As we march forward into 2021, we are quickly realizing how similar this year is to the bulk of 2020.
With mass vaccine distribution slowly moving ahead and governments cautious to lift lockdowns, it seems as though a large number of Canadians will continue working from home for at least the foreseeable future.
For accountants, working from home this spring will likely look much like it did last year. Tax deadlines inevitably mean long hours and late nights, even if work from home offers comfier accommodations than the office once did. Yet even despite the inevitable volume of work, there are ways that you can make this tax season easier for both yourselves and your clients.
The secret is great communication.
It’s natural that your clients will be confused about their taxes for 2020. The messaging on CERB was complicated, and at times contradictory, so personal tax clients will undoubtedly be struggling to predict as to what they owe this year. Even clients who remained employed and were working from home now have new questions about potential deductions for their work-from-home expenses.
Corporate taxpayers have just as many questions, even though they benefit from different filing deadlines. Businesses in 2020 were making their best efforts to navigate the various federal subsidies and rebate programs, while simply trying to find new and innovative ways to stay afloat. While many businesses benefit from standardized accounting procedures, having everything ready for tax preparation was likely the last thing on the radar.
The overall confusion is so bad that the Canada Revenue Agency revealed that they have subcontracted a private third-party firm simply to help answer Canadians’ questions about their pandemic benefits as the filing deadline approaches.
So, accountants, what can you do to ease some of the inevitable Spring burden?
Communicate with your clients clearly and simply what they can do to make your filing process easier. Do this in a manner that is accessible to them, whether through e-blast, on your website, using social media, or all of the above. The little bit of extra time that this might take over the next week or so may save at least a few long nights this Spring.
Use simple, clear language, and offer checklists that they can follow this year specifically to ensure that they provide you everything that they have in a format that you can work with. Clients are going to be frustrated trying to put all of the pieces together, and so anything that they can do to help you will likely help them stay organized as well.
This initiative will not alleviate all of your client’s concerns - each client is unique, and no two situations will likely be the exact same. Filing this year is unfortunately going to be challenging for taxpayers and tax professionals alike, as so much else has been through this pandemic.
Yet great communication can definitely ease some of the expected burdens for all parties. Best of all, putting your clients in the best possible position with CRA might decrease their amounts owing or even increase their rebates, which will undoubtedly help make you a hero in their eyes.
If you are looking to put something like this together for your clients and need a hand finding the right words, I would be happy to help. Contact me today to discuss how we can make this Spring an easier one for both you and your clients.