by ed mendlowitz
how to review tax returns: the field-tested update
the big issue that i see with the tax season review process is that the workload compression and rush cause the use of shortcuts to get the return out quicker.
more: the best way to review a tax return | three types of tax return reviews | routine is key to reviewing tax returns | why you can’t skip checklists | tax review procedures are your quality control | seven types of tax return reviews | how to turn tax returns into new business
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doing this has a cost of breaking down the system and having you have to start over each year with the same problems of untrained or poorly trained people not following procedures and making the same type of mistakes they always made. shouldn’t this stop?
imagine everyone cooking a big mac in mcdonald’s sidestepping the procedures so the hamburgers could get made faster and the customers get served quicker. that is what you are doing, except instead of big macs, it is your clients’ tax returns that your staff will never get right (unless by extreme accident)!
questions for you to consider when you decide on a method of reviewing returns:
- evaluate the results and consequences when the ticking and tying is not done. is the error rate on those returns greater or less than the error rate on returns prepared the rest of the year with the ticking and tying as measured by:
- partners catching more or fewer errors when they sign those returns
- clients catching more or fewer errors when they look over those returns
- more (or the same or fewer) notices sent by tax agencies on those returns
- are more or fewer bigger issues found by reviewers and partners during the period of not ticking and tying?
- no noticeable difference
- how do your staff perform during april 1-15:
- do they spend less time per return?
- do they get responses to requests for missing information faster?
- do they have fewer touches?
- do they have greater recollection of issues when they pick up the return to add missing info to complete or to fix errors?
i believe most of your answers will indicate there is not any loss of quality or efficiency. there might even be an increase in quality! based on your answers to the above questions, why not relook at your procedures? keep in mind that one of the major differences with the april 1-15 procedures during the entire year is the skipping or greatly curtailing the content review.
if you disagree and get really bad returns prepared, then you won’t want to shortcut your procedures. however, this means that the quality of what is turned in for review by your staff is terrible. you drive the train, not the other way around. it is the process that governs, not the people who are unhappy having to follow the procedures.