Jorge Olavarrieta, vice president of product management and strategy for Intuit® Accountants, has spent the last 25 years working closely with tax and accounting pros. In his keynote address during the recent Season Readiness virtual conference, he discussed several issues tax pros will face for the upcoming tax season – and how to overcome those issues.
Intuit Accountants: How would you assess this time for tax professionals?
Jorge Olavarrieta: It’s actually hard to believe that the tax season is upon us, on the heels of an extended season and unforeseen challenges. Those challenges wreaked havoc on small businesses and individuals, and forced tax pros to take on new challenges to help clients. Tax pros have also had to reimagine how to deliver services. The changes and adjustments we’ve all had to make are not temporary and will continue to push us to adopt new solutions.
Intuit Accountants: What should tax professionals think about?
There’s also so much uncertainty and anxiety that clients need the assistance of a tax professional’s guidance and expertise now, more than ever. Those professionals are also being asked for help, while dealing with significant changes to how they live their own lives and how they do their work.
Intuit Accountants: What’s the best way tax pros can keep up?
Jorge Olavarrieta: The increased rate of COVID-19 is likely to result in more programs and more funds, especially for small businesses. Tax pros’ clients will look to them for the answers they desperately need. As provisions of the CARES Act expire, and new programs and relief are introduced, it’s imperative that tax pros use timely information to stay ahead.
At Intuit, in addition to COVID-19-related information, our Intuit Tax Pro Center provides information on the latest tax law changes. Our community lets tax pros get answers to questions, with websites and forums, providing the chance to pass on great lessons learned. Our product training sites provide access to live webinars, product training, and self-help videos. Many of our training events also allow tax pros and their employees to earn CPE credits.
Intuit Accountants: What can you tell us about tax clients right now?
Jorge Olavarrieta: As much as COVID-19 has changed the way we communicate, collaborate, and work virtually, many clients are changing expectations of how they want to work with their tax professional. Future clients are often called “digital natives,” and the way they want to work is aligned to the adjustments tax pros had to make this past year. Digital natives have never known a world without today’s technology – constant connection to the web is their day-to-day behavior.
I encourage tax professionals to lean on digital natives who already work for them. And, for tax pros who don’t have digital natives in their firm, hire some! These folks will likely embrace changes and help a firm navigate the new landscape.
Intuit Accountants: So, it’s all about technology?
Jorge Olavarrieta: Not completely, but I tell tax professionals to use today’s technology to reshape how they work. I ask them if they can imagine not using software to do taxes, or doing bookkeeping and accounting on paper ledgers. New tech tools aren’t designed to do the work the way tax pros always did it. Instead, they are designed to simplify how the work is done, leveraging new capabilities. Tax pros should leverage their internal people and more progressive clients to reshape their delivery of services.
Intuit Accountants: You mentioned the importance of the cloud. What kind of impact has it had on the profession?
Jorge Olavarrieta: Thanks to cloud computing and cloud solutions, client data is available in real-time to instantly view, correct, and analyze. Recent events also showed that some tax pros and clients transitioned quickly – and some didn’t. What was the prevailing difference? The cloud.
For example, more than 15,000 firms are using Intuit online tax products, and they’ve told us that their transition was greatly eased by already being in the cloud. We also saw thousands of users onboard to hosting services, and many of those firms said the shift was the key factor that eased many adjustments they had to make. Use of our electronic signature services doubled this past year, and we saw significant growth in the adoption and use of our digital collaboration platform, Intuit Link. Anytime/anywhere has become the new normal for everything tax pros do.
Intuit Accountants: Would you say Intuit embraces these new technologies, and if so, how?
Jorge Olavarrieta: We’re extremely excited about the many improvements we’ve made, including expanded e-file coverage, enhancements to existing capabilities, and new features.
QuickBooks® Online Accountant provides the tools to manage clients, run a practice, and provide direct access and connection to payroll services, billing, and more. Pros can access Intuit Practice Management, powered by Karbon, a solution that integrates with Intuit ProConnect™ Tax, Lacerte® Tax, and ProSeries® Tax.
In addition, we’ve partnered with Right Networks, a leading provider of hosting services, to ensure Lacerte and ProSeries customers can take advantage of remote access benefits.
Intuit Accountants: What do you see in the near future?
Jorge Olavarrieta: Tax and accounting professionals’ businesses are deeply focused and, ultimately, highly dependent on helping clients achieve their goals. At Intuit, we share that goal, and our missions and roles have become more important than ever.