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What Do Tax Accountants Do? Tax Manager's Day in Life of an Accountant | Busy Season

Updated: Mar 10, 2021

Things are starting to ramp up at the office (figuratively speaking, as we are still WFH), and it has been difficult finding a balance. It doesn't help that I've recently transferred to the International/US Tax group (from the Canadian Corporate Tax group) after making the decision that I wanted to become more global in my tax skills.

I would definitely say that international clients are more complex and demanding, which explains why I've felt that there has been less work life balance lately. After transferring to the new group, I got a new slate of clients while learning US tax for the first time on the job. It has been a steep learning curve and a whirlwind these last few weeks, to say the least. While it's a sacrifice made in the short-term, I know it will be good for me in the long run as it will improve my competitiveness and marketability.

Anyways, that was just a quick update on what I've been up to. Today I wanted to share with you what my typical day looks like as a Tax Manager at a Big 4. Priorities are different throughout the year, and certain weeks/months may be busier than other times of the year. Let me give you an idea of busy season periods based on whether you are in US or Canadian corporate tax:

US Tax:

Tax provision review - mid-January to mid-Mar

1065 Partnerships - Beg March to March 15th

1120/State Extensions - Beg April to April 15th

1120/State Corporate Deadline - September to October 15th

Canadian Tax:

Tax provision review - Mid- January to mid-March

T5013 Partnerships - Mid March to March 30th

T2 Corporation Tax - Mid May to June 30th

So depending on what time of the year, your busy season may be primarily focused on one type of work since the nature of the work is centered around a certain deadline. You may be focusing all of your time on just provision work, just corporate returns, or you might even be juggling a couple of different projects including consulting work. Some days, you may be working solely by yourself and trying to get the meat of the work done; other times, your day might be filled with back to back meetings. Overall, I would say your working day is split between time spent on meetings (20-25%) vs independent work (75-80%).

Meetings may directly correlate with your work, such as review meetings with your juniors or seniors on a particular client; other times, it may related to L&D or just firm wide meetings. Independent work is the time you spend on getting the chunk of a file done, such as reviewing a tax return or a tax provision. To get a better understanding of what your average year might look like, I have summarized how your time might be split across the different types of projects and other priorities:

1. Tax Returns (50%)

- Providing instructions to juniors (ie. giving background on client, what is expected, timeline)

- Review of tax returns (ie. checking Juniors' work has been performed correctly, and providing adequate review notes for their learning and for them to make appropriate updates to the tax returns)

- Client contact (ie. requesting for information, clarifying/asking questions, relationship building)

- Filtering through issues and bringing up mainly big issues to Senior Managers/Director/Partner for final review

- Being the project manager and ensuring the project is progressing smoothly; in charge of coordinating with client and your own team members

2. Tax Consulting (15%)

- Type of projects based on M&A, restructuring, unique transactions, new entity establishment, tax due diligence, and general tax planning

- Nature of work may be centered around research and summarizing your findings in a memo or powerpoint deck to present to the client on different options and tax implications

3. Tax Provisions (15%)

- Working with Audit to assess reasonableness of deferred tax and current tax amounts on financial statements

- Usually you would receive the client's workingpapers of the tax provision, in which you would test certain items above materiality - requires understanding of both Accounting and Tax

4. L&D, Training (10%)

- Technical review, information on legislative changes and tax updates, new processes in place at the firm, updates on new technology and how it improves work flow, certain compliance requirements you need to fulfil

5. Coaching (5%)

- Coach: You will be assigned a coach, who is there to support you at the firm; you may have monthly/quarterly meetings with your coach to catch up and to discuss how you want to shape your career

- Coachee: As a manager, you may be assigned coachees who can come to you for questions and support as they start out their career at the firm

- The Coach/Coachee relationship is also important as part of the annual performance evaluation, which requires quite a bit of preparation

6. File management (5%)

- Mainly administrative tasks such as filling out your timesheets, taking care of billing for your clients, ensuring projects are staffed properly, and sorting through a flood of emails every day

- As you get more senior, business development/building relationships with existing clients/seeking new work to increase firm revenue are other responsibilities you will gradually get

A job in public practice definitely requires a strong sense of time management, ability to handle multiple priorities, and ability to perform under pressure. Depending on your personality and your interests, public practice may be an exciting career choice for you compared to a job in industry. I have to admit - it isn't for the faint of heart, but if you are up for the challenge, it may be a rewarding career path.


#dayinalifeofanaccountant #big4accountant #whatdotaxaccountantsdo

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