There are two words that make any accountant cringe a little: tax season. Tax season is stressful for all accountants, and there’s no way around it. But, there are things that can be done to ease the burden.
QuickBooks Online guru and practice consultant, Andrew Wall, took some time to chat with us on the steps his firm takes before tax season rolls around. Wall, owner of wallcpa.ca, a cloud accounting service for small businesses, says his company’s preparations focus on three areas: people, planning and technology.
The first step accountants should take is looking over their existing client list and determining who’s expected to return and what work they will need done. Once firms have an idea of these expectations, they should ensure that they have received signed RC59’s and T1013s. This will ensure they can leverage the CRA online portal and ProFile’s CRA Data Import, says Wall.
For Wall, his firm’s season includes both personal tax and corporate tax deadlines. Like many accountants, Wall’s largest group of corporate clients has a year-end of December 31. As a result, Wall has T4 and T5 deadlines at the end of February, GST/HST deadlines at the end of March, and Personal Tax deadlines at the end of April.
To handle the busy times, Wall begins planning months in advance and relies heavily on systems, processes and people to prepare for, and manage, his workflow.
There are an endless number of technological solutions out there, but it’s a matter of finding the right one for your company’s needs.
Wall uses a CRM system to handle the company’s emails, helping to automate some of his firm’s marketing and workflow. The software allows Wall and his team to set automated reminders and parameters on when additional emails, phone calls or text message will be sent, based off an initial action. For example, reminders are sent automatically based on date. If a certain email is not opened within a period of time, a text message or phone call can be initiated automatically. If the email is opened and a certain link is clicked, a follow-up email can be triggered automatically. The other benefit is that web forms are automatically populated with client data from the CRM to ensure clients no longer need to enter their information twice.
In reference to clients having to enter information twice, Wall says, “It’s not a big thing, but it is a little annoying. The more we can automate processes using automation, the more we can eliminate the work done by our clients, saving them time and letting us focus on the work that’s important.”
Wall also takes advantage of ProFile’s CRA Data Import feature, which lets accountants automatically pull T4 or T5 information after receiving their client’s approval. Wall stresses the importance of getting signed T1013s in advance to ensure this process goes smoothly. The best thing firms can do before tax season rolls around is gathering authorizations and sending reminders to those who haven’t sent it in, he adds.
Other apps in Wall’s toolkit include:
- Hubdoc: A data collection software that stores financial documents.
- Infusionsoft: A CRM and marketing automation software.
- Sharefile: Fast, secure file sharing customized for your firm.
- RightSignature: A software that allows users to sign online documents.
With all this new technology, it’s important to set it up appropriately. Make sure to do a test run of the tools before opening them up to clients. Set up systems and processes that work well for you and your team.
You should also monitor your current technology assets, such as your computer equipment. Keep a spare one around just in case, says Wall. You never know when one will bite the dust, so it’s best to be prepared. “I can guarantee you something will inevitably go wrong and it’ll go wrong at the worst possible time, so redundancy, redundancy, redundancy,” he says.
While technology goes a long way in staying organized, it doesn’t solve every problem, says Wall. “There’s nothing more important than your staff. Chances are that during tax season they’re going to have a couple late nights and a couple weekends. Make sure they know how much that’s appreciated and pat them on the back when they do a great job.”
Having an idea of the work your firm is expected to handle gives you a chance to staff up, whether it’s temporarily bringing on interns or extra full-time workers to handle the load.
Tax season will always be a hectic time and let’s not kid ourselves – you will be busy. Just know that technology can improve the situation. We recommend you listen to Andrew Wall and take full advantage of apps like ProFile and QuickBooks Online.
We want to hear about what have you done to ramp up for the 2016 tax season. Leave a comment below to let us know.