Stacee Rash, CPA, a tax partner at Martin Starnes & Associates, serves on the AICPA Tax Practice Resiliency Task Force. Here, she provides an update on the task force’s work to address the concerns of tax professionals.
Tax professionals are resilient, and the last few years have proved it.
You navigated COVID-19 federal relief funding on behalf of your clients, accommodated a flurry of last-minute tax changes, and managed business operations during uncertain times. It hasn’t been easy. Good news: There’s an AICPA task force looking for ways to ease some of the pressure.
Rapid changes to any profession are bound to bring about challenges and magnify existing issues. The turbulence of the last few years has done just that to the tax profession, but we are in a position to create real change for a sustainable future. Our profession wants and needs substantial pivots for a sustainable future.
Alongside a diverse group of tax professionals, I proudly serve on the AICPA Tax Practice Resiliency Task Force. Initiated in the summer of 2022, the task force seeks to find solutions to challenges many of us face, including tight work deadlines. One focus has been exploring the current tax return due date structure.
Ask the big question first
We started with a salient question: Should tax return due dates be permanently changed to reduce the workload compression — the “crunch” — that tax professionals feel?
When COVID-19 relief measures temporarily moved deadlines, we got a sampling of a tax season with extended due dates. Tax professionals passionately discuss this topic, but they are almost evenly split on whether they want tax return due dates to permanently change.
Task force members are also split on the topic. So, we endeavored to learn what would happen if legislators moved federal tax return due dates.
Consequences of new federal tax return due dates
Task force members spoke to knowledgeable parties — other tax practitioner organizations, former IRS staff and former and current congressional staffers — to understand the challenges. We quickly learned that we are not the only stakeholders torn on whether federal tax return due dates should change, and the logistics of such a consequential change present even more questions.
Even if all stakeholders agreed to change the federal filing due dates, everyone would need to agree on new dates: Should individual returns be due May 15, June 1, July 15 or another date? What should the filing dates be for other business and flow-through returns?
Stakeholders would need between five and seven years to investigate what the best outcome would be for everyone. And five to seven years might not be enough time to implement such a change, which would include updating hundreds of IRS servers.
Beyond federal deadlines, we need to consider state deadlines. For some states, a change in the filing deadline could be detrimental to their economies. Without stakeholder alignment, changing federal filing due dates is not a realistic possibility — and we’d still risk facing filing season hardships if we didn’t get the change right.
Before successfully moving a filing due date, many pieces need to fall into place. There are circumstances out of our control, such as amended 1099s, unfinalized forms and late legislative changes. Aspects that we can control include setting clear expectations with clients and holding them accountable for meeting deadlines.
Efforts to make the tax filing process more efficient
Thinking long term, our task force has considered other matters affecting tax practice resilience as well. For instance, we have identified legislative and procedural areas for the AICPA’s IRS Advocacy and Relations Committee and the AICPA’s Tax Executive Committee to explore to help make the tax filing process more efficient:
Streamline the process of extensions
Take another look at Form 1099 filing deadlines
Provide suggestions for the use of IRS funding to create a more efficient, functional and accessible agency
Would tax season instantly get better if deadlines change, or would we feel the crunch from tight deadlines during a different time of the year? It is hard to say, but my preference is to spend time focusing on what I can control to alleviate the crunch in the first place.
Reimagining your tax practice
As another tax season is on the horizon, our task force also wants to provide you with tools and resources. One of which entails free interactive videoconferencing sessions where we discuss a variety of topics, including client expectations, billing, technology, staffing and what an ideal tax season looks like.
Join us at 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Dec. 13, for Getting to tax season Zen.
You’re also invited to watch recordings from previous Q&A roundtable series:
When I think about the tax profession, I don’t long for it to stay the same or hark back to days gone by. Like many of you, my passion for the profession leads me to envision new possibilities so it can remain a vibrant, lucrative career choice for generations to come. I am excited to be a part of a group focusing on making a difference in the resilience of tax practices.