Somewhere beneath a garbage heap exists a wasteland of neglected tax organizers abandoned by clients, some of whom never even acknowledged their existence.
Accountants spend money on postage and envelopes hoping to get a measly 10 to 15 percent of them returned, maybe as much as 30 percent if they’re using the online variety.
Should preparers bother trying to convince more clients to fill out these bulky documents that have taken on a reputation comparable to the red-headed stepchildren of tax season or just give up?
Intuit surveyed accountants and clients and discovered some things that might make preparers try harder: Eighty percent of clients forget at least one document when they walk in the door; preparers call each client approximately four times reminding them to turn in said documents and this results in a two-week lag from the initial conversation to the time all the information is in their hands.
The good news? Clients actually want to be reminded about these things. They don’t want to have to think about it on their own and they don’t want to waste their time with followup phone calls, either.
What Intuit is offering this coming season is the ability for accountants to be proactive by sending out these reminders in the form of mini organizers, called Client Checklists, before the client sets foot in their offices.
Current organizers were not designed with the clients’ needs in mind, says Kathy Kirkendall, group manager for Intuit’s ProSeries product. Only about 10 percent of ProSeries customers use the 20- to 30-page tome and they only mail it to about 25 percent of clients, claiming that if they mailed it to everyone it would “shock the living daylights out of them.”
This new tool takes a look at the documents the client provided last season and compiles a one-page list preparers can either mail or email to that client. Intuit’s offering it free to PowerTax, PowerTax Lite and 1040 Unlimited customers this time around, but says it likely will charge for it in the future.
It’s a great concept that could save preparers and their clients tons of time in the form of unnecessary workflow bottlenecks. But realistically, it’s easy enough to do without using Intuit’s product. Sure, it automates everything, which is an ideal scenario, but even non-Intuit customers will save time by compiling handwritten lists to send their clients now as opposed to waiting until their clients inevitably show up short-handed.
An article in this month’s issue of Accounting Technology cites this checklist along with some other innovative ideas for better response rates—from tempting clients who fill them out with a chance to win an iPod to punishing those who don’t complete them by tacking on a fee (see Tax Organizers—Worth the Effort?). But it seems better to make a list and check it twice now, before it’s too late.
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