This question was posed to the speakers of the Innovation Roundtable keynote at the 2018 Boomer Technologies Circles Summit event. L. Gary Boomer's response, "TaxCaddy."
Best technological invention in the last 6 months? @lgboomer = Tax Caddy, @sandrawiley = retractable cables and iWatch recharge traveling station, @CPATechGeek = Air Fly Ear Buds and @jimboomer = Thin 6 Dart is a portable charger for you laptop. #BTCSummit2018— Deanna Perkins (@DeannaLPerkins) August 14, 2018
Firm leaders often talk about changing their business model to be ready for the future, but there are usually few specifics. They may talk about value billing, new service lines and technology, but only rarely do they connect the dots. All too often, firms get caught in the trap of thinking they have already done or tried everything. Or they tell themselves, “But our profits are at all-time levels.”
In the video webinar below, we discuss how alternative solutions have failed to gain significant adoption because they haven’t been designed with the taxpayer’s needs in mind. Following the TaxCaddy demonstration we spoke with Gary and Jim Boomer, who used TaxCaddy with their CPAs last tax season. We talked to Gary and Jim about their experiences from the taxpayer perspective.-L. Gary Boomer, Visionary & Strategist, Boomer Consulting, Inc.
The following is an article by Boomer Consulting on the "5 Areas of Focus for Firm Transformation", by Arianna Campbell, Director for Boomer Consulting, Inc..
By now, firms know they need to change. The question now is HOW? As firm leaders read articles, attend conferences and talk to peers, it seems they are looking or hoping for the solution that will magically transform their firm. Unfortunately, there is no magic solution. However, you can take steps to determine the right course of action for your firm. As with any other tough project, you need to make a plan and do the work.
If you’ve been waiting for others to figure it out so you can follow what they’ve done, its time to stop playing follow the leader and start taking action. Everyone is going through the same process, but you need to identify the strategies that are right for your firm. You’ll take parts of what you learn from different sources to develop a plan that works for you.
It all starts with a vision and a strategic plan built to support the firm’s three- to five-year vision. Both need to be in writing. If your firm’s leadership can’t take the time to consider the firm’s direction, you may end up in a place where you won’t want to be. Only after developing your vision and documenting your strategic plan can you determine which steps to take next.
Transforming your firm requires an integrated approach. Your efforts will fail if you focus on only one area. With that in mind, here are the five areas of focus for charting the course of your firm’s transformation as well as questions to consider while creating your plan of action.
Do you have a written IT strategic plan as part of your vision? Too often, firms have an IT budget but not a plan. Budgets are of course necessary, but the value of an IT plan comes from the planning process and getting your firm to think differently about the future, be innovative and transformative. An outside facilitator for the planning process can significantly accelerate the process and ensure a focus on strategy and innovation rather than tactics.
How are you incorporating emerging technologies into your short- and long-term plan? What emerging technologies should you be implementing now? Which should be on your radar for the near future? These questions are the beginning of your IT strategic plan. As a first step, it is important to demystify emerging technologies with education and awareness and then determine how these can become tools to accelerate positive results in your firm. If there is a person in your firm who is interested in this area, he or she could be an asset when it comes to research and training others.
Are you leveraging your existing technology? It is essential to take the time to make sure that you are getting the most out of the technology you’ve already invested in. When we work with firms, we often discover that in addition to new technologies to explore, there are functions and features of their existing technology they can leverage. Consider an IT assessment to evaluate your use of technology and areas of opportunity. Connect with your solution provider to make sure that you are taking advantage of enhancements and staying up to date.
Are you continuously evaluating your processes to ensure they are effective? A common stumbling block is when old processes are used with new technology. Processes need to keep up with changing dynamics and applications.
Are you focused on just efficiency or on overall process effectiveness? Optimal processes are ones that are consistent, efficient and provide a high level of quality and profitability. Make sure you aren’t just speeding up tasks that don’t produce quality work or provide value to your clients.
Are you evaluating processes in all areas of your firm? Tax and audit are obvious areas to work on improving process effectiveness, but don’t stop there. Look at your processes for billing, client onboarding, new hire onboarding, business development, consulting services, etc.
What kind of skills will be needed in your firm within the next three to five years? It’s no longer enough to rely on technical skills alone. The skills to continue to push your firm forward include the ability to share vision, think big, build teams, make tough decisions, focus on the big picture, take risks, delegate effectively, give and receive trust, motivate others, develop business, and hold themselves and others accountable.
Are you going to develop talent in the firm, hire new talent or both? These skills don’t always come naturally, but you can help foster them in your people by getting them involved in committees, client relationships and a forward-thinking peer community.
What is the timeline for training and what resources will be used? Our profession associates training with CPE, but in today’s environment, training needs to be much broader in scope. You will need to invest time and money into conducting needs assessments, developing curriculums and classes, identifying resources, conducting training and measuring results.
How will these changes impact leadership? Transformation requires strong leaders who can provide courage, commitment, capability and confidence.
Is leadership on the sale page with the direction? Firm leaders need to see the need for transformation far in advance of when they can prove it to those who are happy with the status quo.
What new leadership needs to be developed and how are you doing this? Too often, current firm leaders complain that younger generations aren’t interested in becoming a partner. The problem isn’t a lack of motivation or ambition. It’s that they can’t picture their future in a firm that isn’t transforming to remain relevant. Create a vision for your firm, and you’ll find the next generation will have a strong desire to be a part of its long-term success.
What kind of growth? Growth can be organic or from mergers and acquisitions. Many firms are doing both. Either way, it requires a commitment to people, planning and processes.
What niches are you developing? As technology and process create capacity in your firm, don’t simply fill the space with more of the same. Use that capacity to develop niche areas that can help differentiate your firm from the competition.
Who is leading business development and what is the process? As your firm starts focusing on providing a wider range of services to clients, client service will become a team sport. It’s a good idea to have one person in charge of business development efforts, who can focus on the big picture, ensure leads are moving forward and pull in the right people at the right time.
There is no magic solution to firm transformation, but you don’t have to find the answers alone. Look for opportunities to learn from peers and solution providers. We are always happy to help or point you in the right direction to build your plan for how to ensure your firm’s continued success in all of these five areas and answer not just WHAT needs to happen, but also help with the HOW to make that happen with each step along the way.
There are two problems with all the paper that used to be involved with tax preparation: knowing where any given piece of it may be at any given point in the process, and knowing where to store it all when the process is over. These are two of the chief reasons firms turn to tax workflow software.
But when they do, they tend to find efficiencies that they didn’t know they could access, enabling them to grow service lines or spend much more quality time with clients — thereby providing better tax work. Here are two firms’ experiences with their tax workflow software.
“The partner finds the review tool to be extremely helpful,” Davis said. “He knows what documents he’s looked at, what he’s reviewed, and he can easily write notes asking questions of the client or the staff.”-Tina Davis, Tax Manager, Strategis CPAs & Consultants
Firm: Strategis CPAs & Consultants
Staff users: 7
Start date: 2011 tax season
Cost: Non-1040 binders — $4 each, 1040 organized binders — $6 each
On record: Tax Manager Tina Davis
Objective: SurePrep was recommended to Strategis by Rootworks, a professional community of which the firm is part. At the time, Strategis had no workpaper organization, and its goal was to create a paperless workflow.
Implementation: “At the time, SurePrep was a desktop software,” Davis said. “A couple years later, it went completely online. We just had to install the software, and we set up custom binders for our non-individual clients.” (“Binder” is the term SurePrep uses for its virtual folders of multiple documents related to one client.)
Davis also described how the firm was able to create custom templates in SurePrep for particular client returns.
Advantages: “One of the best things we’ve found is [SurePrep] enables us to create tax documents that we then provide back to clients in a PDF format that’s bookmarked and easy to search,” Davis said. “We then put that in their portal so they have it forever.”
Staff can also create PDF workpapers, so in the event that a user doesn’t want to log in to the software, they can still access the documents outside SurePrep.
“The partner finds the review tool to be extremely helpful,” Davis said. “He knows what documents he’s looked at, what he’s reviewed, and he can easily write notes asking questions of the client or the staff.”
Users can also use an in-software calculator to perform computations right on a workpaper, and write virtual sticky notes. “It helps keep very good track of what was done on a tax return.”
Challenges: Strategis experimented with various tiers of SurePrep before finding the level that works for them.
“We’ve tried the 1040 scan where it populates into the tax return,” Davis said. “Not that it doesn’t do a good job, but our processes almost duplicate it. We’ve not had the competence in it to allow us to go full-out on that.”
Strategis has also tried SurePrep’s service of providing outsourced verification of information, called ScanVerify; however, the firm found that because their staff knew the clients best, they preferred to retain control of information verification themselves.
“ScanVerify worked well, but the cost benefit was not there for us,” Davis said. “It would be a great option for high volume.”
Firm growth: “SurePrep has helped us to achieve efficiencies that I don’t think we would have found without a similar software,” Davis said. “It enables us to remove paper and clutter so we can focus more on content, instead of shuffling things around. It’s an efficiency tool.”
The prevalence and pace of technological advances can make the future a moving target for businesses and their owners. Successfully adapting and keeping up with these changes is a challenge facing many industries and the tax profession is no exception.
Host Damien Martin sits down with guest Dave Wyle to discuss advances affecting taxpayers and tax professionals, the skills needed to navigate the changes they bring about and ways to keep up with it all.
• Dave’s story and how it led him to develop accounting-related technology solutions @ 2:04
• How technology has advanced since Dave began working in the accounting industry @ 4:40
• Tax professionals should be excited about advances in technology @ 8:03
• Ways to keep up with changes in technology @ 10:52
• Advice for taxpayers on working with tax professionals that use technology @ 13:02
• The skills Dave has used to develop innovative solutions and manage change @ 16:18
• Predictions on technological advances over the next five years @ 20:44
• Dave’s advice to Damien on parenting @ 24:56
David Wyle is the president and CEO of SurePrep, a provider of tax productivity solutions to U.S. public accounting firms. Prior to founding SurePrep, Mr. Wyle founded and was CEO of ePace! Software, creator of the industry-leading paperless engagement program that was rebranded as ProSystem fx Engagement after it was purchased by CCH Incorporated in 2001. Prior to founding ePace! Software, Mr. Wyle was a CPA with the accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand.
Dave: So I started in the industry as a preparer. I was with Coopers and Lybrand. I started out on the audit because you need to start out in the audit in California and then I went to tax and I became a tax senior. So I prepared the returns and I put together the work papers with tape and staples and red pencils and blue pencils, kind of the old classic style. And I thought you know there's got to be better way to do this.
Damien: Like tape the actual tape from the ten key to the workpaper?
Dave: Oh yeah. Put the page reinforcers for the echo clips yeah. Exactly yeah. Even tape the eight-and-a-half by eleven page to the eleven-by-fourteen workpaper.
Damien: Well clearly because then you could have it the right direction. It’s perfect.
Dave: Exactly. So I remember thinking I feel like I'm in kindergarten cutting and pasting, literally using these types of devices. At that point I had the vision for a paperless audit package because I just come from the audit practice and I created IPE software which had the product base engagement and that was a paperless audit package that eliminated carrying around an audit trunk. And it was also for any type of trial balance-based engagements so that included business tax returns or tax provisions where you're importing trial balances and needing to have those trial balance accounts coded to different line items and then flowing to work papers. And so I sold that to CCH in 2001. In 2002, I started SurePrep and you know in some ways a dog only has so many tricks. So I went from paperless audit to paperless tax.
Damien: From accountants out there, everybody's kind of touched some shape of form of this process. That was such a big change in a part of that process, but you really just went from, “this doesn't make sense” to “let's find a better way to do it.”
Dave: Yeah I guess in a way I got out of public accounting fairly quickly. I was only there for about two and a half years, but public accounting has basically defined my life because all the technology I've worked on has been about improving processes and providing automation to public accounting firms.
Damien: When you made that switch over to tax what's that process been like? Obviously, some of the technologies have even advanced since that point in time even when you started, I would imagine. How has that process looked and what has that meant?
Dave: I mean it's just really gone forward tremendously. Back then there was no idea of a paperless tax without scanning documents. Sharing is hard. Collaborating is hard. Automation is hard because you can't use OCR to extract data from documents. So it's really gone through a complete transformation and it and we're seeing that continue.
Dave: So some of the new things that are out there that are exciting, we talked earlier about the fact that how so many PDFs now that people are getting aren't scanned they're the original PDFs and the ability to extract the data directly from the file and know that it's a hundred percent accurate without worrying about any type of OCR errors. So complete document automation without any errors, without any time to review or verify, that's something that's coming down the line.
Dave: And I guess the bigger trend is the time that people are spending or used to spend gathering documents and organizing documents and inputting documents. That's getting replaced by software that connects clients with their CPA. Software that helps clients gather documents either automatically or more conveniently and have those documents streamed to their CPA and giving their CPA the tools to automate the organization and entry of those documents.
Dave: And then taking it further down the chain to the reviewer, giving the reviewer tools to be able to quickly know if they've looked at this before or not and show what's new so I don't have to re-review the whole file. The ability to collaborate between offices is something that's been happening for a while, but the ability to better collaborate with clients is something that's growing now in technology.
Dave: And then, of course people have heard about the term API’s: Application Programming Interfaces. An API for anyone who's not familiar with it is a way that a software program can use another software program rather than a person using the software program. So if right now a person needs to go to a software program and print a tax return and downloaded and upload it into a document management system, an API could be programmed to automatically print that based on a trigger like how a return preparation process goes into a certain status, it can print the return and automatically put it in the document management system.
Dave: So APIs are allowing people to connect multiple third-party applications. You use GoSystem for tax and maybe SharePoint for your document management system, SurePrep for your tax document automation and TaxCaddy with your clients. So you get multiple systems and you can tie them all together, or connect the dots as we say. That now that's a very new emerging field where you can totally streamline workflow and take out all of those manual steps in between by connecting third-party systems through APIs so that you don't have manual steps and moving data or files from one system to another.
Damien: Coming into the profession, what's that gonna mean? If I’m like you were in the beginning, in the first couple years of the profession, it's gonna look and feel different with all these technologies. Is that something that should be concerning? Exciting? What's your take?
Dave: I think it's exciting because once again I go back to sitting at my desk at Coopers and Lybrand to now not even being the one to do the initial organization or entry of documents. A preparer can almost jump right into a role of reviewing data and just making sure it's in the right place and that it's flowing to the right area, but not having to do the actual input.
Dave: So it actually raises the level of their job to a higher level than otherwise it would be and it places an emphasis on other types of tasks. Tax is known for drudgery with a lot of data input and stuff like that. Technology alleviates that and allows professionals to focus on softer skills: working with clients, understanding their clients’ business, searching for opportunities. I think that that's a more rewarding path and I think it means that tax professionals either, young or new, in order to accomplish that have to embrace technology.
Dave: There's a mindset that's involved. If you want to be a successful tax professional, you need a mindset that embraces technology and a skill, which is good in any industry, which is to manage change and project management so that when we know that there's a new technology that will benefit us, how do we implement it? How do we gain acceptance from the firm? That skill’s gonna do you good no matter what you do. But it's important in taxes as well, otherwise you're gonna be stuck doing things one way forever and you won't progress.
Damien: You know it's interesting as talk about as an addition to the team. I was listening to a podcast from Adam Grant and he's talking about this forum they were talking about ways to maybe make artificial intelligence and some of these technologies feel like a part of the team and welcomed and more inviting. They're joking around calling it Sally or something. I think that's almost what you're saying is we'll take some of that data input stuff and have Sally take care of that, then you can focus on some of the higher value stuff.
Dave: That's a great idea. Right now people are saying, “send it to SurePrep,” but maybe we need some more inviting name like Sally. I’ll have to think about that but that's it that's a good one, yeah.
Damien: When I thought about that even just with the process, it sounds like it's really embracing all the tools in the toolbelt to kind of use them and compile them in different ways. How do you go about those things if you're somebody ten years in their career? How are you able to keep track of all these things that are changing? Because in change management things are moving pretty quickly. How do you do it?
Dave: Yeah you know you have to do the research and then be open to change. On this concept of change, there's really no way to avoid it because either you're going to manage the change or the change is gonna manage you.
Dave: And what I mean by that is this. Let's take a look at one of our products which is TaxCaddy. TaxCaddy is something that CPA firms can have their clients use and it helps the client gather documents more easily. It gives a great app for taking pictures of documents, the picture gets taken as a PDF that can be OCR’d. It will automatically retrieve documents from bank and brokerage firms, it gives a list of just the documents you need and you can upload it from a Dropbox account.
Dave: So it gives multiple intakes that then flow into a streamlined system for the CPA firm. They don't have to download those documents from somewhere else and upload them to SurePrep. It creates a streamlined workflow. Now let's say you don't do that. Well your clients are going to still be sending you documents using technology. They're gonna be taking pictures and emailing you a 20 megabyte picture of their w-2 that you need to do something with as an attachment to your email, right?
Damien: I may have been there. I may have experienced that.
Dave: Right, or they're gonna send you a link to their Dropbox or Google Drive account and ask you to download their documents. They might email you documents. They're gonna be much more liable to do that than to use a document management system you ask them to use. They're much more liable to just send it to you in whatever way is most convenient to them.
Dave: And now you're gonna be stuck with documents coming in through all these different channels and having to download from someone's Dropbox account. So you're gonna be brought into the new technology world whether you like it or not. The question is are you going to be using it in such a way that it crafts an efficient workflow for you? So there's really no way to avoid it. Are you gonna be in control of it and make sure that you create something that's streamlined for you?
Damien: What would you say to taxpayers in terms of working with professionals that are maybe leveraging some of these advantages and technology and embracing them rather than waiting for them to come to them?
Dave: I would say that for taxpayers who want to work with a CPA in a modern fashion like how they might work with any modern financial institution, where they have an app, where they can go on and see what's requested of them, and take pictures of documents like you might take a picture of a check to deposit a check, take pictures of documents to deliver them, sign an engagement letter or an e-file authorization online and on your phone by putting your thumb on it on your iPhone and signing it that way… For taxpayers who that sounds appealing to, guess what? You're in luck. This technology now exists and will make your life easier.
Dave: Of course, there's gonna be a variety of… one example I use a lot is this. You can deposit a check with your iPhone or Android app and it's super convenient. But not everybody does that. You can still mail, you can still fill out a deposit slip and mail it in with a check, you can still go to the branch during lunch and wait in line until you get to the teller and deposit the check there.
Dave: They haven't taken away those avenues. So you'll still need to cater to a few different ways that taxpayers like to work. But once again to bring in that example of banks, banks now are so much smaller. You don't have those huge banks anymore that have 20 teller windows. What you have is a lot more banks in terms of locations, each one a lot smaller and that's all because of the app.
Dave: So they still provide a way to service people the old-fashioned way, but it's really reduced the size of the offices and allowed them to have them in more places. And they can still service people that have preference to do the deposit on paper or in person. So you have a lot of that. Some people want to come into the office to get their taxes done, some people just want to mail in all of their paper documents, but some people want to work digitally.
Dave: I think a firm needs to cater to all three of those, but that portion that does it digitally is growing and the other two are shrinking. One of the things I hear all the time is “We have some older clients but we have a hard time keeping their kids because their kids see us as not a technologically progressive firm.” I've heard firm saying that offering things like TaxCaddy helps keep subsequent generations as clients of the firm.
Damien: You know it's funny. Even just from this past weekend I have young kids and I had a check to deposit. I decided rather than to do the scanning thing, I thought it would be kind of neat to take the kids and show them where money comes from and where they keep it. It was one of those really big branches and it's closing in a month for that reason, right? They just don't need that real estate, they can open up the new smaller one down the street. Like you said the world's changing and we need to be aware of that.
Damien: Now you know you talked about how you started off on the audit side, creating a platform for paperless there in automation. Same thing on the tax side. So there's something to you and the skillset that you have. So if you were going to name a skill or two, something that you focused on for yourself personally in your career that's allowed you to change and keep up with change, what would you say that it is?
Dave: You know I think that from my standpoint I like solving problems. To me when I see the inefficiencies, I automatically think, “How could we make it better? How can we solve it?” And I enjoy selling other people on the concept and I enjoy having people say that, “Oh gee this was good I really like it.”
Dave: And so that's where I get my enjoyment from. When I walk into a firm and I see our software up on the screen or I see someone write a testimonial that says, “This was great. It made tax season easier” I like that,” So those were the things that motivated me to take this path and I think that everyone has to find the things that interest them and motivate them because then you'll be good at them.
Damien: And I think even too, obviously you've managed to balance and create and build and to do and to also work on the business as a business owner. Is there any advice on doing that? Because what immediately struck me about just working with you is that you're in it, but you’re thinking about it. You're on both sides. How do you balance those things?
Dave: Well the most important thing is to build a team. I know that sounds cliché, but there's a saying that I have which is that the easiest way to do something right is to do it yourself. The hardest way to do something right is to get someone else to do it for you. That is for me the most important saying in business. If you do everything yourself then, there's no growth. There's no way for you to grow. And if you get other people to do it for you that's how you build an organization, that's how you build a business, and that's how you free yourself up to go on to the next thing, to take on the next project to look at something new or look at improving something. When I was young and I started my first business when I was 24 years old, E-Pace, I thought that maybe being an entrepreneur and a businessman was about having great ideas. But growing a bigger business now, I've really realized it's about getting people and having them be able to become productive for you so that you can then do something else and get more people.
Dave: Now in taxes, audits or accounting firms in general, it's really not a whole lot different. If I'm a tax partner and I do all my own work, then I'm limited to my own time and I'll never grow. Is it harder to bring on a junior preparer and get the same quality product as if I prepared it myself and I'm a 20-year veteran? Of course that's harder. If I just prepare it myself, I'm gonna get a better return in shorter time than the combined time of getting a preparer to do it and then me reviewing it and then sending it back for corrections… That combined time will be more total hours between the two of us and if I just do it myself, but if I don't invest in that I'll never grow.
Dave: And I'll never build a business with a leverage model where I can make money from other people like preparers and reviewers and the staff under me. If I can increase the number of staff that I keep busy, then obviously the amount of money I can make, there’s no theoretical limit. But if I'm just doing it myself then it's the number of hours I have.
Dave: I think that concept is important in every business. It's important in the accounting. But yeah that is my underlying business concept which is that I could do it myself but the harder thing and better thing is to get someone else to do it for me and do it right. Which means sit with them, the first time do it for them, then watch them, then you know once they are making fewer and fewer errors you review less until you don't need to review it all. Then you just trust them and then that person can start developing people. To me that's the key to building a business.
Damien: It sounds so easy when you put it that way. You sell the cliche team part, but yeah that that really is the hard part.
Dave: The hardest way to do something right is to get someone else to do it for you.
Damien: Where do you think, five ten years from now, any thoughts on where things we're heading or things to be looking for?
Dave: It's funny you mention it. It's really hard to look that far out. I'll give you just one anecdote. I was meeting with a CPA firm a couple days ago and they said, “You know, in the old days we just we got all of our documents in the mail and we scanned through just one process, which is easier than today where we're getting them through so many different channels.” So I said, “When you said, ‘in the old days’ when was this?” And they said, “About five years ago.”
Dave: So five years ago was the old days. Five years from now, Lord knows what you know what there might be. But you know in-between that time, the ability to automatically retrieve data directly from their source such as from payroll companies or financial institutions or mortgage companies, the ability to automatically retrieve that data and extract the needed data with a hundred percent accuracy is around the corner.
Dave: There's document aggregation and there's data aggregation. Data aggregation is like if you have a Mint account or a Yodlee account. That's where you can download transactions and balances and see how I have these balances for these credit cards or these balances on these bank accounts and here my transactions. That’s data aggregation, but the data that's available to be able to download transactions from a bank doesn't really allow you to perfectly reconstruct a 1099 consolidated or something. There would be no way to actually know that you've reconstructed the numbers. So we're focused on right now on document aggregation, which is pulling down the documents, the actual 1099s themselves, but since they’re original documents, the information for those documents are embedded in the file. It's not just an image.
Dave: So we think that one of the things that's around the corner is automatically gathering these documents direct from the source and extracting data with 100% accuracy. That's one big focus of ours.
Dave: Another is more and more API features so that customers can integrate SurePrep software with all the other products that they use in their firm to create a total streamlined workflow and I think an aspirational goal like in the next five years would be to ultimately transform the tax preparation process into what I would call continual preparation. And what I mean by that is, right now most CPA firms wait to start the tax return until they have most of the documents. So they just keep it there until there's enough there that they feel it's ready to get started.
Dave: The problem is that last document might not come until March 15th, let's say there's you know 19 other documents and the 20th document is the K-1 that you get on March 15th. You're waiting to get all those other 19 documents entered and reviewed because for that. This makes the preparation process even more concentrated in a small period of time. Workload compression is worse because of this issue.
Dave: So imagine if the day a 1099 becomes available, which might be in late January early February, it gets automatically retrieved, data extracted, the document put in the work paper, file the data put in the tax return, and someone could even get some kind of notification or email like a preparer where they can click on it and just review the data and say “yep that looks okay,” and it signs off that document in the work paper and in the return. And so just as documents come-in they just kind of get automatically put in the return in the work papers, people do a spot check in a very quick way and reviews it. So now on March 15th when that 20th document comes in, it's the last document to input. And you can input it knowing that nothing else has changed from the other 19 documents because you reviewed each one of them and you know the only changes of the return is that 20th document you got on March 15.
Damien: One last thing I'm going to ask you. I noticed we haven't had a chance to talk about this yet. You've got the World's Greatest Dad as your screensaver. I’ve got twins at home. What age are yours?
Dave: I have a boy that's 12 and a girl that's 11. She must have done that for my screensaver maybe three years ago when she was eight, so she hasn't done a new one for me since then. Hopefully she still feels that way.
Damien: So what advice would you have for me? You have years more experience under the belt than I do, but you’re very obviously passionate about what you do and balancing all those things, what would you what would you tell a guy like me that's you know kind of looking up at the years ahead.
Dave: Patience. Have patience. Try to have good humor. When they do something, try not to be too hard on them, take it with a little bit of humor and that'll go a long way towards good relations. Spend time together and that's about it. I think that sometimes parents have a tendency to be impatient with their kids and often kids with their parents. I know that I'm more impatient with my parents than with some stranger that I meet on the street and that can get in the way of relationships. So just patience and understanding that they're just kids.
Damien: Well good stuff all right. Thank you again for taking the time here and we’ll look forward to kind of seeing what the next five years here have in store for us.
Dave: Let's check back in a year and we'll see where we are.
You’ve taken steps to establish a digital 1040 workflow so your staff can work remotely. But here’s the million dollar question: Do your clients feel you’ve given them the same consideration?
Taxpayers are essential collaborators in the 1040 tax preparation process. You rely on them to gather documents, provide information, render signatures, and communicate with you. And when the tax return is delivered, firms rely on clients’ timely payments. If your workflow doesn’t provide an easy way for taxpayers to complete these tasks electronically, from any location, then it’s not truly digital, and it doesn’t enable remote collaboration. The good news is, enabling a truly digital workflow for your clients and tax team is as easy as adopting the right tool. TaxCaddy is a digital client collaboration platform that closes the loop and allows taxpayers and your tax team to do their part from anywhere, on any device.
Taxpayers are responsible for gathering their tax documents—W-2s, 1099s, K-1s, etc.—and delivering those documents to you. Some documents, like engagement letters, statements of work, and e-file authorizations require signatures. If your office is paper-based, clients must send these documents via mail. If your office utilizes an online portal, clients must download, print, sign, scan, and upload which is inconvenient and time-consuming.
The thing is, not everyone has a home office. Depending on the client’s at-home resources, these tasks may involve a trip to the post office, FedEx, or the mailroom at work. Younger taxpayers, especially, are less likely to have stamps and envelopes at home, and not all people have easy access to scanners and printers.
In TaxCaddy, clients perform the necessary tasks in a with digital convenience, resulting in an improved experience for them and faster turn-around for you. TaxCaddy’s Smart Links feature automatically retrieves W-2s, 1099s, 1098s and more from over 300 banks, brokerages, and payroll service providers the day they become available.
If a client does have a paper document, they can deliver it to you using a tool that’s already in their pocket: their mobile phone. TaxCaddy’s secure photoscanning technology is the same used by banks for mobile check deposits and ensures clear images every time.
Documents can be easily signed with TaxCaddy’s e-signature feature, which allows taxpayers to sign directly in the browser or in the TaxCaddy app for iPhone, iPad, or Android. It’s important to note that not all e-signatures are created equal. The IRS requires Knowledge-Based Authentication when e-signing form 8879. TaxCaddy’s e-signatures are 100% IRS compliant.
It would be impossible to prepare a tax return without complete and timely information from the taxpayer. They must answer questionnaires and be responsive to questions about the documents they submit.
TaxCaddy presents questionnaires with an intuitive interface that displays one question at a time. Progress saves automatically, which means that clients can pick up where they left off on any device, any time. The questionnaire is filed alongside all other documents and tax information in TaxCaddy, which serves as your client’s electronic tax organizer.
Keeping the lines of communication open is essential in remote collaboration. TaxCaddy comes with a built-in, secure messaging system that offers the same ease as texting. Both taxpayers and tax professionals can initiate chats that attach to specific documents, so it’s always clear what’s being discussed. Optional push notifications on the mobile app keep clients engaged in the conversation and encourage short response times.
This accessible, open channel of communication is not only helpful for preparers, but also a critical customer service tool. Many clients feel anxious and disconnected during office closures. The knowledge that their tax professional is just a text away can safeguard the business-client relationship.
Taxpayers can securely receive electronic copies of their tax returns and e-sign their e-fie authorizations inside TaxCaddy without ever touching paper or walking to the mailbox. Completed returns are permanently archived in the client’s TaxCaddy account, where they can access them any time and have the option to download a PDF version. TaxCaddy is even fully integrated with SafeSend Returns, for firms already using this solution.
The invoicing process is just as simple. Firms can submit the invoice along with the completed tax return, and taxpayers can make payment from within TaxCaddy using credit card, ACH, Apple Pay, or Google Pay.
The COVID-19 health crisis has caused companies around the world to make dramatic changes to processes and workflows. CPA firms with completely digital 1040 workflows have adapted to this ever-changing environment more quickly and safely. If your process doesn’t enable remote collaboration for everyone, including clients and administrative staff, this is an opportunity to make meaningful improvements. A few simple changes will result in safer, more flexible processes that will future-proof your firm and improve the 1040 client experience. SurePrep will walk you through the set up. Our guided implementation plan includes a toolkit of marketing materials and client communication templates to facilitate a smooth transition to TaxCaddy.
The combination of TaxCaddy, 1040SCAN, and SPbinder creates a fully digital workflow that enables remote collaboration between clients, admins, preparers, and reviewers. To see a demonstration of the end-to-end digital 1040 tax return, we recommend viewing our webinar recording of The End-to-End Digital 1040 Tax Return – A Demonstration.