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how do you track tax returns thru the in and out cycle of the office


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Used to - in the old days when I had a very attentive and organized office assistant - we would just write down each name as it came in/dropped off.  And I would occasionally look at the book and say "crap (or something to that affect) I forgot about that guy - I better get him done/extended".  We would go back on that same paper and mark when it was done.  And then mark when it was picked up.

Too cumbersome for the current feeble-minded staff.  And as a result, one client was not put on extension, and one person's stuff never got off the front desk.  Not end-of-world stuff here, but definitely client-losing stuff.

So I'm trying to consider another method.  

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Our office is highly electronic, but for tracking clients we use a routing sheet for every return that comes in.  There are lines for client name, ID, date in, date completed, preparer, tax form type like 1040 or 1065, date client contacted on completion, method of delivery, states outside of our own, date efiled, date accepted, payment type, and checkboxes for the two signed docs. The bottom third or so has lines for notes, like questions, requests for missing docs, etc.

The sheet is attached to each client folder and goes to the preparer, the billing box, the ready to efile pile, the awaiting acks pile, and finally when all is settled it gets scanned into our electronic file cabinet.  So I guess we have this sheet and various defined places it follows the return, so you need both the tracking sheet and places to keep things in order.  It really works.  We don't use the sheet but make a list for extensions.

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A log which list every job in chronological order.  It starts fresh on January 1 and has columns for date in, client name, extension if applicable, date out, amount billed, check box for paid, and a check box for efiled.

I am a one man show so the responsibility is all mine.

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I too am the only one responsible for tax returns in my office.  My process is similar to DANRVAN’s but I do it by making use of the columns in ATX.  A return is rolled over from prior year when received.  There is a column for date received, one for notes, fed/state extension and efiling, as well as making use of ATX AR tab. 

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I guess we use a combination of Lynn and Sara's methods.  We do have a sheet that we fill out for each client when they bring in their return.  Mostly this is a way to verify name, address, changes to dependents or filing status, and any other questions that I feel every client should be asked either every year or in relation to that particular year.  It also has a place to indicate the fee for the return, refund/balance due for the return, when the client was called to pick up the return, when they picked it up and when it was paid for among other internal information. Hopefully whoever takes the return in also has access to ProSeries and can roll the return over so that we have a record of when it came in; then the preparer can update the client status to in progress, need information, sent to review, done, ready to e-file and complete.  Mostly it works well, but occasionally when we are reviewing for extension someone gets missed.  Usually, it is someone who has not brought their information in at all but always gets an extension and expects me just to know that. 

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I am still doing exactly what the original poster does.  I am the responsible party so I keep two sets of pages.  One for when the return is dropped off.  When it is finished, it gets crossed off.  The second set of pages is for income because some clients pay up front.  Archaic, I know, but if it's not broke, don't fix it.!!!

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I utilize the client progress feature pretty much any professional software offers. When someone drops off I write their name in a notebook with the date. When they have been notified their return is done and ready for pickup I mark them off. If they pick up and don't pay me, their name goes in the back of the notebook as a reminder.

 

Also, their information is stored in such a way I know where they are within the system. Drop offs that haven't been touched go in 2 different locked drawers in my credenza. Items in current process go in 2 other locked drawers on the other side of my credenza. If I'm done with it or we are waiting on data which I don't expect to arrive very quickly, they go in a locked "safe" in another room. If I'm done and expecting pickup in the next 24 hours, I put them in a bankers box. At the end of each day my desk is completely cleared off. I don't like client data sitting in view of other clients coming in my office. Anything I'm currently working on gets locked in my desk drawer (it's never more than 3 files).

 

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I use Drake and the Client Manager does a great job of tracking returns.  I accumulate the returns as they come in through out the day in a bin.  First thing every morning I update files from last year in the software, scan all documents into Drake's file manager (this gives me the opportunity to see if any obvious documents are missing), and transfer the papers into a another bin.   I then sort on the date the paperwork was received and/or the status to see which returns are today's priority. After the return is complete the return is printed, marked complete and it is hidden in the CMS.  

 

 

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Basically - I just need to do everything myself, and then my old system of writing down the name when they come in works best:)

I have never utilized the client # or job status within ATX return manager, other than to indicate it's an estimate or paper file, or something like that.  I will sort on that column and any one that doesn't have an efile status should have a memo in the client # column.  But maybe I can work something out like Abby Normal.  hmmm. 

Thanks guys for the input.

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1 hour ago, Patrick Michael said:

I update files from last year in the software,

So when a client drops off their data, you individually go in and roll their data over from last year? I'd never considered doing that, I just do them all at once when I've installed the software.

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25 minutes ago, mcbreck said:

So when a client drops off their data, you individually go in and roll their data over from last year? I'd never considered doing that, I just do them all at once when I've installed the software.

I only roll a return when the paperwork comes in.  You can then sort by "Not Rolled Over" to see the clients that have not come in yet.   

I pull the folder for the client when their paperwork comes in and put it in a file holder/organizer on the bookcase shelf.   I can see my backlog every time I look over my computer screen.   When the return is done, It moves to a different shelf while waiting for acks and ERO signatures.   Then it goes back into the filing cabinet.  In ATX, when the return is accepted, we change the status to complete and filter them out so we don't see those returns anymore.

My practice is small enough that this works for me.

Tom
Longview, TX

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2 hours ago, mcbreck said:

So when a client drops off their data, you individually go in and roll their data over from last year? I'd never considered doing that, I just do them all at once when I've installed the software.

Correct. We also use status codes for input, missing data, ready for review, ready to efile and done.

I'd recommend against rolling everyone over because early on, there can be errors in ATX that require you to rollover the return again. Also, it keeps your return manager clean with only returns that have come in.

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2 hours ago, BulldogTom said:

You can then sort by "Not Rolled Over" to see the clients that have not come in yet.   

Be aware that there is a bug in ATX Rollover Manager where returns will be missing when you filter by not rolled over. In our case, it was hundreds of returns that did not show.

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18 hours ago, mcbreck said:

So when a client drops off their data, you individually go in and roll their data over from last year? I'd never considered doing that, I just do them all at once when I've installed the software.

Correct. I also used to update all clients at the start of the year but it became too confusing figuring out who has dropped off, finished, or somewhere in between.  Drake has a report that can be run showing what clients have not returned so I can contact them in late March to see if they want to go on extension.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I use a product called Monday.com basically "Excel on steroids" is the short one-liner.

All client's status is tracked on the big board there.

Both Monday.com and a product called Zapier do integrations. I use Canopy Tax as a portal and I'm hoping their integrations and API with Zapier improves.

Currently though, I could technically build an integration within Monday.com when various status changes occur - it will send the client a FYI email.

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My front desk staff logs each return when it is dropped off by entering it into a spreadsheet that automatically dates the drop off.  I use this so that I can process returns in the order they are dropped off.  A 'tax cover sheet' that is a lot like Sara's is added to the paper bits.   Every step (logged, scanned, worked, reviewed, 8879 out, efiled, accepted) is tracked.  Staff then scans all of the 'bits' (as we call them - documentation) into OneDrive.  The files are then placed in alphabetical order in banker boxes in a locked file room, and I retrieve them and work through them in the spreadsheet order, for the most part.  It is not uncommon (and fairly depressing at times) for there to be over 250 returns in the queue.  Once the return is picked up by the client, the cover sheet goes into a notebook until the 8879 is signed/returned and the efile is accepted.  The cover sheet is then moved to the 'done' notebook and the 8879 filed away.

A question I have is what is your turnaround time from drop off to pick up?  I try for 2 weeks, but toward the end of the season, it is getting closer to 3 weeks.  I feel really inadequate when people call 'just checking' on their return, but I logged my hours this past season, and I worked 110 hours/week for almost 10 weeks.  I'm trying to figure out a better system before January rolls around.  I do about 700 ish returns (about 550 during the season and 150 on extension but at least 1/2 of the 150 worked and waiting on 1 item, k1, etc.)).  I'm the only preparer.  I have one person who does some data entry, and on any where I do the data entry, that same person proofs my entries for finger flubs/number reversals.  I don't do any of the scanning, efiling, etc.  I would love to hear better ways to streamline the system.  I take almost no client meetings from late February through 15 April.  I have trained most of my clients to drop off; I'll let them know if I have questions.

Suggestions?  I know there is someone (at least there used to be) on this board (Jim, I think?) who did 1,000 returns per season by himself.  I stand in awe.  I would really love a discussion on productivity/streamlined processes if others are game.  I've got 5 1/2 months to figure it out.

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I don't have a lot of returns, but they aren't simple returns. And, for some reason, almost ALL of them drop off/upload/mail/deliver in some manner during one week in February. Hubby thinks it coincides with a holiday weekend when everyone gets their stuff together and them drops off the next week. So, by 12 February or 22 February at the latest, I'm officially and hopelessly behind. I have all the tax returns I can prepare from February through mid-October. It depresses me. And, it infuriates my clients that dropped off five months ago. But if they were the last person that dropped off that February week, their return is going to be prepared in October.

I like extensions. I can earn more money in ten months than in three. I can work with people, help them plan or start that new business or finance college or... And, I think I've convinced most, or at least many, of my clients that extensions are good so their returns aren't prepared by a sleep-deprived preparer. But my clients are not happy about the long turn-around times.

I read someplace about a preparer who schedules his drop offs just like he schedules his appointments. He schedules each client so he can have a short turn-around time. I wonder if I could convince my clients to do that? Probably not. I work in Fairfield County, CT, home of type-A personalities.

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It's just me and I use a spreadsheet.  I start with last years sheet, so it has all the names.  One of the columns is for status.  I only use a few, such as can do, waiting, need 8879, extended and done. More could be added based what you need.  You could also add a column with date received, or latest status, but I don't find that necessary for me.   The column has filters, so I can quickly see which clients pertain to each status.  I also use countif function that I can tell at a glance how many are in each status.  I also have it calculate was to what % of days are left in tax season, and the % of returns what are finished.  

For me, Excel is much less cumbersome that using tax software status sheets. 

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When you are working 110 hours a week like jasdim or have a five-month turnaround time like Lion, it is time to hire help!  We all get calls from clients wanting to know if their returns are done (even if they dropped off yesterday).  In our office we avoid the guilt by having the receptionist who answers the phone ask if we have called them.  When they say no, she just tells them we will call with questions or when it is done.  This avoids the guilt because we don't get those calls!  (To emails, I just respond that they are in queue.)

In Lion's case, perhaps you can alert those with particularly complex returns that they will go on extension because their work will take up too much time during season.  We do have a group of returns from a family that it crazy complex (corps, s corps, partnerships, multiple trusts), but they always bring their info to us in January.  We get them done before things start getting crazy in mid-Feb.  We don't always have their individual data in January, but at least the hard part is done early.  Can either of you convince some clients to aim for January?

I am serious about hiring help.  The hard part is getting competent help.  We have too many clients and not enough of us who know what we're doing (and just as important, who know what we don't know).  We have hired several preparers but have discovered that it takes a few failed tries before landing a good one.

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I too have had bad luck hiring preparers, and even bookkeepers and clerical help. Plus if I do hire someone, I'll be left with no work the second half of the year unless I market for MORE clients. I'm 75 and don't want more clients, even if half are prepared by an employee. I WANT to work all year. I just need to manage client expectations better. Each year I think I'm communicating better, but there's always one who calls way too much. This year it's a middle-aged woman who keeps calling about her boyfriend's return; I remind her I can only talk to her about her own return, which was already e-filed. Now the USPS keeps sending her folder away from her local distribution center, so she's calling me to have her return delivered before it gets stolen. Since 7 July I've talked to 6 USPS employees in 4 locations to try to get her package the last six miles to her house -- on the same street as her local postmaster! I have a short list of those I'm firing this fall, and she and her boyfriend are on it. Hers is a really easy return, but she's a very needy woman. I really do tell clients, when they're the 22nd client that uploaded their documents in the same week, when to expect me to be working on their returns. They call in a few days, anyway. Do that too much, and you get on my short/getting longer list.

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On 7/22/2022 at 9:44 PM, Sara EA said:

The hard part is getting competent help.

I have recently had a girl apply that had education as a bio-chemist and grew up in China and can speak Mandrian.  (not sure if I'm spelling that right.)  Really?  Do you think you are going to stick around for tax season?  .....no........................

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We use a spreadsheet that I developed years ago. Columns and color-coding (that had to be changed for one partner who is red-green colorblind) and italics and bold and more. Works like a charm for us. Or, did once I got my partners used to actually using it as a tool instead of a novelty they could ignore.  I used it for 20+ years before then.

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On 7/25/2022 at 5:07 PM, Catherine said:

We use a spreadsheet that I developed years ago. Columns and color-coding (that had to be changed for one partner who is red-green colorblind) and italics and bold and more. Works like a charm for us. Or, did once I got my partners used to actually using it as a tool instead of a novelty they could ignore.  I used it for 20+ years before then.

Do share!

 

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