“Embrace innovation and change.” This familiar advice was reiterated recently by Mark Koziel, vice president, Firm Services & Global Alliances for AICPA, in an interview with the Journal of Accountancy. In another response to how firms are preparing to experience significant disruption over the next few years as a combination of factors, Koziel commented, “The firm model is based on a 60-plus-year-old premise, and technology is taking us in completely different directions.”
So, let’s say you want to make the leap and embrace innovation. What’s next?
The needs of your practice will determine how you set priorities for change, and even though each practice is unique with distinct challenges and opportunities, it’s helpful to look at some common scenarios. In each scenario, it’s the need that points to the appropriate change.
Scenario #1: From Paperwork to Paid Work
For this hypothetical practice, tax season means stocking the fax machine with paper daily, spending quite a bit of time scanning documents and stuffing envelopes, and hours creating beautiful tax organizer binders for clients. The main problem is that all of the paperwork takes time, which costs money.
I have two suggestions for anyone in a similar scenario:
- Consider using Intuit® ProConnect™ Link to replace paper organizers and streamline gathering documents from clients. Link is a protected portal designed for tax preparation. It lets you specify exactly the documents you need from a client, lets clients share documents with you from any connected device and then notifies you when all the documents are received. No more scanning and no more faxing.
- Look at eSignature, powered by DocuSign,1 instead of mailing Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization. Request and collect signatures the same day. And, if you use Intuit ProConnect Lacerte®, consider eSignature Plus Payments, which lets you collect client payment and electronic signature at the same time.
Scenario #2: From Sprout to Blossom
This hypothetical practice is newer to the world and would like to grow. They want more clients, and they’re looking to increase their revenue. Here are two suggestions for a practice in a similar situation:
- Consider offering Pay-by-Refund to attract new clients. With Pay-by-Refund, clients who receive a tax refund can pay your fees directly out of their refund. It costs nothing to you, the tax professional, and clients pay only a one-time flat bank fee of $35 per Federal return. Clients appreciate the convenience of having the fees deducted from the refund, rather than having to pay out-of-pocket in advance. You also earn $10 for each incremental Pay-by-Refund federal return, a new source of revenue.2
- Consider Audit Assistance & ID Theft Restoration. IRS audits and identity fraud are on the rise. Provide your clients with an affordable, extra layer of personalized audit assistance and identity restoration support. This is offered by Tax Protection Plus. You also earn $10 for each successfully registered client as of April 30, 2017, another new source of revenue.2
Scenario #3: From Thanks to Wow
This hypothetical practice may have lost clients year-over-year, or heard complaints from clients about the service they provide or the hassle of tax time. The tax pros at this firm know they need to focus on improving the client experience.
Four suggestions for any practice with similar needs:
- Consider offering Pay-by-Refund as an added, optional payment method for clients expecting tax refunds. It never hurts to offer options, and some clients will really appreciate not having to pay fees out-of-pocket in advance, but instead, having them deducted from their tax refund.
- Check out Link instead of paper organizers. Clients don’t like the shoebox any more than you do, and Link offers an easy way to share the required documents electronically from any connected device.
- Investigate, using eSignature, to streamline completion of the return. Clients appreciate being able to sign from their smartphone.
- Look into offering Audit Assistance & ID Theft Restoration. Includes personalized assistance for clients, in case they get audited, as well as affordable ID Theft Restoration assistance clients can use to help restore their own identity.
One Last Piece of Advice: Timing
Once you determine your priorities and which solutions to explore, you still need to actually try them out. When is the best time to make a change in your practice? In his article, “5 Technologies to Adopt in Extension Season,” Jim Buffington, CPA, senior sales leader with Intuit ProConnect, says, “Extension season is the ideal time to test new technologies … before the busy season rolls around.” In other words, now! When January arrives, you’ll be ready.
Learn more about the connectivity tools discussed in this article: