How Accountants Can Efficiently Handle Client Information During Tax Season

June 27, 2024
, by  
Steve Crouch

Tax season is a notoriously busy and stressful time for accountants. One of the most significant frustrations comes from clients providing necessary information in a piecemeal manner. This issue arises in several ways and creates numerous challenges.

The Challenge of Piecemeal Information

  1. Frequent Interruptions: Instead of receiving a complete set of documents at once, accountants often get fragments of information over time. Each new piece of information interrupts the workflow, making it difficult to maintain momentum and efficiency.
  2. Increased Time and Effort: Piecemeal submissions mean that accountants must repeatedly review and update the tax return as new information arrives. This repetitive process is time-consuming and inefficient, leading to increased effort and longer working hours.
  3. Difficulty in Maintaining Accuracy: When information trickles in gradually, there's a higher risk of overlooking or misplacing documents. Ensuring that all pieces are correctly integrated into the tax return requires meticulous attention to detail, increasing the likelihood of errors.
  4. Inconsistent Information Flow: Clients might send documents in various formats and through different communication channels (email, physical copies, messages). This inconsistency complicates the process of organising and consolidating the required information.
  5. Delays in Completion: The staggered receipt of information often leads to delays in completing tax returns. Accountants may be forced to wait for critical documents, pushing deadlines and creating a last-minute rush to file returns on time.
  6. Stressful Client Follow-ups: Accountants must frequently follow up with clients to request missing information. These follow-ups can be time-consuming and stressful, especially if clients are slow to respond or provide incomplete responses.
  7. Fragmented Communication: Communicating back and forth with clients to piece together all necessary information can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunications. Each additional interaction increases the complexity of ensuring all details are accurate and complete.
  8. Challenges in Planning and Scheduling: The unpredictable nature of receiving information piecemeal makes it challenging for accountants to plan and schedule their work efficiently. It disrupts their ability to allocate time and resources effectively across multiple clients.

Strategies for Improving Efficiency

Despite these challenges, accountants can implement several strategies to improve the efficiency of tax return preparation, even when clients provide information in a piecemeal manner:

  1. Client Education and Training: Educate clients on the importance of providing complete and accurate information upfront. Offer training sessions or detailed guides on what documents and data are needed for tax preparation.
  2. Standardised Checklists: Provide clients with standardised checklists of required documents and information. This can help ensure that clients know exactly what is needed and reduce the likelihood of missing items.
  3. Use of Client Portals: Implement secure client portals where clients can upload documents and track the progress of their submissions. This centralises the information and makes it easier to manage and access.
  4. Automated Reminders and Follow-ups: Set up automated reminder systems to prompt clients to submit their information by specific deadlines. Regular reminders can help ensure clients stay on track and reduce the need for manual follow-ups.
  5. Batch Processing: Encourage clients to gather and submit all their documents in one batch. This approach can minimise the interruptions and inefficiencies caused by receiving information in fragments.
  6. Early Engagement: Start the tax preparation process early. By engaging clients well before tax season, accountants can spread out the workload and reduce the last-minute rush.
  7. Segmented Workflows: Create segmented workflows that allow different parts of the tax return to be prepared independently as information becomes available. This can help keep the process moving even when some documents are missing.
  8. Client Relationship Management (CRM) Systems: Utilise CRM systems to manage client interactions and document submissions. These systems can help track what has been received and what is still outstanding, streamlining the follow-up process.
  9. Document Management Systems: Implement robust document management systems that allow for easy organisation, retrieval, and integration of client documents. This can reduce the time spent searching for and organising information.
  10. Outsourcing Non-Core Tasks: Consider outsourcing non-core tasks such as data entry or document scanning to third-party service providers. This allows accountants to focus on higher-value tasks and improves overall efficiency.
  11. Clear Communication Channels: Establish clear and consistent communication channels with clients. Use email templates, dedicated phone lines, or messaging apps to ensure clients know how and when to submit their information.
  12. Periodic Reviews and Feedback: Conduct periodic reviews of the tax preparation process and seek feedback from clients. Continuous improvement based on feedback can help identify and address inefficiencies.


The piecemeal provision of information by clients can create a fragmented, inefficient, and stressful process for accountants during tax season. However, by educating clients, standardising submissions, leveraging technology, and optimising workflows, accountants can significantly improve the efficiency of tax return preparation. These strategies not only reduce frustration but also enhance the accuracy and timeliness of the returns, ultimately benefiting both accountants and their clients.

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