How Today’s Tax Season is Different Than Five Years Ago

Practice Management Five Technology

As we enter the latest “technology revolution” and our team holds its strategic planning sessions for tax year 2017, I can’t help but think about how it used to be – “the good old days” of income tax preparation ….

Tax season and preparation have changed since my tax practice started in 2012, and it probably isn’t done yet. We are in the middle of a technological transformation. Technology has changed tax season preparation, software purchasing and even staffing.

My practice in 2012 was much different from my current practice. When preparing for tax season in 2012, my first project was deciding what tax folders we would use. Would I buy the $10 Staples folders or $50 customized folders? We purchased the cheaper ones because I never did see the value in expensive folders. Today, we probably buy one packet of folders for our legacy walk-in clients because 90 percent of our clients’ returns are done electronically.

Another change that we have seen over the years is the type of software we purchase for tax season. Since the beginning of the digital age, most, if not all preparers, have used some type of desktop-based software application. The cost of the software was typically fixed in nature, making it easier to budget the cost of operations. Today, tax software has moved to a subscription-based cloud model. The pricing of the software allows for the flexibility of today’s practice to grow without the limitation of fixed price and fixed return software. We use Intuit® ProConnect™ Tax Online and QuickBooks® Online Accountant.

This pricing model has also led to the flexibility in staffing, which I believe will continue to change due to the way technology has changed how data entry is handled within firms. With OCR and PDF readers, there is less of a demand for data entry personnel; in fact, we no longer have any data entry clerks for tax season. In addition, technology has allowed firms to work remotely. In previous tax seasons, we were stuck in the office all tax season. Today, we “should be” – a poke at older firms who still want everyone in the office – able to work from home or another remote location.

The fact is tax season will never be the same. If the changes in tax law are not enough, technology has become the singular game changer. The ability to adapt to such changes will determine the next major “Firms of the Future.”

Editor’s note: Accounting has changed a lot in the past five years, but what will happen in the next five years? Check out Patti Newcomer’s article “The 2022 Accountant.”

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