How Your Tax Clients Can Help You Be More Efficient

Client Relationships self-employed

Clients often ask how we can work best together. I work best when I can be more efficient, but that often requires my clients to respect our processes and give me what we need. The more time I work on a return or project, the less efficient I am, so I appreciate when I can work with all of the information available at once.

Here are several ways my clients help speed our workflow.

Life changes. Remember that you may not know the journey your clients took over the last year. For example, you’ve got to know about changes in family dynamics: newborn children, an aging parent or relative who moved in, dependent adult children who are now self sufficient, custody issues, children going to college, separations, and divorces. All of these have significant impacts that need to be considered because they will cause changes to a return.

Have a conversation with your clients to find out what’s changed, and remember that each person claimed on a return has to have a Social Security number or taxpayer identification number. You’ll also need their date of birth.

Paperless strategies. Our office is paperless, we scan and retain everything we need electronically. When clients send me files electronically, they move through my office more efficiently and create less work for us.

Here are some ideas on process improvement:

  • If clients have a large volume of documents, ask them to scan and save them to one zip file if sending via email.
  • If they send files individually, have them name the files with their last and first name, and a brief description of what the document is, such as “1098” or “mortg int.”
  • Most all email systems are limited in the size of the files that they can handle; if you use Intuit® Link, a portal or provide a URL to upload information, ask your clients to use these tools instead of email, and make them aware of file size rejection notices if they do decide to email files.
  • Email is not always secure; protecting sensitive information should be a priority.

In addition, when information can be accessed electronically and imported in to a tax program such as Intuit® ProConnect™ ProSeries®, the chance of incorrect data input is greatly decreased. More time can be sent strategizing a return rather than spending time inputting data.

Major financial changes. Make sure clients tell you about anything that happened financially to them over the past year. Lawsuit settlements, gambling and lottery winnings, and some inheritances can cause additional reporting on a return. Any time property is sold, the closing documents should be provided. If clients had large medical expenses, they may have incurred enough expenses to itemize, and if they had marketplace insurance, they must provide Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, for health coverage benefit amounts.

Working with self-employed business owners. If your clients own a business, have them produce a summary of their income, expenses and receipts, all of which can be provided in QuickBooks® Online.

Other helpful information includes the following:

  • Ask for the total miles they drove their vehicles for the year and the number of miles they drove for business reasons. One of the newest features in QuickBooks Online is a mileage tracker, so check it out and encourage clients to use it.
  • If they work from home, have them give you the square footage of their home office or workspace, and the total square footage of their home. Property tax records are often helpful for this information.
  • They’ll also need to total up their utilities and other home expenses for the year. They may already track this information.

Bottom line? Returns are prepared more efficiently the more you know about your client’s financial picture before you even get started. Be proactive and have conversations throughout the year. Here’s to a more productive season!