No Elves at Tax Season
I’m a partner and a CPA in a large firm in Rockville, Maryland, outside of Washington, D.C. Our firm has a staff of about 30 people.
At 3:00 p.m. on April 15th, our office will shut down, the doors will close, and the entire firm will go out together for drinks. After that point, tax returns left over aren’t part of our on-time rush.
That rush starts on January 15th. Work we do before that is still related to end-of-the-year stuff for the prior year. But by February 1st, our calendar is set with client appointments, and then we’re in complete “go” mode. That lasts two and a half months, from February 1st to April 15th. Most nights I arrive home between 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning.
During those weeks, each of my four children stakes a claim on the day when they can have my undivided attention. Until then, they get my less-than-optimal attention from 3:00 a.m. to 8:20 a.m.
My kids hear the phrase “after tax season” about as often as they use the bathroom. So April 16th becomes a fantasy day for them of laser tag arenas, bowling alleys, and, for my daughter, the shopping mall.
The only break we take at the firm is an all-hands Yahtzee tournament; it helps keep the minds on target!
Other CPAs take elaborate trips. After pulling “a few all-nighters to stay ahead of the curve,” Bryan Gutraj in Chicago is going to Costa Rica and then a golf expedition near the Kentucky Derby. Gutraj likes the cycle of spending the Chicago winters indoors working, and emerging in the middle of April to take in Cubs games and enjoy the summer.
Golf is definitely popular; Geremy Cipin, also in Chicago, recruits professionals for accounting firms. He says that he knows several tax accountants who are heading either to California or South Carolina for golf holidays. Three others he knows of are splurging on two week family vacations to Hawaii.
But Cepin estimates about 15% or so of the tax industry is not affected by the April 15th deadline. Some tax practitioners work with corporations, and don’t have to deal with Form 1040s, K-1s, or other personal income tax returns. Those are the professionals who can take their vacations before the traditional tax season is over.
In fact, Toby Pagano of Great Neck, Long Island in New York says she dreads October 15th far more. It’s when all the biggest returns on extension are due, and if feels like nobody else is working nights and weekends. Sometimes her managers work until midnight.
“Ick,” she says—she doesn’t generally work past 8:00 p.m. Her plan for April 16th is to take advantage of the Canadian dollar and travel to Montreal with her daughter, a college student on spring break.
Tom Tobin, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was pretty funny: “I used to open a window and shout ‘Yeah!’ but we can no longer open our windows. We just go back to work.”
Heather Villa is only 29, and she is the founder and CEO of her own accounting and consulting firm, IAC-EZ, in Doral, Florida. She is a confirmed workaholic. Supposedly, she never really takes a proper night off.
Her publicist, Cindy Rakowitz, says Heather’s married with two dogs, and depends on hired help so she can avoid actual sleep: “Maybe she passed out from complete physical exhaustion from time to time.” Her tax season doesn’t end until the first week of May, but “she can’t just abandon ship” because of her accounting software business.
Like I said at the beginning, some of us have a reputation for being no fun. But that’s not true about all of us.
Daniel Suissa is a partner with Heymann, Suissa & Stone, PC, and he specializes in corporate and personal tax returns.