Author Topic: Accountants/CPA's- How feasible to work tax busy season only?  (Read 8636 times)

dkaid

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I love the idea of working seasonally and would love to explore the feasibility of being able to do this in a few years.  I'm a CPA, but unregistered status and currently working in Corporate Finance.  I like the idea of working busy season only for Tax season, or possibly Audit if the demand exists.  I left the Big 4 as an Audit Manager some 15 years ago, so I'm very rusty.  And I have very little tax experience. 

If I wanted to pursue this what do you think the best route would be?  Clearly I need to update my skills but I'd want to be fairly confident that I would find a decent gig before I jump in. What is a reasonable expectation of what I could make?  In looking at the H&R block route, it didn't seem like great pay.   I have pretty cushy gig right now but of course I have to be here all year:) 

Proud Foot

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Re: Accountants/CPA's- How feasible to work tax busy season only?
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2016, 09:23:16 AM »
The first thing would be to get some tax experience.  I would stay away from HR Block but would look at seeing if you could work part time for a CPA tax preparer to get the experience.  Once you have the experience the financially easier route would be to have the CPA tax preparer hire you as a seasonal worker.  The other would be to open up your own tax prep shop.  If you get enough clients you will be super busy until April 15 and will make enough for the full year.  To keep your clients you might also consider being available for tax planning during the fall on an appointment basis.

I don't do this myself as I don't enjoy the tax process enough to do it for others but I know several tax preparers who do this and are successful.

Trudie

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Re: Accountants/CPA's- How feasible to work tax busy season only?
« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2016, 12:56:03 PM »
I'm a CPA, but work in corporate finance and accounting.  Other than doing my own (admittedly, pretty basic) taxes I have little tax experience.

I hope to do just what you suggest, but will go to work for someone else first.  I would suggest taking a reputable prep course, like this available through the AICPA:
http://www.aicpastore.com/AST/Main/CPA2BIZ_Primary/AuditAttest/PRDOVR~PC-157630/PC-157630.jsp

There's some expense, but it's credible and you can learn at your own pace.  (And it's a double win if you need the CPE hours anyway.)

catccc

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Re: Accountants/CPA's- How feasible to work tax busy season only?
« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2016, 02:03:24 PM »
I know someone that does this, and I think it is very feasible.  Once you get up to speed on CPE and general tax knowledge, I would reach out to local or regional firms during the off season and just do some informational interviews to learn how they handle the influx of work.  I personally would prefer to work for a firm than to run my own shop- it's just easier to hop in and out, no worries about finding clients, etc.  I'm sure your own little practice would be more lucrative, but it would also be a lot more worry.

I'm a CPA but I work in industry (a non-profit).  I did a couple years in public before deciding I actually wanted to have a life outside of work.  I could see going back to it for tax season, though.

Midwest

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Re: Accountants/CPA's- How feasible to work tax busy season only?
« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2016, 02:12:08 PM »
CPA here.  May be feasible although your lack of tax experience is an issue (HR block is not the answer). 

If I were designing a practice, I wouldn't attempt to work only tax season (60-80 hour weeks suck).  My goal is to lower the hours during tax season and have a manageable schedule throughout the year that keeps me comfortably busy.  Extensions, consulting work and bookeeping clients allow a much better schedule. 

runningthroughFIRE

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Re: Accountants/CPA's- How feasible to work tax busy season only?
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2016, 04:00:25 PM »
Soon-to-be CPA here (passed tests, just need a little more experience for the license).  Also working in corporate finance, but I've been thinking if it would be worthwhile to do some small individual return tax work on the side.  It's a long way off, but after FI I might consider just working tax season, although I have relatively little experience in the area (just a little charity work through the VITA program in college).

Posting to follow

Cressida

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Re: Accountants/CPA's- How feasible to work tax busy season only?
« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2016, 04:13:12 PM »
Posting to follow

Me too. Wish I could be more helpful.

stoaX

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Re: Accountants/CPA's- How feasible to work tax busy season only?
« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2016, 04:54:05 PM »
So if one is just looking for a seasonal job, why is HR Block not the answer?  And can the same be said of other similar firms like Jackson Hewitt? 

dess1313

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Re: Accountants/CPA's- How feasible to work tax busy season only?
« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2016, 06:09:35 PM »
HR block can take the average joe off the street and do the basics.  its only the upper management/supervisor that might have real tax knowledge.  The workers there are just plugging numbers into a program, the same as if you did your own with the tax software.

dkaid

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Re: Accountants/CPA's- How feasible to work tax busy season only?
« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2016, 08:32:34 AM »
Thanks for the feedback.  From what I can tell with the H&R block route, the pay scale is pretty low (at least compared to other CPA jobs), maybe $20ish/hour once you are experienced. 
The other idea I explored yesterday was hiring back with Big 4 for seasonal audit work.  KPMG and PwC both have programs and I'm KPMG alum so still have some contacts there.  If the info I gleaned from a reddit forum was reliable, pay is closer to $50/hr.  The plus would be the learning curve would not be so steep.  Oh and you can participate in their 401 k plan.  The minus would be going back to the audit world and all that entails when I'm 15 years older and wiser, lol.  Having spent this much time in a corporate finance I would be a dangerous auditor!

Midwest

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Re: Accountants/CPA's- How feasible to work tax busy season only?
« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2016, 08:40:04 AM »
So if one is just looking for a seasonal job, why is HR Block not the answer?  And can the same be said of other similar firms like Jackson Hewitt?

The OP has a CPA and I suspect he's looking to make decent money.  H&R block and Jackson Hewitt specialize in man on the street returns and typically don't hire CPA's to do them (and don't pay them like CPA's).

I think HR and jackson charge a lot for what they are doing, but they aren't working on difficult returns or issues and I suspect a lot of the cost goes to advertising and overhead versus the employees.

If he could get hired at a CPA firm, they will work on higher end returns that require some accounting background and more skill level and thus pay better.

Cpa Cat

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Re: Accountants/CPA's- How feasible to work tax busy season only?
« Reply #11 on: May 13, 2016, 08:47:56 AM »
You can get a job doing TurboTax support to brush up on individual tax. It's seasonal, and the pay isn't good, once you have your own practice under your feet, but it's work from home and the pay does start higher than all HR Block positions. Whether or not it's worthwhile to you probably depend on your locality and if those seasonal audit jobs at established firms are available to you.

When I FIRE'd, I figured I'd have a hobby job as a tax practitioner during busy season. The problem is that my clients like me and are constantly bothering me with their problems and sending their friends to bother me with their problems. Problems turn out to be mostly off-season work. I'd say it's nearly impossible to work -only- busy season if you're an independent CPA with your own practice.

On my tax software forum, there do seem to be some people who will open an office front on a strip mall for busy season only, doing walk-in clients. Be careful if you go that route - make sure you brush up on Earned Income Tax due diligence. The EIC requirements are a whole different animal that most CPAs don't start with a ton of experience with.



LifestyleDeflation

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Re: Accountants/CPA's- How feasible to work tax busy season only?
« Reply #12 on: May 13, 2016, 09:17:36 AM »
How much money could you reasonably expect to make as a CPA your first couple years running your own firm during the busy season and just doing "maintenance" in the off-season (answering existing client questions etc)?

catccc

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Re: Accountants/CPA's- How feasible to work tax busy season only?
« Reply #13 on: May 13, 2016, 01:14:11 PM »
I worked for Jackson Hewitt while in college for one tax season.  This was 2002 or so, and the pay was $7/hr ($7.50?  can't recall), and we got a small bonus based on volume.  Maybe it brought my take up to $10/hr?  IDK.  I was also working in retail at the time making $11/hr, and it was a lot more fun.

I assume the pay rate has gone up since 2002, but basically, it's a like a combination of a data entry/retail job.  That's probably not really what most of you guys are looking for.

Midwest

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Re: Accountants/CPA's- How feasible to work tax busy season only?
« Reply #14 on: May 13, 2016, 01:19:38 PM »
How much money could you reasonably expect to make as a CPA your first couple years running your own firm during the busy season and just doing "maintenance" in the off-season (answering existing client questions etc)?

Depends how many clients you have.  I shoot for $75-$100 per hour net on my side clients.  The longer I keep them, the more I make per hour due to efficiency.  I could easily ramp it up because the better clients get run through work at present.

Cpa Cat

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Re: Accountants/CPA's- How feasible to work tax busy season only?
« Reply #15 on: May 13, 2016, 05:08:31 PM »
How much money could you reasonably expect to make as a CPA your first couple years running your own firm during the busy season and just doing "maintenance" in the off-season (answering existing client questions etc)?

It's entirely regional. I also shoot for $75-$100 per hour, (in the midwest) but you have to factor in non-charge time (CPE, networking, general running-the business-stuff). Over time, some of my clients do reach the $200/hour mark. Primarily because I have a minimum tax return charge. I am running out of time for new clients, though - within a couple of years, I'll need to raise my rates to scare off some clients.

stoaX

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Re: Accountants/CPA's- How feasible to work tax busy season only?
« Reply #16 on: May 17, 2016, 01:02:09 PM »
So if one is just looking for a seasonal job, why is HR Block not the answer?  And can the same be said of other similar firms like Jackson Hewitt?

The OP has a CPA and I suspect he's looking to make decent money.  H&R block and Jackson Hewitt specialize in man on the street returns and typically don't hire CPA's to do them (and don't pay them like CPA's).

I think HR and jackson charge a lot for what they are doing, but they aren't working on difficult returns or issues and I suspect a lot of the cost goes to advertising and overhead versus the employees.

If he could get hired at a CPA firm, they will work on higher end returns that require some accounting background and more skill level and thus pay better.. 

Thanks, that makes sense.  I am intrigued by the work a few months aspect of this for some extra money once I am FIREd.  And since I am not a CPA like the OP, nor do I have any experience in that world beyond doing my own taxes, the low pay at HR Block would probably be all I could initially expect.

jwright

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Re: Accountants/CPA's- How feasible to work tax busy season only?
« Reply #17 on: May 17, 2016, 01:17:14 PM »
I charge $125/hour for tax and $50/for bookkeeping.  I just do this in my free time and without much effort I make $10-$12K per year.  I am a CPA in South Carolina.