Definitive Guide to Accounting Practice Management for Tax Pros
Many people who are not tech enthusiasts do not readily embrace new software. In fact, just the thought of innovative and modern upgrades is enough to cause many anxieties.
All of the steps involved in learning an advanced platform, transitioning everything to the cloud and possibly going completely paperless might seem overwhelming due to the innumerable steps.
Despite your hesitation, think of the benefits of practice management:
- Greater efficiency
- Increased productivity
- Added convenience
- Closer customer relationships
- Improved billing/invoicing
- Optimum communication ease
- Increased bottom line
Innovative practice management for accountants will give your firm the edge it needs against the competition.
In this guide, we will explore the ins and outs of automated practice management for tax pros and why you should seriously consider making the transition. You’ll increase your bottom line, create an easier workload, encourage greater team coordination, and improve your client relations – clearly a win/win for everyone involved.
What is Accounting Practice Management Software?
Accounting practice management software improves your firm, so it runs smoothly and boosts communication. The platform is ideal for firms of all sizes. You can effortlessly track time, implement billing, create various projects with handy templates, and delegate tasks. The software helps ensure that projects are completed on time. Your team can collaborate with each other and with clients. The software lets you store and share documents and files effortlessly.
The right software frees you from stress and lets you operate your firm more efficiently and with greater ease. To embrace the digital era, you will want to consider the following criteria before making the software choice:
- Practice size
- Number of clients
How Can Accounting Practice Management Software be Used?
If you start shopping for accounting software, you’ll encounter a wide assortment of management tools that feature lots of bells and whistles. Each one has the potential of assisting your firm with a number of tasks.
You might be tempted to purchase several software packages but too many software tools can actually slow down productivity by throwing a cog in the wheel. Your computer will become burdened with too many tabs and programs. You’ll have a hard time keeping everything straight.
In some cases, you’ll have to reenter different information for each program, which complicates things further.
Instead of buying multiple packages, why not invest in an all-in-one platform? Practice management for tax professionals should provide you with the following:
- Cloud based document management
- Billing and invoicing
- Customer relationship management
- Project management
- Access to necessary templates and other forms
The Tools of Practice Management for Accountants
Once you have identified your accounting firm’s particular needs and made a list of everything then it's time to research your various software options.
Practice management software lets you impact the lives of your clients and increase your practice’s revenue. The software provides a cutting-edge all-in-one management platform.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
You have probably heard of CRM. The software helps you manage relationships with your clients via data and improved interaction. You’ll also gain more leads, and contracts. With CRM, you can perform a variety of generic tasks such as email marketing, contact list creation, billing, document upload, track current and prospective client information, and perform other bulk tasks. CRM’s let you keep track of your client relationships.
Not that long ago, accounting firms would have to have innumerable filing cabinets to keep track of all of their client documents, forms, and more. The sheer office space required to hold such items and the time needed to search for information was overwhelming.
Cloud-based management has freed businesses from the burden of endless reams of paper, overflowing draws, and bulky files. Now you can store all of your firm’s documents in one convenient place - secure cloud storage.
You can grant cloud access to all of your team so everyone can view files when needed at the office, when traveling, or at home. You are no longer chained to your office because you have to have access to your files. Now you can remotely work and have all the information at your fingertips.
Document management software saves you time because you will not need to find, copy, or fax documents. With cloud-based software, you can exchange documents with your team and clients in a secure and quick fashion. You’ll also never have to worry about losing the hard copies because everything is safe in the cloud. The peace of mind is a huge perk.
Around tax time, an accounting firm can become a madhouse with full daily to-do lists. Your desk is probably filled with sticky notes and other scribbled calendar reminders. Maybe you send out emails in an effort to push your team and keep them up to date on the past, current, and upcoming projects. Things can become mind-bogglingly complex and hectic.
Project management software is designed to streamline your project management, so things become less chaotic. Everyone in the office can collaborate on task lists and stay on the same page with activities and tasks.
Depending on the software, you can often see overflow workflow, manage the progress of each project, and identify opportunities for improvement. Accounting firms are always looking for ways to improve their processes so they can better manage deadlines to ensure satisfied clients.
With project management software, you can keep everyone in your firm on the same page.
Billing and Invoicing
Billing and invoicing help ensure that you get paid and can even increase your firm’s cash flow. Of course, you can bill and invoice without software but less efficiently and quickly.
With online invoicing you also get paid sooner. A recent Invoicebus study examined over 500,000 invoices and determined that clients paid online within 11 days of receiving the invoice but it would take them 29 days to pay via traditional billing and invoicing.
Practice Management Tools to Consider
You might want to consider the following practice management tools to help your business function better.
Zoom: Video Conferencing
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoom has emerged as a must-have video conferencing tool that is highly beneficial for remote workers. You can stay connected with both clients and team members. Join Zoom meetings either via video chat or phone. Simply download the app to your phone, tablet, or computer.
Excel is beefier than Google sheets, but with Google Sheets you can share files and documents with both team members and clients. You simply select the permission settings to effortlessly share the documents. You can also view any changes made to the document.
Slack Direct Messages
With Slack, you can directly message your team. The instant messaging platform provides you with numerous pricing options that are affordable. You can use slack for direct messages, to keep your team updated and to share important news.
Social media has become a significant tool to hone your brand’s identity. You can also use it to interact with followers and bring in new clients to grow your business. Hootsuite lets you manage and post on a variety of social media platforms which saves you valuable time. You can schedule social media posts and pick where you want to post such as across all social media or only on one or two.
Determining What’s Best for Your Clients
Choosing new software is not without its challenges, you want to figure out how the software will impact your business and client base. You want to generate reports and deliverables that are understandable and easy-to-follow.
Client Involvement Options
In today’s tech savvy world, many clients want to be involved in the accounting process and have access to timelines, projections, progress, and budget reports. In some cases, they might even request collaboration permission.
You might want to consider software that lets you grant clients access to certain documents that they can understand and find beneficial. Ideally, your software should provide you with cloud and sharing capability.
COVID-19 changed the way that business is carried out around the world. Nowadays, many clients no longer want to have a sit-down meeting with you to work on taxes. Instead, they want to meet with you via video conferences or on the phone.
Clients expect you to rapidly share documents with them if they are working from home, in a different city or even outside the country. Cloud and sharing capabilities such as using a secure client portal will meet those needs. Simply give your clients the necessary permissions to access documents quickly.
When sharing via the cloud, you’ll want secure software that lets you safely collaborate with your clients to ensure satisfaction across the board. With the cloud, you’ll have impressive storage capacity thanks to innumerable hard drives that are housed around the globe at various remote data centers. You can then access all your documents via the internet and data centers.
Benefits of Cloud-Based Practice Management Software
You can migrate your entire accounting business directly onto the cloud or only use a few of the functions. Whichever you prefer, the cloud can free up storage space on your devices so you can store even larger amounts of client data, files, documents, and more. With the cloud, you are never limited to a certain amount of space - instead, you can use as little or as much as you want. Pick a plan that best suits your business needs.
Cloud Based Security
Cyber-attacks are a reality that won’t disappear any time soon. Despite the possibility of an online attack, the cloud remains a fairly safe and secure place to protect the data of your firm and clients. The cloud features very strict security measures and is always being monitored by experts who regularly watch for suspicious activity.
Honestly, the cloud is far more secure for the storage of data than your account firm’s hard drive. Large companies and government agencies such as Samsung, NASA, and Amazon all rely on cloud-based storage.
The cloud is all about improved collaboration. All of your team can utilize the cloud at the same time working on the same documents or different projects. You can also share with clients who are connected via the internet. Collaboration has never been easier.
Cloud-based software not only saves time but also money. There is no cost for storage. You’ll also reduce your monthly budget by saving on paper, pens, ink, and other supplies because you won’t need conventional files. Pay-as-you-go pricing models make things easier for many businesses.
The cloud lets you access information on any device which means all cloud providers have strict regulatory standards to protect their sensitive information and keep client information confidential.
Practice Account Management Software and Client Data Protection
Accounting firms must keep client data secure. As a tax professional, you work with sensitive financial information, so security requirements are always high priority. If you are thinking of practice management for tax professionals, then you’ll want to double check the security measures of the software.
IRS Solutions is not a full practice management software, but you should still consider the following factors when making a choice. We use innovative security to help protect the sensitive data of taxpayers such as using 2-factor authentication when logging in to IRS Solutions Software. All data is hosted through Amazon Web Servers via the Amazon GovCloud which are all located in the United States and have a stricter security protocol than normal servers. SSL and data encryption ensure further security. All passwords are further protected. Unlike other companies, we never sell private or personal information to third parties. The only way to access data is if you grant full permission.
We do not store your IRS e-services username or password for added security. Every time you access an IRS transcript tool you are required to enter your username and password along with a 2-factor authentication code that is sent to your mobile device by the IRS via text message or the IRS2Go app.
If you need to download IRS forms, then you need your client permission prior to carrying out the act. You’ll find check boxes on the Form 2848 (power of attorney) and Form 8821 (tax information authorization) that you must request your client check before accessing any of their transcripts via a third-party service provider such as IRS Solutions Software. Clients and accounting firms appreciate the added layers of security.
Staying Up to Date for Security
As a tax accountant, you want to keep your client’s data safe. In many cases, some old-school accounting firms might drag their feet at implementing any form of practice management software because of security fears and hesitation.
However, staying up to date can help provide peace of mind. Security breaches typically happen when the cybercriminal takes advantage of a company or firm's lax security or lack of knowledge. If you stay current on scam tactics, then you can help further guarantee your firm and client’s safety from a potential scam.
Using the Cloud
The cloud remains a highly secure and cost-effective option for added security for storage and document sharing. Cloud storage providers regularly go the extra mile to protect their servers digitally and physically. However, remember, not all cloud providers are the same. Some place a higher priority on security than others. You’ll want to research the best and ask ample questions.
In the early days of the internet, passwords were relatively simple, but things have changed now. In an effort to ensure added security, passwords should not contain random strings of letters, numbers, and special characters. You should also change them every 90 days for greater security.
The only problem with creating a random string of characters, numbers and letters is that you won’t be able to readily remember the password. You might end up feeling overwhelmed so instead you create passwords that are easy to remember but that means easy to break for a cybercriminal.
Try to make your passwords long and memorable. Go with three or more random and unassociated words. Remember, as a tax accountant, your clients depend on you to keep things safe and secure if you use practice management software, so you’ll want to pay close attention to the passwords that you use.
FAQ: Further Evaluation of Practice Management for Tax Pros
Are you still on the fence about practice management software for tax professionals? It’s not a decision to make lightly, especially if your accounting firm has spent years using traditional methods such as a filing system. Change isn’t without a risk.
You are probably worried about how your team will learn and function with the new software and the acceptance of your long-term client base. You do not want to rock the boat if it is not absolutely necessary, so you will probably want to take additional time to evaluate practice management for tax pros to make sure it fits your firm’s needs.
Let’s explore additional frequently asked questions about practice management for tax pros:
What is accounting practice management?
Accounting practice management software helps your firm function better. Depending on the software, it can provide the absolute basics or offer all of the bells and whistles. You can track work, delegate, and complete everything with greater efficiency and time.
When tax season rolls around, there is a strong focus on tax deadlines. You’ll want to assign all cases to our team members and make sure that everyone can collaborate together in a timely and efficient manner. Account practice management software provides ease of use, and you never have to worry about missing a deadline again. Everyone can stay on the same page and work seamlessly.
How do you create a successful tax practice? (Innovative practice management)
If you are just getting your foot in the door as a tax accountant firm, then you’ll want to make sure you take all of the right steps to create a successful tax practice. Modern technology has never been more state of the art. To stay ahead of the competition, you’ll need to bring your ‘a’ game to play. One of the critical areas to ensure success is picking an easy-to-use all-in-one practice management software.
Here are just a few ways to ensure the success of your tax accounting firm:
- Set goals
- Invest in skilled staff
- Choose practice management software that you trust so your team can work together without hindrances.
- Focus on planning
- Impress your clients and exceed their expectations.
What is Practice Management Software Accounting?
Many people banter about the term ‘practice management software’ for a variety of professionals. However, for accounting and tax professionals, the software basically acts as a ‘back office’ for your entire accounting practice.
It gives you the ability to produce, track, and collaborate more effectively with not only your team but your clients. Forms, proposals, payments, and reporting all become easier processes. You save time and money while providing greater employee and client satisfaction.
Do You Need Practice Management Software?
If you have been functioning for years using traditional methods, then you might wonder if your accounting firm truly needs practice management software. Tax accounting firms are highly competitive. New firms are always emerging which are innovative. To stay ahead of the competition, you’ll want to also remain tech savvy. Practice management software gives you the edge you need so you don’t fall behind.
Why Your Accounting Firm Needs Practice Management for Tax Pros
Tax professionals who want to maintain a competitive edge in the accounting industry need to adopt practice management software or risk being left behind. Many justify avoiding making the transition by stating that their firms are too small. However, regardless of size, why struggle with the hassle of mountains of paperwork, files, and old-fashioned communication methods?
Avoid Losing Clients
Telephone calls and faxes have fallen by the wayside and many clients simply don’t want to deal with such antique communication methods. Nowadays, everything is text messaging, emails, cloud sharing, and more. If you cannot meet the needs of your clients such as Gen X and Gen Z, then your practice will eventually start to suffer as the tech savvy clients seek out more ‘modern’ tax professionals. As time passes, your accounting firm will start to falter and fail as you miss out on the business of the evolving generations.
Time and ROI Losses
Another factor to consider if you are still indecisive about practice management is simple ROI and time. You waste time and time is money if you do not embrace practice management software which has been designed to streamline your workflow.
Reduce Paper Usage
Your accounting firm probably scans everything and prints it up to create various files if you have not transitioned to the cloud and electronic file management. You’ll end up with 10 or 12 versions of various documents all stuffed into a single file. Keeping track of changes becomes overwhelming as you sort through stacks of papers. Yes, the system of paper files has been used for centuries with success, but the high incidences of human error are also prevalent.
People make mistakes - even the best accountants. Maybe you are tired and misfile something or you lose a form. With electronic control, you can quickly run a check to find everything you need at your fingertips. You don’t have to worry about losing important papers which is the critical reason why accounting firms need to go entirely paperless.
The best tax professionals use practice management systems that provide robust tax and account management to keep their team and clients happy. With practice management, all so-called moving parts in the accounting firm are kept in a single, easy to access location. You don’t have to worry about being at home and needing a file.
Everything is at your fingertips wherever you are using a computer, smartphone, or tablet.
- All client and contact information
- Communication scripts
- Financial history
- Tax history
- Time records
- Calendar information
All related information is stored in a centralized location that you can access whenever or wherever you need it! If a client calls you with an urgent question, then you can quickly look up the problem regardless of your physical location.
You can find a document you were working on yesterday, a week ago, a year ago, or five years ago. It’s all within easy access by running a quick search.
Track Contacts Whenever and Wherever
The days of the rolodex are gone for most. Now you simply enter the contact information you want into the practice management system and all of the information stored is presented to you. You also don’t need to enter contact information every year.
Everything is stored so there is no reason to reenter essential information. The management system will automatically insert the latest information or details to keep your client contacts up to date. This comes in handy when you are working with a tax client for multiple years and with various accounting situations. At a glance, you will see all valuable information via saved emails, phone calls, documents, and more.
Stay in the Loop with Collaboration
When COVID19 pandemic hit, the importance of collaboration out of the office became apparent to many businesses. Everyone in the firm can easily access whatever they need to move forward with practice management software regardless of their physical location. It lets everyone work remotely, when necessary, without ever having to worry about missing a communication or file.
Even if all the key players at your accounting firm are out of the office, you can still stay organized and conduct business without missing a beat.
With digital collaboration, the entire team stays up to speed. You don’t have to worry about waiting time. Everyone can view the same documents, calendars, and more.
Imagine shaking the shackles of a brick-and-mortar office. It will feel like you are breaking free. You can work from home or anywhere in the world if you have internet access. Use your computer, tablet, or smartphone.
Automated software designed for accountants and tax pros looking to expand their tax practice is an ideal option for many. Firms require innovative work and communication platforms that offer all of the tools needed to manage client cases, obtain clear instructions from the IRS to easily resolve tax problems and automate the repetitive administrative tasks that take up too much time.
Here are few needed features:
- Document automation
- Letter templates
- Transcript downloads
- Bankruptcy Tax Discharge Date Calculator
- Solution recommendations
- Full reports
- Much more
Whether you are a one-person tax accounting firm or a growing professional practice, the right practice management software can help streamline your business and improve your bottom line.
_Assigned to David Stone_
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