The Tech Take

Keep your wits about you this tax season

By now, tax practitioners have done all they can to prepare for this year’s tax season. Sometimes it can feel like now, it’s up to the client to do their part so you can do your job. In many ways, you’re right.

Much has been said about small-business owners and individual taxpayers wanting to focus on their own business and life, rather than “accounting” functions — that’s for the accountant! So naturally, it can be a hassle to get clients to provide accurate financials, present documents in a timely and organized fashion, and be efficient in their interaction with their tax preparer.

Below are three ways accountants can help their clients complete a successful tax season together.

1. Get organized

Gone are the days of file folders and cabinets. More and more firms are going paperless, and for good reason. Not only is paper documentation tenuous and insecure, it is also very difficult to search through and refer back to. There are now countless document management solutions, ranging from the simple to the complex, to help accountants keep every piece of paper, whether real or scanned and digitized, organized and in an easily accessible place. Some of these solutions come with scanning abilities so that paper documents can be scanned, converted to PDF or another preferred format, and stored away with every other piece of information pertaining to a client. Most document management solutions come prepackaged with a larger suite of accounting software, or integrate with the major offerings like QuickBooks or Xero.

2. Make it easy for your client

There is no need to rely on e-mail, which can be hard to track when clients send multiple documents at different times, and also unsafe, an easy target for hackers or other types of data compromise. Client portals can be integrated directly into your tax software of choice, and some can also be plugged in directly to your firm website or your e-mail platform, providing clients an easy-to-use link directly inside every e-mail you send them. Portals are far more secure than e-mail, and automatically sort client documents to their specific folder without the tax preparer touching it. They also give your practice an added air of professionality, showing clients a dedicated pathway to transmitting their documents to you, and also showing clients, who are increasingly aware of data security issues, a safer alternative to e-mail.

3. Automate

There is no excuse in 2020 to not have your tax workflow automated. Whether you’re a sole practitioner, a small firm, or a massive operation, tax workflow can help you stay organized once all client information is submitted and you are working on multiple tax filings at once. If you manage a staff, tax workflow software will show you where everyone is in their progress with each client assignment; and for the sole practitioners, it is equally helpful to see where each of your client files stand, with deadlines noted and highlighted by the software, so you make your deadlines.

This tax season, don’t stress. In 2020, there’s no need to. Reach out to peers to see what technology they’re using to make their tax season less challenging, and use resources like Accounting Today, user communities on social media, and the account representative from your software vendors to learn what tools are out there to help you.

Good luck, and we’ll see you on the other side.

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