When it comes to your career, at what point in the year do you hit the home stretch? When does your job count the most and stand do the best for the most people?
For people working in the tax industry, the stretch from the beginning of March until the end of June is kind of like the lead-up to Christmas.
“Well, I wouldn’t say Christmas necessarily.” That’s David Babalucco, a senior tax advisor with the firm Rolf Benson.
“It’s the busiest time of year, so it does have that in common with Christmas. It’s important to approach the stretch with a game plan.”
David was generous enough to offer up some of his time (during a point in which he has basically none to give), so I caught up with him to get some tips and tricks for tax season.
Kelvin: It’s a challenging time of year on your side of the table. What are some of the key elements you need to cross off your clients’ lists?
David: You bet, it is challenging, but it’s really like the rock star part of the year for tax accountants. This is what it all comes down to, the compliance deadlines, personal deadlines, trust and corporate deadlines. The personal side is the highest priority because it’s what the owner or business manager is keying on at the end of the year. They don’t necessarily care about their financial statements; they care about what ends up in their pockets. We all do, right?
So the volume of the individual clients is higher than the trust or corporate returns, so the hours are longer and weekends out of the office are non-existent. It generally lasts from the middle of February until the end of June. There’s trust due at the end of March, individuals due at the end of April and sometimes contractors in the middle of June and most corporations are the end of June. It wouldn’t be manageable if it was one deadline, the April 15th deadline in the US is a real nightmare, so it’s nice that it gets spread out in Canada. April is tough, but it’s a great sense of accomplishment once you get through it.
Describe a day in the life of a senior tax manager.
(Laughs) That’s a loaded question, wow. There’s a lot of things to clean up, just because taxes are complicated. About 50% of the day is dealing with issues, errors, and misunderstandings between the CRA and clients. The other half would be assisting clients with tax planning and compliance needs. With that there’s a lot of education for them, that’s the enjoyable part. To explain what can be done and how it affects them and help them understand the rules in layman’s terms, that’s what I really enjoy about the job.
Every client you work with has their own story, their own circumstances. What's your process for determining the best course of action in each case?
You’re right, the facts are different for each individual. No matter who it is though, the biggest factor for all of them is to stay organized and be fully aware of all your expenses and income throughout the year. For some people it’s almost unbearable, it’s such a tall order. There are a lot of transactions going on throughout the year so it’s just a lot to remember, which is why we encourage people to not rely on memory. One piece of advice I give clients is to save everything in big envelopes and then go through it at the end of the year. That organizational skill will help them at the end of the year and make the task seem not so insurmountable. Plus, not only does being organized help you understand your business better, it also helps reduce the fees associated with getting to that point of organization.
David had so much to say, I think he was just happy with taking a bit of a break, so we’ve split the interview into two parts. Part 2 drops next week, here’s a quick preview:
You deal with large tax bills or people in tax arrears? How do you help your clients overcome significant financial hurdles?
We do, nine times out of ten it’s a difficult process to get through. Generally, we’re in this spot because they lack some organizational skills or less of a handle on the responsibility associated with tax planning.