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Tax time is tough, especially for an accountant

Man sneezing on woman in office environment
Zachary Scott | Getty Umages

Accountants work so hard around this time of year that they're literally making themselves sick.

That's the conclusion of data from Replicon, a company that makes time sheet and expense-management software.

Sick days taken in accounting departments spike in March, more than any other month of the year, the data show. Employees in accounting departments took an average of 17 hours of sick time the last two Marches, which is the busy season for tax preparation.

That's compared to an average around 11 hours other months of the year.

"Tax season is a very stressful time," said Sunil Rajaraman, senior vice president at Replicon. "They know not to take time off, but they're working themselves to the bone."

Remember, these are corporate accountants so their tax calendars are different that for for personal income taxes. For companies whose fiscal years end on Dec. 31, taxes are due on March 15, rather than the April 15 deadline for individual income taxes.

A lot of companies file six-month extensions, but they still have to file estimates of income and the extension paperwork itself, which can mean extra work in the accounting department.

It's no vacation

Several accountants told CNBC.com it was very hard to get vacation time approved by their bosses in March, so they had to resort to using sick days. March is the least likely month for an accountant to get paid time off. On average, 44 percent of accounting professionals take any non-sick time in March, compared to an average of 54 percent the other months of the year.

Employees in other corporate departments — Replicon looked at human resources, marketing and sales — were unlikely to take paid time off in March, but time off for sickness was average. Managers need to be aware of their employees' busy seasons to manage effectively. And it's most likely not just accountants.

"There are other industries that have peak seasons," Rajaraman said."I would imagine if we dig into this for retail, we might see the same thing in December."

There are 1.3 million accountants and auditors in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The occupation has a good outlook too, and is projected to grow by 11 percent in the next decade.

For the accounting potion of the analysis, Replicon looked at sick time submitted by a total of 614 employees in the accounting departments of 74 companies by month over the past two calendar years. The private company declined to offer their total number of client companies.