Workflows and apps to make tax season easier
Workflow Vertical

Workflows and apps to make tax season easier

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For many accounting and tax professionals, tax season, err, busy season, is synonymous with relentless hours and a nonstop workload. In a normal year, the pressing demands of this period are taxing (pun intended), but with the current staff shortages, this year’s looking even more grueling.

Imagine coupling these intense, traditional tax season pressures with a thinning team. It’s a double-whammy that could cripple the unprepared firm.

But it doesn’t have to. Amid these challenges lies an opportunity. By harnessing the power of automation and streamlined workflows, you can significantly free up your time—making your work life easier.

As the clock ticks closer to tax season, time becomes an increasingly scarce commodity. By implementing efficient processes now, you can make sure you’re well equipped to navigate the imminent whirlwind of demands. Read on to find out how.

Shrinking tax season: The modern approach

“Shrinking” tax season isn’t about doing less work—it’s about changing your processes with services that create capacity (read: time) and enable you to work more efficiently. Automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and other technologies are here to help you. They’re the bridge to a future in which you’re not bogged down by repetitive, mundane tasks and can instead act as more strategic advisors to your clients.

With the right tools, integrations, and workflows in place, tax season could just become another day at the office or at home, as the case may be these days.

Among the ways tech can help free up time at tax season—and year-round, for that matter—are by automating everything from proposals, engagement letters, and scope changes, to invoicing, billing and payments.

Professional proposals, efficient engagements

Start claiming back your time by automating proposals and engagement letters. Platforms such as Ignition take on the tasks for you, eliminating tedious manual document preparation.

You can send out sleek, branded digital proposals in mere minutes, saving you an average of three hours per week creating proposals. Choose a platform that lets you embed your own videos to add a personalized touch.

A way to save more time is with bulk proposal creation. Platforms that include this feature enable you to quickly engage a high volume of clients all at once by creating proposals en masse using a provided or custom proposal template.

You don’t have to stop there. With automation software, you can similarly save time on engagement letters. This should streamline your dispatching, tracking, and signing processes, trimming these down to just a few minutes. This could save you, on average, about three hours a week—that’s a nice chunk of time that you can now spend on more high-value tasks!

What’s more, with today’s automation, you don’t even have to design and create your own documents from scratch. Some platforms come with libraries of industry standard proposal templates and engagement letter templates.

Automated proposals and engagements also mean saving time when changes occur, as they inevitably do for accounting and tax professionals. Scope creep, anyone? Now, when you have a change in the scope of work you’re doing for your clients, there are platforms that allow you to make changes flexibly and transparently. Even after a client has accepted your proposal, you could easily edit active services, such as the description, price, quantity, billing details, and more, with just a few clicks. When you do, the client is automatically notified about what’s changed so you’re always on the same page.

Saving time and streamlining cash flow

Next on your time-reclaiming to-do list? Automating invoicing, billing, and client payments. Your time is invaluable, and you deserve timely payment for your hard work. Every minute chasing payments is a minute wasted. And as we’ve said, these days, efficiency isn’t just a buzzword—for today’s accounting and tax firms, it’s a must-have.

Here, too, technology can do all the heavy lifting for you. Consider asking for an upfront payment so you get paid the minute a client signs your proposal. Giving your clients easy payment options, such as credit card or automated clearing house as part of your proposal, can also ensure that you get paid on time, every time. You won’t have to face awkward money conversations or chase payments. That’s quality time and revenue back in your pocket.

Surviving and thriving, despite staff shortages

As if the tax season crunch wasn’t intense enough, now firms are also grappling with the significant shortage of professionals entering and remaining in the field.

A recent article from The Wall Street Journal reveals a 17% decline in U.S. accountants and auditors over two years. With more than 300,000 leaving their roles and a reduced influx of graduates, the void is palpable. Companies are grappling with open positions, often filling critical roles with less-experienced individuals, thereby increasing the risk of errors.

Of course, despite the shortages, client expectations remain high. How can firms still deliver exceptional service during such lean times? Again, it’s time to look not only at automation, but also at changing your processes.

The current climate further boosts the need for efficiency, especially during tax season. We already know that automation minimizes errors, expedites invoicing, enhances communication, and streamlines data processes. But it’s also necessary to take this a step further, looking inward at how your processes and workflows can better help you stay ahead of the curve.

Dan Gertrudes, CEO and co-founder of GrowthLab, champions a shift in strategy to better manage capacity and, critically, prevent burnout among already-dwindling staff. “As owners, as general managers, we see the impact that the busy season has on many of our team members,” he says. “So we had to figure out a way to improve mental health and identify some of the bottlenecks—why are we seeing what we’re seeing? And it comes down to those peaks and troughs in the tax season.”

Rather than having those spikes and dips in workload, he takes a flatten-the-curve approach, advocating a more consistent workload.

Highlighting the need to challenge the industry’s ingrained status quo of accepting the grueling hours of tax season, he says:,“Why don’t we try to identify the problem and the drivers of the problem? And, understanding the constraints—I can’t change the tax law, I can’t change the compliance deadlines—what can we do to redesign our own processes, our own go-to-market approach to rethink this?”

Dan’s answer is a five-step approach to flattening the curve:

  1. Effectively manage your workflow by setting expectations, being clear and consistent with communications, mapping your processes and standard operating procedures, and looking at metrics.
  2. Delight your customers by always thinking about how you will keep them successful.
  3. Support your tax team by making sure they’re engaged and not ready to walk out the door come April 15.
  4. Prioritize the workflow, such as your engagement agreements process or document management, and eliminating bottlenecks.
  5. Optimize that workflow by understanding the ebb and flow of each process, eliminating activities that don’t add value, using integrations between your software applications, and clearly defining touchpoints in each workflow.

By leveraging automation, strategically redesigning processes, and addressing root problems, accounting and tax professionals can not only navigate these staffing challenges but also emerge stronger, more efficient, and more client-centric.

Where to go from here

Addressing the dual challenge of a demanding tax season and persistent staff shortages demands more than just resilience. It calls for innovation. With all-in-one platforms that help you to get paid faster and run smarter, you’re actively freeing up crucial resources—time and people—to meet client demands and expectations. And you’re also bridging the gap where staff numbers are falling short.

Some firms have already begun shifting gears, streamlining everything from accounts receivable to financial reporting to survive and grow in this shifting landscape. So, with this—the ‘new normal’ of the accounting world—what’s holding you back? Get a front-row seat by watching an Ignition demo today.

Editor’s note: This blog post was co-written with Ignition. I have obtained permission to share it on my website/social media. For the original source of this post, please visit the Ignition blog.

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