Time constraints coupled with the sheer volume of work makes tax season an incredibly stressful time for taxpayers and tax preparers. Taxpayers will have to compile all of their tax information for the prior year and send it over to their accountant who will no doubt have a series of uncomfortable, probing questions. The ever-present apprehension of having to write a large check looms overhead like a coming storm. Tax preparers will spend countless hours poring over tax documents and IRS code sections trying to efficiently turn around tax returns, leaving no deduction or credit on the table. The late nights and delivery food build up in preparers’ systems and erode their constitutions transforming them into mere husks of their former selves.
As each grain of sand runs through the hourglass, it feels as if the noose is tightening.
For taxpayers, the procrastination builds on itself like a cancer. Dealing with all of this is painful, so why not put it off until tomorrow? All of a sudden the calendar page turns and it is April 1st… not only has nothing been sent to the preparer’s office, the envelopes on many tax documents are still sealed and sitting in a pile on the desk. In a frenzy, the documents (still sealed) are shoved into a large manila folder and mailed out, without a proper care and review. Are some things missing? Probably, but we have time right? We can count on our trusted preparers! There are still two weeks left!
For tax preparers, the work piles up and it seems impossible that there is a chance it will be completed on time. Each day more packages arrive. Each day the lists grow. The arms on the clock spin at an astonishing rate. How many returns did we get out today? None! This client still has open items, that client has yet to return their electronic filing authorizations, and by the way, they have a new trust return this year. Tensions grow high and at any point a tiny spark could burst into a raging fire. It is a marvel that we are able to maintain a level of calm in such conditions.
As the deadline comes into view just over the horizon, it feels like a blessing and a curse at the same time. Knowing that it will soon come to an end is little solace when all one can think about is the final sprint to the finish line. Tax preparers, many of whom have now fallen into the same rut as those for whom they are servicing, will likely still need to finish their own tax returns. Many taxpayers are now growing anxious about making the deadline in addition to what they might owe in tax and that added stress pours like a waterfall over the preparers.
It builds and builds, panic turns to madness, the only thing fueling us is the little bit of adrenaline left in the tank. Focus in such a torrent comes at a premium, and only the hardiest can maintain. Frantically, the last of the returns are finalized and somehow all clients are either filed timely or on extension. And then finally, as if waking from a nightmare, it is over.
Now that tax season is at an end, spring can truly begin. Both taxpayers and tax preparers can breathe a collective sigh of relief and gather their wits. Tax preparers can perhaps take some days off to be with their families, who at this point might have forgotten what they look like. Taxpayers can worry about all of the other things in their life that need attention. We can all forget what a test of wit and fortitude it has been until next year (actually four or five months).
So I say to you all as emphatically as I might: Happy End-of-Tax-Season!