May 17th Doesn’t Matter

Some people really don’t like having their pre-conceived notions challenged.

For example, consider this response to the email I sent yesterday:
Boy are you wrong!!! Congress passed the Legislation after tax season already started – beyond our control.
IRS needed to interpret the changes made in the final Legislation – beyond our control.
Tax software needed to be updated for those changes – beyond our control.
State Legislators needed to decide if they were going to follow federal changes – beyond our control.

…plus six more lines, including one extolling my “insensitivity and arrogance”.

All because I had the audacity to declare that yesterday was the end of filing season.

In total, I received over 30 replies to yesterdays email. That’s a lot of replies for what was probably the shortest email I’ve ever sent.

Just so everyone knows, I am completely aware that IRS extended the filing and payment deadline to May 17th — I’m not an idiot living under a rock (although that’s heavily debated).

But as I’ve written a few times in these emails over the past month plus, just because the IRS extended the deadline, doesn’t mean you have to.

My advice to all tax pros has been to “act as if” April 15th was still the deadline, and do as you would in any other year. That means wrapping up existing returns in progress between April 1 and 15. As of April 1, cutting off any clients that have not brought you docs yet — everybody not in-progress goes on extension to October. The same best practices that you would use in any other year.


The most important reason is so that this doesn’t throw off your business operations for the rest of the year. In other words, don’t let external forces dictate your business decisions. Tax professionals that simply embrace the May 17th extended deadline will, inevitably, continue to operate in “filing season mode”. That means delaying 1040 tax resolution season marketing. That means skipping late April and early May business development opportunities, such as new ad campaigns, the early return of some trade shows, potential speaking opportunities, and the like.

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By failing to enforce a standard April 15th deadline upon your clients, you are stepping over dollars to pick up dimes. If you also offer accounting services, and you stay 100% in “tax season mode”, think of all the potential accounting clients that you’re choosing not to meet with for the next 30 days. If you keep your “filing season hat” on for another 30 days, think about all those Chamber of Commerce mixers, leads groups, and other events that are firing back up that you’re missing — and all the potential business you’ll never get.

It’s all about opportunity cost, because last time I checked services like accounting and tax resolution were far more profitable than 1040 preparation.

Dan Henn, CPA, CTR probably put it best: “Yes, I know the deadline has been extended, but you don’t have to accept it that way.” He’s always more succinct than I am.

Last Sunday, Dan was in his office all day wrapping up returns, like he would be in a normal year.

The past few days, he’s been filing 4868’s like he would in a normal year.

Yesterday, he closed the office at noon and went on vacation, like he would in a normal year.

His filing season is done. And he’s on vacation.

As are, by the way, many other tax pros.

How do I know this? Because many of you have told me so over the past few weeks. You ended your filing season yesterday, for the reasons I’ve mentioned above. You either figured it out for yourself, or you were paying attention to what myself and many other tax industry consultants have been saying over the past month.

How else do I know?

Because in addition to the 30+ comments about yesterday’s subject line, I also received about an equal number of “Out of Office Auto-Replies” saying they were on vacation because they had ended their filing season under the normal schedule!

Understand that if you continue on for the next month remaining in “tax season mode”, it’s a choice. You are choosing to let the IRS alter your business plans for the year, when you don’t have to. You can simply choose to close out the filing season and push folks to October 15th, just like any other year. The only real change you have to make is in telling clients that will owe that they don’t have to pay the government until May 17th, but that 4868 should be going out right now.

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You can obviously do what you want. It’s your business. But I definitely advise that you close out filing season so that you don’t lose traction on the year. It’s time to ramp up your 1040 tax resolution season marketing. It’s time to get back to networking and public speaking as in-person opportunities to do so re-open. It’s time to go find clients for services that are far more lucrative for you, such as bookkeeping, strategic consulting, expense reduction consulting, tax resolution, and more.

I have spoken.

Speaking of tax resolution, if you recognize the growing business opportunity there and want a basic introduction to that world, join us for one of our full-day Fast Start Boot Camps coming up in April, May, and June. Get details here: