What to Do if an Employee Quits Suddenly During Tax Season

Published: February 16, 2023
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When an employee quits, on top of handling your regular workload, you’re suddenly responsible for adding their workload to the pile of your other staff members. Or, if you’re a solo practitioner, it’s now up to you to shoulder everything alone. Either way, it’s not a scenario anybody wants to deal with. 

There are many things you should take into consideration if you find yourself losing an employee at tax time, whether they give two weeks’ notice or simply take off without warning. Here, we’ll discuss the steps accountants in this situation should take, as well as the reasons people decide to leave their jobs and why it’s important to understand their motivation for choosing to jump ship. 

Why Do People Quit Their Jobs Suddenly? 

You’ve heard of the Great Resignation. It’s a phenomenon that started in 2020, and it was spurred by the pandemic. People finally had time to think about their career choices, and many of them found themselves dissatisfied with their current job. Studies have shown that the trend has continued through the last three years: In 2021, a staggering 48 million people quit their jobs. Over eight million people left their employers in January and February of 2022 alone. And the Great Resignation shows no sign of letting up anytime soon, which is disconcerting news to employers. Accounting firms have long struggled with retaining and attracting talent, and the Big Quit has only exacerbated the situation.  

So, why do people quit their jobs suddenly? Pew Research did a study and discovered the following are a few of the leading reasons employees quit their jobs: 

  • Their salaries are too low. This is one of two leading reasons people quit their jobs. Pew Research found that 63% of workers surveyed cited this as a factor in their decision. 
  • Their employer offered few or no chances to advance. This is the second leading reason people quit. The same whopping 63% of those who participated in the study said that they were dissatisfied enough with the lack of ability to advance their careers that they decided to look elsewhere for employment. 
  • They didn’t feel respected by their employer. This one might surprise you. Feeling disrespected at work accounted for the reason 57% of the people surveyed chose to quit. 

Childcare issues, a lack of flexibility, and a poor benefits package were also reasons people gave for quitting their jobs. 

Why Should Employers Understand Why Staff Members Quit? 

So, why is it crucial that you figure out why the employee has decided to leave? Simply put, it factors into your ability to attract and retain new talent. As you can see from the Pew Research study, team members don’t just bail for no reason. Something about working at your accounting firm made them decide another employer might be better. And if you don’t take the time to learn what that something is, it will remain a problem and likely continue to be why people choose not to work with you.

4 Things You Should Do When an Employee Quits During the Busy Season 

As quitting becomes more commonplace, it becomes more likely that this situation will happen at your CPA practice. Here are four steps you can take if it does. 

1. Ask them to send all their work files to you and turn in their laptop 

Hopefully, your employee gives two weeks’ notice or at least tells you to your face (even if it’s just over Zoom) that they’re leaving. If you’re working with hardcopy paperwork, you should ask them to send all their client files to you before they go. You can skip this step, though, if you’ve moved to the cloud and have a document management system (DMS). With a DMS, you won’t have to worry that they’re taking important and confidential information with them – it’ll all be stored in the cloud. And you’ll be able to see what’s done and what isn’t so you can organize yourself and prepare for their absence.  

Additionally, if they’re using a laptop your accounting firm gave them, let them know they should delete anything personal from the computer and either turn it in by coming into the office or via mail. Give them a timeframe in which they need to get this done. If they’re mailing it, ask for the tracking number so you can make sure it doesn’t get lost. 

2. Request a letter of resignation and follow the legal requirements expected of you

The last thing you want is for a disgruntled employee to go around telling people you fired them. You can prevent this by asking them for a letter of resignation that clearly states they quit. Badmouthing your accounting firm will only turn possible replacements off from working with you. Additionally, you’re legally required to send them their last paycheck and statement-of-benefits package, among which is information on whether they’re eligible to collect unemployment insurance or not. 

3. See if you can change their minds – at least for the duration of tax season 

When the person tells you they’re quitting, be sure to ask them why. While it’s helpful to learn what went wrong for the future, it might also be something you can fix, at least temporarily. Do they want a hybrid schedule or to work remotely? Are they feeling like they’re not getting respect? Do they need a flexible work schedule to take care of their children or an ailing loved one?  

Depending on how valuable they are to your accounting firm, these are all things that can be altered, if only for the duration of the tax season. Should the reason be low pay, this is something you’ll need to think about. It’s possible to negotiate at least a modest pay raise if losing them would really cripple your accounting practice. Of course, that’s up to you. But fixing whatever is wrong may just be the solution you need to avoid a mess. 

4. Have a backup plan already in place

If you’ve decided to hire temporary employees for tax season, you should have an employee backup plan in place in case somebody leaves you high and dry. This can look like one of two things: Either spend time cross-training your other staff members (if you have them) to prepare them to take over each other’s tasks, or set aside a few resumes from when you originally conducted interviews as potential replacement hires.  

Having a document management system makes it easier to overcome the challenges of employees leaving your firm. Instead of worrying about where they have certain paperwork or where they are in getting paperwork or signatures from clients, you can clearly see it in the DMS. This will help you determine what steps you need to take next to keep things from going off the rails during the busy season.  

To learn more about how SmartVault can work for you, schedule a demo with us today.   


Blog by: Carrie Stemke