Yep, you read that right: tax season is around the corner yet again. It’s always a hectic time of year, and perhaps even more so during these unprecedented times. But fear not — we’re here to keep you grounded and stress-free (or at least less stressed) during this upcoming tax season. Bookmark this blog if you’re a CPA or other accounting professional gearing up for a fast and furious sprint. We’ve included tips and tricks to get you to the finish line. Let’s start now to get ahead and stay ahead over the next couple months.
1. Update Your Information
The 2020 tax season was one for the record books, with changing deadlines, rules, and more brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 2021 will have its own complexities and challenges. As a tax professional, it's important to do your own research on any tax codes that have changed or updated in the past year. If you provide clients with any tax calculators or other client-friendly tax prep features, make sure they are up-to-date!
Clients are looking to you as their expert to keep them informed on what has changed and how they can use that information to get the best refund possible. One way you can go above and beyond and break the status quo is to educate your clients. Maybe this means making short videos that live on social media or your website, explaining any major changes in tax laws from the past year. Maybe it means writing a blog post with a bullet-pointed list outlining some key points that small business owners should be aware of before filing. Whichever way you approach it, this information can prove invaluable to your clients so they can do their prep work. And by doing more, you are sure to earn your clients’ trust and much better prepared files for a less frustrating interaction — not to mention repeat business.
2. Help Your Clients Prepare — Early!
Ah, the dreaded file dump. Some clients may expect they can drop their tax documents on your desk and have you quickly turn around their return. But things don’t work that way! Your practice has a process to avoid all the last minute scramble and unexpected headaches. Start communicating deadlines and expectations with clients ahead of time so everyone is prepared and ready to go when tax season starts to ramp up. For example, you could provide a straightforward checklist of the documents you will need, including Social Security documents, income statements (W-2s and MISC-1099s), tax deduction records, and expense receipts. For business returns, loan information, payroll data, inventory, and income records are also a must. Don’t hesitate to give guidance on how to organize them (but don’t be too pushy… you’re lucky you get what you get, right?). Be honest too — meeting deadlines means a smooth process. Not meeting them? Expect an extension.
3. Help Clients Switch to QuickBooks Hosting
As tax preparation becomes increasingly dependent on online services, you need a reliable solution for your company’s files. By helping clients switch to hosted QuickBooks, you can use a familiar tool while enjoying real-time connection to the tax software as it is hosted in the cloud. Clients will appreciate the ability to collaborate with ease and electronically organize and store documents. Unlike dealing with paper returns, you have unlimited access to files and tax returns from anywhere an internet connection exists delivered by an office-like superior user experience that is more secure than remote desktop services alone. This can improve efficiency for your entire team, allowing you to streamline your business model and even expand your client base, without sacrificing security.
Another tidbit to keep in mind: hosting accounting software helps you collaborate with customers in a steady perennial partnership, instead of being busy in February-April and quiet the rest of the year. Accurate, real-time data allows you to offer additional services, like monthly payroll services as well as strategic advisory services. A CPA.com survey found that accounting firms may be able to increase monthly client revenues by up to 50% by offering services like revenue growth and business modeling, budgeting, and tax planning.
4. Secure Your Client’s Data
Most people today are concerned about data security and the privacy of their most valuable accounting information. Be sure to have security measures in place to keep your client data secure — and be prepared to explain to clients exactly how their files are being stored. We recommend partnering with a hosting solution that safeguards data according to the highest industry standards. By letting clients know their data is being stored by this gold standard of protection, you’re sure to alleviate their stress, as well as your own. With hosting, this added security is often available at a much lower price point than if you were to take on the IT yourself and at a cost often lower than on-premise. Furthermore, hosting allows you to focus on revenue generating activities rather than having to play the role of IT Expert!
5. Prepare and Backup Your Files
To keep your QuickBooks files running at their fastest and finest, we recommend a complete backup with verification. While Swizznet backs-up daily every 30 minutes, we also recommend you backing up at least once per month. This process checks files for errors and keeps systems running quickly— which is always key, but especially so during this busy time of year. Check out our step-by-step guide to backing up your QuickBooks files.
A Final Thought
At the end of the day, no matter how prepared a CPA is, tax season is likely to be crunch time for accounting professionals. The help of the right tools when mixed with the right mindset can help you deliver the kind of experience and value that will keep your clients coming back year after year, and more importantly, month after month.