A promising new client is knocking at your door, but you lack the capacity to take on the new business. You’re spending too much time and energy on managing the business to pay enough attention to existing clients, let alone prospective clients. Your core mission of preparing taxes is suffering because you are overworked and underresourced.
If this sounds like you, it’s time to hire a tax preparer for your business. But how do you make it happen in this tight labor market, where jobs demanding nonstop commitment for the first 115 days of the year can appear undesirable?
The answer: Be strategic. Make a plan, and consider these tips for finding the help you need for your tax prep business.
What kind of help do you need?
There’s more to hiring a tax preparer for your business than just filling an opening. Take time to assess your business and find the pain points. Where are the backlogs and mix-ups? Who’s not there when you need a specific task? Who’s spending more time on menial tasks than high-level pursuits?
Chances are, you want to hire a tax preparer, but expanding your field of vision might reveal the spot where a key support position delivers efficiencies and return on investment. Here are some other positions to consider adding to your business:
- Data transcriber: This person reviews, examines and manages the myriad documents flowing through the business daily.
- Administrative assistant: Maybe you need someone to answer phones, call customers, manage calendars and track important deadlines.
- Bookkeeper: When you have a person to manage billings and financial liabilities, you have more time to spend on clients and strategic thinking.
In short, write a job announcement that hones in on the critical tasks and outcomes needed to move your business forward.
Should you hire a full-time employee or a temp?
Of course, truly growing the business and its capacities demands that your process for tax preparer hiring concentrates on your core mission. However, the seasonal nature of tax preparation presents a challenge. Do you hire a full-time employee or a temp?
Consider the pros and cons:
- Full-time employee: The window for tax issues doesn’t slam shut on April 15. Some clients need year-round guidance and support in case of an IRS inquiry or audit. On the other hand, a slowdown after tax season could leave a full-time, year-round employee with too much idle time.
- Temp: All sorts of people need flexible jobs that suit their circumstances. Tax preparer prospects can include at-home parents, retirees, seasonal workers in other fields, college students and graduate students who need to gain experience, and service workers hoping to break into a white-collar profession. Conversely, many job seekers aren’t interested in work that lasts only a few months.
Define the job role
Give considerable thought to what you will ask of a newly hired tax preparer. Will this person:
- Support you and your tasks or work independently?
- Specialize on clientele from specific fields, such as education, government or small business?
- Be expected to conduct outreach and bring in new clients?
- Need training from the ground up or have experience in tax preparation?
- Meet clients in person or work behind the scenes?
- Train any employees who come after them?
- Work part time or full time?
- Answer directly to you or another employee?
Also, consider your capabilities for paying a new employee’s salary and benefits, and establish a competitive scale by researching pay rates for comparable positions in the industry.
Identify the best prospects
When hiring a tax preparer for your business, you need to know more than whether a prospect can work evenings and weekends. You want people who can help the company grow not just in capacity but in stature, so look for these qualifications:
- Work ethic: Check references and observe the candidate’s behavior. Look for someone who makes eye contact, is prompt and asks pertinent questions about the job.
- Return performance: Life circumstances change, of course, but clients prefer to see familiar faces year after year. If the candidate indicates a willingness to return next year, that’s a good sign.
- Communication and people skills: For internal operations and customer-facing interactions, you need people capable of sharing important updates and connecting personally.
- Initiative: The point of hiring is to grow your business, so hire people who will grow with you. Look for self-starters who can attract new clients and lifelong learners committed to staying on top of industry trends.
Find your hire and make an offer
Place notices on job-search websites, industry platforms and the unexpected places where you’ll find great candidates. Build relationships and share postings with colleges and career schools, HBCUs and other diverse institutions, support providers for retirees and at-home parents, and military career services.
When conducting interviews, ask other team members for their views on the candidate’s fit. In addition to asking about work history, gauge the candidate’s approach to problem-solving and teamwork by asking how they would resolve specific scenarios.
A background check of the chosen candidate is paramount. Get authorization from the candidate, and be sure to comply with state restrictions on the inquiries. Avoid run-ins with immigration authorities by certifying the candidate’s eligibility to work in the U.S.
Finally, follow all procedures for hiring and managing employees — reporting to your state labor agency, establishing workers’ compensation insurance, getting your Employer Identification Number, and withholding and depositing all federal and state taxes.
Tips for onboarding new employees
Throughout the process of hiring a tax preparer for your business, take a long-term view to promote retention. You want a loyal team player who shares and understands the goals and core values of your business.
A strong onboarding plan contributes to that goal and includes these elements:
- Detailed, written job description: State expectations clearly, and review them on Day One. Personally convey the company’s history, vision, mission and strategic plan.
- Introduce the company’s products and services: Stock the hire’s toolbox with extensive knowledge of the full range of company offerings.
- Review policies and procedures: Don’t just point to the employee handbook. Review it in person and answer any questions.
- Solicit questions and encourage note-taking: Signal that you don’t expect the new hire to know everything on the first day. Frequently stop to ask if they have questions and let them know that you are always available for questions, comments and concerns.
How you hire can be just as important as whom you hire. A surefooted approach to tax preparer hiring prevents costly mistakes and assures progress toward your goal of growing a dynamic business.
Did you know that Surgent Income Tax School’s extensive array of continuing professional education seminars and packages includes timely, in-depth courses on building your tax business and operating your own tax school? The popular Guide to Start and Grow Your Successful Tax Business from Surgent Income Tax School, available in print or PDF format, is an indispensable, comprehensive resource for launching and expanding your business as a competitive enterprise. With help from Surgent, make your first hire a success and watch growth follow.