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ARCHIVED  December 1, 1996

Tax, accounting firms ramp up for annual rush

The 1996 income-tax deadline may still be a long way off, but tax preparers and CPAs in Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming are already gearing up for their busiest season.

Tax professionals are boning up on changes in the tax laws and preparing to bring in extra help to assist them through April 15. The demand for professional tax preparers increases drastically at the start of the new year, industry experts say.

And while some tax preparers expect to put in long hours – up to 70 or 80 hours a week by April – others have scaled back, deciding they don’t want to handle that kind of workload even for a few weeks.
Joe Paiz, a certified public accountant and tax partner with the accounting firm of McGladery & Pullen in Cheyenne, said his firm staffs up with extra CPAs and other professionals who like to work part-time during the tax-filing season.
“One has worked with us for 20 years,” he said.
These part-timers attend 40 hours of continuing-education classes as well as refresher courses to get up to speed on the latest changes in the tax laws, he said.
The firm has about 30 CPAs and also operates an office in Sterling.
Paiz said that he always plans to work long hours during the tax season.
“My own schedule then is 70 to 80 hours a week,” he said. “You just have to do it.”
But after the April 15 deadline, Paiz said, he usually takes a couple of days off and slowly weans himself back to an eight-hour work day.
Cecil McPherron, a CPA and tax manager at the accounting firm of Anderson & Whitney in Greeley, said the firm has several professionals who are hired during the busiest tax-preparation period to assist its staff of 20 CPAs.
“We have four to five (temporary) accountants who have been with us for several years,” he said.
One is a mother with young children who likes to work only during the school year, and others prefer to work part-time, he said.
CPAs generally gear up for tax season in late January, “although we’re busy now planning with clients,” he said.
The firm often offers training programs during the slow period between Christmas and New Year’s, he said.
“The software is always being revised, so we always have training going on. It’s a constant thing,” he said.
“We keep abreast of tax changes as they happen,” he said.
Although working hours vary for each accountant, with some working only 40 hours a week in the crunch periods, McPharron plans on a seven-day-a-week job beginning in February.
“But it doesn’t last long,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to do it all the time.”
He said his firm doesn’t encourage clients to apply for extensions to the filing deadline, although some CPAs do that to handle their heavy workload.
In Fort Collins, H&R Block gears up for the tax season by offering training on basic tax courses in June and September each year, said Terri Krueger, district manager.
The company hires tax preparers from those classes for the period January through April 15. During that time, the staff can swell to 55 employees. Year-round, it has only three staff members, she said.
Krueger said employees are not required to have accounting backgrounds but must pass a final exam on tax preparation in order to be hired.
Most of the preparers don’t work overtime even during the busiest periods, she said.
February marks a peak season, as many individuals file so they can get tax refunds, she said. April is another peak season as businesses and individuals near the filing deadline.
Susan Johnson, a CPA and partner in charge of Brock & Co. in Fort Collins, said her accounting firm’s policy is to stay in touch with clients throughout the year about their tax planning.
“It’s important for them to come in during the fall,” she said.
From October through mid-December, she likes to confer with clients about their taxes so “there are no surprises. If they know now rather than in April, then they can claim deductions or shift income or give employees a bonus,” she said.
Johnson said her firm hires seasonal help through April 15. “We usually look for retired CPAs or homemakers. It’s real competitive to get good people then,” she said.
She said she works a 50-hour week starting in February, and that can build to up to 65 hours a week by April.
But after April 15, “we’re all tired and don’t want to work for a couple weeks,” she said.
Bob Hunt, managing partner of the accounting firm of Hunt, Spillman & Ewing in Fort Collins, said he used to put in 60 to 70 hours a week during tax season, but now he keeps his hours down to about 55 a week in the busiest periods. “There’s a certain point where you get too tired to do a decent job,” he said.
His firm of eight CPAs prepares in advance for tax season with year-end planning with clients through December, he said.
“We go to seminars and have in-house training on tax-law changes,” he said.
The firm brings in one extra CPA who regularly works at another job to help out in the heavy season, he said.
“We don’t like to bring in part-timers for the tax season. We like to give our clients a continuation of the same service,” he said.
ÿ

The 1996 income-tax deadline may still be a long way off, but tax preparers and CPAs in Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming are already gearing up for their busiest season.

Tax professionals are boning up on changes in the tax laws and preparing to bring in extra help to assist them through April 15. The demand for professional tax preparers increases drastically at the start of the new year, industry experts say.

And while some tax preparers expect to put in long hours – up to 70 or 80 hours a week by April – others have scaled back, deciding they don’t…

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