The Tax Season Timeline for Preparers

If you’re thinking about becoming a tax preparer, you may wonder what the tax season looks like once you get started. In this article, we’ll outline the year-round workflow for tax professionals – including pre-season preparations, the pace of the early season, activity during the peak season, and the often-overlooked off-season that follows. 

When does tax season begin?  

Tax season begins in late January. The specific date can vary from year to year but the starting date usually falls between January 20th and January 31st. While this date represents the start of the IRS accepting tax returns, for tax preparers, the preparation for the season begins before then.   

When is tax season over?  

Tax season typically ends on the tax filing deadline, usually April 15th. However, if April 15th falls on a weekend or a federal holiday, the deadline is extended to the next business day. Taxpayers can also request a six-month extension to file their tax returns, extending the deadline to October 15th. 

While the initial tax filing deadline is in April, tax preparers often continue to work with clients throughout the year on various tax-related matters, making tax preparation a year-round profession. 

What does the tax season timeline look like for preparers?  

December – February: Early tax season  

For tax preparers, tax season usually starts in December as clients begin to reach out. Then, the IRS usually opens around January 28. Tax preparers often spend these first two months ramping up for tax season and reaching out to clients to encourage their returning business.  

The first few days of tax season may not be particularly busy as many taxpayers are still waiting on tax forms from their employers, which they won’t receive until around January 31. However, for anyone with an established tax practice, tax season gets busy quickly as clients fill their early calendars to get their refunds as soon as possible.   

March – April: Peak tax season  

For most tax preparers, the tax season rush is more pronounced in March and doesn’t slow down until Tax Day happens on or around April 15. The last few weeks are often hectic as taxpayers scramble to file before the deadline. Experienced tax preparers can utilize workplace practices like these to make surviving the busy season easier:  

  • Set priorities and minimize any unnecessary work. 
  • Practice self-care and stress management techniques.  
     
  • Encourage clients to go virtual. Clients can upload their documents with the TaxesToGo mobile app, speeding up the filing process. The app streamlines communication and eliminates the need for in-person meetings, saving even more time.   
     
  • Reward yourself to increase motivation. Sometimes, it’s tough to take an entire day off in peak tax season. Small breaks and treats like ordering your favorite meal for lunch or taking an evening off will help sustain you through the rush.  

May – September: The off-season  

After the tax season rush, many tax preparers tend to enjoy the slower pace by scheduling vacations during these months. The off-season will look different for every tax preparer depending on the types of tax clients they work with and whether they offer other services.   

October – November: Prepping for tax season  

Around October, tax professionals will typically start planning for the upcoming tax season. It may seem soon, but thorough preparation prevents much stress come tax season. Some of the most critical tax season prep tasks include:  

  • Setting up your tax software. You should always have the latest tax software to help you stay up to date with changing tax laws. You’ll want to download it well before tax season begins, so you’ll have plenty of time to get familiar with the software and transfer clients’ data from prior years.   
  • Updating and testing all technology in the office, such as scanners, printers, internet speed, anti-virus software, etc.  
  • Applying with a bank to offer bank products to your clients during tax season.  
  • Renewing your PTIN.  
  • Getting familiar with any tax law changes that will affect the upcoming season.  
  • Reaching out to past clients and marketing to potential clients.  

For more details on these and other tax season preparation tasks, see our complete Pre-Tax Season Checklist series on the following topics:  

If you’re considering a career in tax preparation, our Ultimate Guide to Starting a Tax Preparation Business can help you decide if it’s the career for you.  

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