Can it really be that time again? The year-end crunch is fast approaching. But with these eight steps you can make things a little less harried.
The pace in Finance is probably already a little more hectic than usual. Now, add the annual frenzy that is year-end, and you might want to start doling out the antacids, now.
Or you could take the following eight steps:
- Set and communicate deadlines. When do the last invoices have to be in to be paid in 2008? December 31st falls on a Wednesday this year, and many companies are closing the last Friday of the year (December 26th), so you may have to change your usual timetables. Make sure employees and vendors understand that early.
- Check your forms. Hopefully you’ve already ordered and received your forms for this year-end. Once you’ve got them in house, crack them open to ensure they’re ready to go. Some companies have had horror stories about the top few forms of a pack of returns being correct — only to find out too late that the rest of them were blank!
- Do a test run of info returns. It’s not enough to know your information returns are print-ready — you want to try them out too to make sure your printer doesn’t need to be calibrated and to ensure that everything’s printing in the correct boxes.
- Mark all your due dates. A collective year-end calendar for all of Finance might be a good idea, with each task color-coded by the department responsible for it. IRS issued a correction: W-2s go to employees by Feb. 2, to SSA by March 2.
- Verify vendor info. Many companies send 1099-able vendors W-9s every few years. But it couldn’t hurt in your next check run to ask vendors whether any of their information has changed. Now’s also the time to double-check that you have taxpayer ID numbers for all vendors that might receive a 1099 from you. The last thing you want is to have to start dealing with back-up withholding.
- Consolidate key updates. IRS and SSA have already released the taxable wage base and pension plan limits for ’09. While Payroll can’t put them into practice until Jan. 1, having everyone ready will mean less scrambling when Finance already has a million and one things on its collective to-do list.
- Post FAQs now. With all you and your staffers have to get done, answering the same questions again and again is one task you should be able to skip. So post your policies for getting a replacement W-2 (along with the minimal fee if you charge one) and other key tidbits on your intranet or outside your finance department. Your staffers should have no problem putting together a list based on previous years’ questions.
- Consider bringing in extra help. As many companies hold steady or even cut existing staffers, you may feel that all the more acutely during these last few months of the year. Maybe that means enlisting the help of temps to get staffers over the hump. Another option: Many college students’ winter break coincides with the busiest time of year in Finance — maybe there are some accounting majors who’d like to put in some hours. You’ll want to post that offer on college bulletin boards (electronic or otherwise) ASAP.