Do you remember your last tax season or are you doing your best to forget it? Seriously, are you planning on making changes or improvements for next year or are you simply going to leave well enough alone?
When it comes right down to it, virtually all accounting professionals across our country - in firms big and small - have the same ultimate goal each year: to enjoy the ideal tax season.
And what does an ideal tax season look like? It’s where happiness is spread around at all levels. You have happy clients who were delighted with how things were handled. Happy staff who were able to handle their jobs with a minimal amount of stress. And happy partners who are basking in the glory associated with increased revenue and profitability.
Sure, this sounds like a little bit of a Shangri-La. You know, something wonderful but impossible to attain. However, truth be told, an ideal tax season like the one described is in fact possible with the right preparation, planning and perseverance.
Happy clients are great clients
Happy clients are good for business. They pay you promptly, stay on your client roster for a long time and importantly, promote your firm to others which helps you build your business and increase your revenue.
So, how do you make your clients happy during what is your busiest time of the year?
Quite simply, by making their tax filing process as pleasant as it can be, from the moment they send in their slips right until their returns are delivered back to them when signed – right when you promised.
And how do you achieve all this? Let’s count down some of the ways:
- Take steps to ensure that you always have correct client information and make sure you’re able to update what needs to be updated when the need arises. No worries: there’s client onboarding software out there that will help you do all of this.
- Make it as simple as possible to collect client documents and slips and to follow- up with clients when you require other items from them. The right software solutions will make it easy to gather this information, incorporate instructions and changes from last year and even dial in to the CRA to pull in an installment balance. And of course, everything described will be performed accurately and may be easily validated.
- Have the most efficient tax preparation software on-hand, proven industry-leading software that integrates with other applications you’re using to get your workflow running smoothly. And if this software resides in the cloud like CCH iFirm Tax, you’re in even better shape. That’s because your staff will be able to deliver stellar service to your clients even while they are away from your office.
- Be sure to reduce the bottlenecks in your practice to make your preparation process run smoother so that you can deliver client returns on time, every time. Applications like CCH iFirm Practice Manager have a Client Manager feature that allows you to look at the big picture and allocate jobs effectively. Similarly, with Taxprep Dashboard staff are well-managed and senior members of the firm are alerted to any situations that may have an impact on client service.
- Have the right systems in place so that you can access client documents easily and answer client questions quickly, even during tax season. Here, document management software is the answer, because it puts all your important documents in place for easy access.
- Make it easy-as-pie for your clients to exchange information with you without having to worry about security. A client portal is the answer. CCH iFirm Portal makes information exchange incredibly fast – something both you and your clients will really appreciate the closer you get to the April 30th deadline. And you can rest assured that all exchanges occur in a safe and secure environment.
- Have in place, a quick way to file returns electronically so that your clients avoid penalties and promptly get any refunds they are entitled to. And something else clients truly appreciate, is when they are able to sign their returns without having to print them out or need to come into your office to take care of this task. CCH iFirm Digital Signature lets them do this right at their desk – and they can then send the document back to you in a 100% secure environment when you have a portal.
A happy staff is a productive staff
When your staff is happy during tax season, it pays great dividends. They not only work more productively, they are also more likely to stay with you reducing your need to train new employees.
And how can you ensure your staff enjoys a blissful tax season?
- By reducing, if not eliminating, the amount of repetitive data entry tasks your staff needs to perform. You can do this through the use of the latest scanning technology.
- By enabling your tax return preparers to work remotely and outside of regular office hours if needed, thereby promoting a better work/life balance. This may be accomplished by taking advantage of powerful solutions that reside in the cloud, such as CCH iFirm Tax.
- By making your workflow as efficient as it can be, avoiding as many stalls as possible and having an absolutely smooth flow of returns. (Let’s face it, no one enjoys hiccups and the problems that often arise because of them!)
- By centralizing your client information in a document management system, so that it may be easily accessed by your employees, freeing up time for them to perform more value-added tasks.
- By implementing software that makes their lives more efficient such as CCH iFirm Jobs and Billing. This software captures billable hours, meaning that your staff does not have to worry about doing that dreaded task of manually recording time.
- By making it easy for your staff to get the feedback they need, when they need it. Once again, this can be accomplished through the use of the latest practice management software.
- And finally, by ensuring that every member of your staff is trained the same way. Consistency is key to enjoying an efficient tax season - and so is effective preparation. So be sure to train your staff prior to this busy period, on any changes that have been made in your practice since last year. And place all manuals and training reference materials in your document management system.
A profitable firm means happy partners
To most partners, an ideal tax season would be one that involved their firm’s revenue being up and their write-offs down. And here are some ways to get them there, that we would like to share.
- A well-managed workflow is every partners dream. This involves having the ability to oversee all returns (including tracking and reviewing) and stages right down to returns being filed. There’s software that helps partners right from the start, with client interviews and the collecting of information. There’s practice management software that allows partners to assign staff to jobs and make personnel adjustments that are required to tackle ever-changing client needs and demands. And software such as CCH iFirm Jobs and Billing and Taxprep Dashboard, make it possible for partners meet all the deadlines they have set with their clients.
- Your partners want to be able to share important information with their clients in a secure environment, another advantage that they will enjoy through the use of a portal like CCH iFirm Portal. Your partners can also use the portal to send and receive information from their client’s other advisors, such as investment managers and U.S. tax preparers.
- Just like your staff, your partners want to be able to access documents easily – something they will be able to do when your firm employs a document management system. You can even assign access privileges for documents that are only for the eyes of your partners. Less wasted time searching, means more time for building client relationships.