It’s been more than three decades since the personal computer and a variety of software became mainstream tools in a tax and accounting professional’s office. Since then, the hardware and software used to serve clients have evolved greatly, yielding tremendous value and fundamentally changing how accounting professionals work. Efficiency gains, improved usability, and even data and system integrations enabled firms to serve their clients’ tax needs faster, more accurately and at a lower cost.
Today, we find ourselves in the midst of a platform shift that will once again impact our profession in ways we can scarcely imagine. Cloud solutions are becoming increasingly available, and the benefits they provide are unlike anything we have seen in the past.
When most people hear the terms web-based, cloud or SaaS, the obvious benefits that come to mind include anytime/anywhere access, lower hardware and IT costs, and maybe even automatic data backup. All of these benefits are indeed valuable, but the more impactful benefits are sometimes less obvious. Open platforms, connected applications, software intelligence and the power of data will fundamentally reshape the industry.
These benefits aren’t out in the future; they are here, today, and Intuit® ProConnect™ Tax Online is leading the way.
Application Integration Drives Increased Efficiency
Software providers have focused on integration over the past two decades. Discrete products, built to solve specific jobs, were brought together through data integration. However, the future is not about separate products that play well with each other; it is about platform solutions that are truly part of a single ecosystem. ProConnect Tax Online is the only tax solution built to operate within a broader platform, the QuickBooks® Online Accountant platform. Within this platform, tax and accounting professionals hack a single place where they can do all of their work, be it accounting, tax, payroll, collaboration with clients, document storage and management, billing and payments, or using third-party applications to complete specific tasks. There is no new software to learn, or multiple applications to install and manage; there is simply a collection of capabilities that will drive levels of efficiency that were not possible in the past.
Intuit Link Integration Simplifies Data Collection and Entry
ProConnect Tax Online was developed to help simplify tax preparation. Last tax season, the ProConnect Tax Online team focused its attention on driving efficiency in two areas that collectively make up two-thirds of the time spent serving the taxpayers’ tax filing needs: data collection and data entry. Through the integration of Intuit Link, ProConnect Tax Online users can now collaborate with their clients through a digital portal that not only provides a seamless experience for taxpayers, but also eliminates the need for the accountant to manually enter data. With more than 1,200 connections to financial institutions, and with data capture technology that extracts data from pictures or documents uploaded by clients, accountants who used Link were able to complete tax returns 40 percent faster than those who did not – and for tax year 2016, the tax professional will be able to import information from 10 of the most often used tax documents. Eliminating the drudgery of data collection and data entry frees up valuable time that can be reallocated to providing higher value client services, or simply enjoying more time with family.
The Power of Data Enables Software Intelligence
Finally, we will touch on software intelligence. Many of the products that exist in the market today are tools that rely on the user to complete the task at hand. ProConnect Tax Online does much more than that. Today, we proactively use the data in the system to alert the accountant when tasks were completed, provide surface information to help them know what to work on next, and even help them see the progress their clients are making in getting documents and data to them.
This is just the beginning of the software intelligence we are building into ProConnect Tax Online. The days of manually creating tax planning scenarios to help optimize the taxpayer’s tax liability will soon be eliminated. Instead, the system, itself, will be able to generate multiple scenarios for accountants to review and adjust with their expertise. The system can also learn usage patterns and behaviors of its users, presenting relevant content and assistance, when needed. Ultimately, the cloud has unchained data and usage patterns from the desktop, and perhaps more than anything, this is where the biggest value could come from in the future.
Editor’s note: For more on the future of accounting, read “Step into the Future of Accounting: Insights From QuickBooks® Connect” by CeCe Morken, executive vice president and general manager of Intuit ProConnect.