainstorms to discuss what worked well and those things that could be made better. Adjustments are easier to make while the memories of tax season are fresh.

Morale at GranthamPoole is kept up with a number of traditions. “We provide lunches every day for the entire staff,” Gray said. “We can fix a plate and take it to our large media room, watch March Madness or movies on our big screen, and relax for a few minutes — all at the firm’s expense.”

This firm also has a gift drawing every Monday morning for such things as retail and restaurant gift certificates, manicures and movie tickets. Two Fridays during tax season are designated as blue jean days. There’s a St. Patrick’s Day party complete with shamrock cookies and green ice cream.

“From time to time, we have a mid-afternoon break and serve ice cream and cookies,” Gray said. “Plus, we keep a stock of fruit, cheeses and other snack foods available in the break room at all times.”

Everyone in the firm gets a day off after April 15 although GranthamPoole is always open the day after the deadline. “We have found that many clients wait until after the tax deadline to call about other needs and concerns,” she added. “With a firm as large as ours, we always have plenty of staff who choose to work that day and take off later.”

Pacing

In Meridian, Pam Steverson says things are good but busy at Kemp, Williams, Steverson & Bernard, P.A. “We are very busy and will probably be filing a number of extensions this year,” she said. “There are always challenges in this business, but nothing that we haven’t anticipated and prepared for.”

Steverson is on the board of directors of the Mississippi Society of CPAs and recently completed the organization’s CPA Ambassador training. She finds it challenging to handle the stress of tax season. “Over the years I have learned to pace myself,” she says. “As the deadline gets close, the stress level gets more intense. We focus on doing a good job for our clients and hopefully everything will fall into place.”

She hasn’t found time to think about life after tax season, but would love just to get eight hours of sleep.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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