Tips for Starting Off 2014 as an Accountant

Gina Deveney
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A new year is a time for fresh starts and new horizons. As someone who has pursued an accounting career, you have the advantage of being very busy during the first quarter. Tax season pushes your accounting skills to their utmost, and there's generally no shortage of clients clamoring for your attention. It's important to start the year off right, so here are some tips to help your accounting career take off in the new year.

January has always meant one thing to accountants: tax season. Tax season opens later than usual in 2014, however, as the sixteen-day shutdown in October had the effect of pushing back the testing and implementation of new internal systems at the IRS. In 2014, you'll be able to file your clients' returns from January 31 to the traditional deadline of April 15. The shorter filing season puts you and your clientele on a somewhat tighter schedule, which may mean you're more likely to advise them to request extensions of up to six months by filing IRS Form 4868.

Another tip for 2014 is to brush up on changes to tax law. Throughout your accounting career, you've been keeping abreast of the annual shifts in these statutes. One year sees a reduction in tax rates; another sees an increase, and each year some loopholes close, while others open up. For example: in 2014, the maximum earnings ceiling for FICA-taxable income will rise from the current $113,700 to a more progressive $115,500. If you have a client—especially a self-employed one—who falls into that bracket, it will be up to you to make sure this rise doesn't come as a surprise. Attending one of the annual tax seminars that are held regionally across the country will help you stay on top of these changes.

New technologies have also come to market that will augment your accounting skills and make you even more effective in handling your clients' accounts. While some accounting apps, such as Turbo Tax and Quickbooks, have the potential to deprive you of clients, others, notably FinancialForce, can be used to improve your work flow and expand the client base that's been driving your accounting career from the beginning. Some apps will work at both tasks. Zoho Books, for example, is a real-time accounting program that monitors the minute-by-minute transactions of your clients and generates simple reports. These reports can then be transferred to you for processing, saving you the trouble of wading through raw data.

An accounting career is not as restful as outsiders might imagine. To succeed in the field, it's necessary to stay up to date on changes internal to the industry and changes in the law, changes to hiring practices, and even advances in software technology. Learning new ways to serve your clientele is what gives you the competitive edge over others in the field. Of all the tips you could get to keep your accounting career afloat, the most important is this: always be learning.



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