Q1 2013 has been a trying time across the profession. While Mother Nature was wreaking havoc outside, Uncle Sam was throwing curve balls inside with the Fiscal Cliff legislation and the associated delays caused at the IRS. Despite it all, practitioners dug deep to prevail on their clients’ behalf.
As a result of new legislation and a shorter than normal filing window, your firm may be among the many that are experiencing an increased load of extensions this year. Not to mention the added pressures caused by clients that want greater insight and assistance as the nation and world struggles to rebound from economic woes. Take comfort in knowing that your experience and smarts continue to be highly regarded during this critical time. Here’s wishing you the strength to move forward with confidence!
A Fresh New Format for Your Busy Lifestyle
With the added pressures that you face in today’s complex marketplace, PCPS thought this would be the right time to introduce you to a redesigned The Practicing CPA. Your voice has been heard and your feedback was instrumental in shaping its new structure and tone. Don’t worry, it still contains the information and content that you have come to count on to help you grow and manage your practice. So what’s new?
- Power Packed Bite Sized Info
We know you are busier than ever. That’s why you will find more encapsulated information in your own language that’s easier to digest and put to use in your practice.
- Feature Focus Articles
Inside each issue are “Feature Focus” articles that will zoom in on timely issues of importance to practitioners. Here you’ll find key information you need and tips to help you manage and build your practice. See the first Feature Focus below on Harnessing the Power of Your Digital Tax EcoSystem!
- Quotes from Your Peers By Practice Size
CPAs like you will share their best practices, toughest challenges and smartest ideas based on their experiences in each unique firm size segment so you can zero in on those practices similar to yours. These articles will reflect the world as you see it from your vantage point and offer insights that will help you and your colleagues be more successful.
- Tools for Success Spotlight
Part of our mission is to ensure that CPAs are aware of the many resources that are available to them through the AICPA and PCPS. In each issue we will highlight different tools and showcase some of the benefits you may be missing out on. Examples of tools that may re-energize your practice are provided below.
Harnessing the Power of Your Digital Tax EcoSystem
By Roman H. Kepczyk, CPA.CITP
The profession’s transition to a paperless environment has automated processes and improved accuracy. With another busy season under our belts, it’s a good time to evaluate and properly implement the next generation of proven digital solutions. Look at your tax, audit, and administrative production cycles as digital ecosystems that evolve with time just as nature does. Just consider the evolution of the tax return from completing by hand, to external service bureaus, to internal PCs/networks in today’s paperless office.
Let’s take a closer look at key technology transitions that you should consider to optimize your firm’s digital tax production ecosystem.
- Promote Tax Projections
Tax production usually begins with a client tax projection prior to yearend. Top accounting products can produce projections at a Federal and State level either within the program or by exporting data to an external product (i.e. BNA Income Tax Planner). Considering all the tax law confusion this busy season, 2013 may be the year to expand client services by promoting tax projections to more clients.
- Evaluate Digital Organizer Delivery
Fourteen percent of firms* utilized this technology this past busy season. The capability of having your tax program generate a PDF of the organizer and deliver it electronically to clients can save significant costs. Evaluate which integrated portal or linked email process will work with your tax program.
- Help Clients Become Part of the Ecosystem
Contact clients and educate them on receiving digital documents and providing you with digital source documents. Using the portals that are directly integrated with your tax, document management or workflow programs would be the first choice in document exchange, but standalone products such as LeapFile, ShareFile, FileGenius are also working in firms today. Email is another acceptable alternative as long as the communications and attachments are encrypted, using providers such as ZixCorp, Symantec and McAfee.
- Organize Client Data
Once you have the client’s digital data, organize it into firm standards using tools such as CCH/Wolter Kluwer’s FXScan, Thomson Reuters Source Document Scanning, and Copanion Gruntworx. These tools utilize Optical Character Recognition to input data from specific forms (W2, K-1s and 1099s) directly into the return, further standardizing firm processes and minimizing keypunch errors.
- Each of these products has integrated digital annotation tools such as PDFlyer, Tic Tie & Calculate, and XCM’s Toolbar allowing CPAs to markup, highlight, and take notes.
- The latest versions of Adobe have bookmarking and an external calculator such as Moffsoft.
- When utilized on multiple screens, CPAs can effectively transition the entire production of the tax return onscreen. Sixty three percent of firms* utilize more than two traditional screens, meaning that firms now use triple, quadruple, or newer dual oversize screens.
- Manage Workflow
Digital workflow tools such as Xpitax XCM, Thomson Reuters FirmFlow, CCH/Wolter Kluwer’s Workstream, and Doc-It’s workflow tool track the status of projects, monitor due dates, and provide direct links to source documents to streamline productivity. Digital workflow tools have the potential to generate the most significant impact in improving firm productivity as you transition to a digital ecosystem.
- Move to Digital Client Delivery
The final aspect of the digital tax ecosystem is to securely deliver the return, filing instructions, e-file authorizations, and invoice, to the client digitally. Providing an invoice as a separate document with the return will improve collections and transition the client to digital acceptance, saving mailing costs. Some firms have also tied payment systems to their websites or provide a secure Internet link to make it easy for clients to make payments.
Take the opportunity to evaluate your current tax ecosystem and develop plans for implementing digital systems that will improve production processes and interactions with clients.
*Association for Accounting Administration 2013 Benchmarking Paperless Office Practices Survey.
Roman H. Kepczyk, CPA.CITP is Director of Consulting for Xcentric