Tax time connections: a sole tax practitioner works out a part-time arrangement with three other CPAs that benefits them all - and clients, too.

Author:Dennis, Anita

If a firm alms to deliver high-quality service, it must be able to hire topnotch staff. That can present a challenge for tax practitioners in small firms, however, given the seasonal nature of the work. While it's difficult to justify paying high salaries during the slow season, it can be hard to recruit professionals to work only part of the year. Many practitioners turn to retired accountants or to CPAs with young children at home for help. Maryland sole practitioner Patti Bissell has chosen another route; she employs three part-time CPAs who all have their own practices but who relish the chance to gain reliable income during tax season.


Bissell opened her firm in 1990, after leaving a larger local firm. She knew she would need help with the heavy tax load, so she recruited Diane Futrowsky, who had worked for the old firm during tax season. Futrowsky, a CPA with young children, also had a nascent accounting practice. Today, even though that practice has grown into a thriving business, both Futrowsky and her partner, CPA Pat Biscoe, continue to work for Bissell in tax season.

Futrowsky says that working part-time during tax season is "a wonderful way to keep up with tax laws and the technology." Her own practice consists mainly of monthly write-up work and compilations, which allows her to take on extra work in the busy season. During that season, Futrowsky spends half her time on Bissell's clients and devotes the balance to her own. She believes her schedule is workable because it is only temporary. "It's such a short period of time," she says of tax season. "The real crunch starts in mid-February and you know it's going to end on April 15. It's certainly worth it for that short period of time." Once the April deadline has passed, Futrowsky works for Bissell two to four times a month through October 15 to finish up extensions.

Futrowsky reports that the main challenge is spending half her time in each location during tax season, but the cooperation between Futrowsky and her partner Biscoe helps bridge any gaps. Their firm has a part-time secretary and bookkeeper, too. Bissell's flexibility with her staff is another key factor. "Patti allows me to be independent because she knows I get the work done," according to Futrowsky. Bissell also allows Futrowsky to take client calls at Bissell's office. Although Futrowsky tried to avoid doing this at first, "it's the only way I can keep up my practice and let my clients know...

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