By Michael Whiting, Senior Vice President, Dallas Tax Operations
Every year, in-house tax groups and tax service companies grind well into the holiday season with late shifts and weekend hours to get all applicable taxes paid before the dreaded December 31 deadline. But last year, and again this year, that won’t be the case at our Dallas operations center. For us, Christmas comes early—on December 17th to be precise—and by that date our work will be completed.
Roughly 65% of all real estate taxes come due in the 4th quarter, making December the busiest month for procuring, calculating and paying taxes. It is also one of the most stressful times for the staffers responsible for paying the taxes. Based on industry scuttlebutt, last year was a particularly difficult one for many servicers and their tax service vendors. Deadlines were missed and large checks had to be written to cover late payments.
So how are we able avoid the last-minute fire drill? Plan ahead. Stay ahead of the curve. And execute.
At LERETA, we start our Holiday push early to ensure that all applicable taxes are checked, double checked and out the door on December 17th at 5pm. Sounds simple, but the reality of hitting the date and time take a real team effort.
Our planning begins in the summer. We study the lessons of the past tax season, and lay out the game plan for 4Q. We also assemble a “SWAT” team that is ready to assist where needed, for example, payment and check control processing.
Our Dallas center also handles oil and gas clients that present a special challenge. The servicing of Oil and Gas clients is an entirely manual process and covers the payment of thousands of oil and gas bills in December and is managed by a small team of Oil and Gas experts.
In 2020, we introduced the theme of an “early Christmas” which became the rallying cry for our operations team to hit the deadline. And we did. More than 98% of to-be-paid bills were ready by the 17th with the remainder being clients who chose to pay late. However, 100% of all bills were paid by quarter end.
This year’s theme is Everyone Counts. One Team. One Goal. One Win. It is also a big win for our clients because it gives them the comfort of knowing that we’re done well in advance of the end of the year.
That’s why hundreds of smaller in-house tax operations have turned to LERETA before tax season is upon them in 4Q.
My final bit of advice around preparing for 4Q? Establish a unified, achievable goal for the entire team, measure success along the way to demonstrate how you are progressing against your goal, keep the team focused and motivated.
When I ran and trained for marathons, I would focus on the miles that were already behind me as motivation rather than what lay before me. It is important to measure your progress and use it as a motivation for what can be accomplished.
My best wishes for a Merry, Early Christmas and Holiday Season.