As tax season quickly approaches, it’s time to focus on how we can increase productivity by working smarter, not harder. Developing ways to be more efficient may lead to increased revenues.
Tip #1: Assess your procedures. It’s important to do an annual review of your firm’s procedures and determine if there is a better way of operating. With so many technologies available in our profession, we would be naïve to at least not consider new options. I have gone through some major transformations the last five years, all for the better, and although we may think our clients will resist change, I found it to be the exact opposite. My clients – even the older ones – embraced all of the changes I implemented in my firm. I think they realize that the more efficient we are, the better service they get.
Tip #2: Portals are true timesavers. There are lots of technologies available that can make you more efficient, but sometimes it’s the basics that provide the most efficiency! I’m a big believer that one of the best tools available to help streamline and increase efficiency is a portal. I use SmartVault, which has a seamless interface with Intuit® ProConnect™ ProSeries®, and have saved a minimum of five minutes per client. While this may not seem like a lot of time, when you’re in the middle of tax season and have hundreds of returns to work on, five minutes per return can be life saving.
With SmartVault, you have the option to upload tax returns and other documents for your clients to access, and the clients can upload their source documents in their portal. In addition, you have multiple folders split out by year, so each year is maintained separately; this makes it easy for the client and your staff to track all the documentation in the portal. There is also the option to provide clients with a tax organizer through the portal, allowing you to minimize the amount of source documents you must review while preparing the tax return.
Tip #3: Use eSignature. Consider the eSignature option offered with Intuit ProConnect Tax Online, ProSeries and Lacerte®. If you are going to use various technologies to streamline communication between you and your clients, electronic signature is a must-have tool. With eSignature, clients can sign their engagement letter and e-file documents electronically, making life so much simpler. And, who knows? They may even tell all their friends how simple you made the tax preparation process for them. We all know that a satisfied client is the one who will refer new clients to us.
Tip #4: Migrate clients to QuickBooks® Online. QuickBooks Online, and especially QuickBooks Online Accountant, have come a long way with many great enhancements over the last few years. Clients handle the data entry in QuickBooks Online, while I do a monthly or quarterly review in QuickBooks Online Accountant. As a result, I charge a small review fee rather than doing the bookkeeping myself, which tends to be a time-consuming task. Although I make less revenue by charging a review fee, I can do more reviews in the same time it takes me to do a month of bookkeeping for one client. If you’re a ProConnect Tax Online user, there are some great integrations worth considering.
Tip #5: Get a good scanner. Although scanners aren’t new to most tax firms, your machine may be really dated. Consider upgrading to a modern high-end scanner. By scanning all working papers and other important documents, not only will you save storage space, but you can also save the electronic file in a separate folder in the portal that your clients won’t ever see or be able to retrieve. That is another great advantage of using secure portals – saving files you can access from any computer, even when you are not in the office. High-quality scanners are a bit expensive, but they provide great speed and durability compared to lower-end scanners that may not last as long.
Implementing changes for your firm and clients can be difficult; however, implementing some or all of these workflow tips will enhance your operations, and once you work out any kinks you encounter, you will ultimately increase your efficiency and productivity.