How Firms Can Optimize Staff Productivity During Tax Season

How Firms Can Optimize Staff Productivity During Tax Season

Based upon your firm’s resources you have an idea of how many returns you can prepare during tax season. To process more, the firm must extend staff hours or file extensions. Adding staff hours during busy season is problematic for the firm and filing extensions is problematic for customers. In the absence of these two options, what else can you do?

Partners in small firms know staff intimately. They know employees’ efficiencies and proficiencies, and consider them when assigning returns. As firms grow, there is more to know about the staff, making it harder to optimally assign work. Ever changing priorities further complicate scheduling: A client may call needing their return as soon as possible, so you increase its priority.

If a firm has 14 employees, two recently hired interns and four each of first, second and third-year associates, you can estimate the firm will prepare about 1,700 returns this tax season. Half will be 1040s, another third will be 1120s and 200 will be partnership returns. These are predictable and generally easy to delegate to staff with efficiency and career growth in mind. However, 100 returns are particularly demanding and require experience, patience and attention to detail. While it's beneficial to develop junior associates, assigning them complex returns can cause bottlenecks and cripple the firm throughout busy season. Partners can likely complete returns faster than anyone else, but it’s impractical for them to prepare every return.

This is where optimization software and two numbers make a difference. Optimization technology tracks the myriad inputs that would overwhelm manual scheduling. It evaluates these inputs and generates the best scheduling options for completing the returns on time.

The first number is how long “on average” it should take to complete each type of return, and the second is how the staff member matches up against the average, the ratio of the two gives us the “Staff Efficiency.”

Optimization software can leverage these values to optimize the workload and ensure the work is done efficiently. For instance, if there are 40 returns that are, on average, completed in 40 hours each, including efficiency factors in the scheduling would look like this: Read more on CPA Practice Advisor.