The only thing more frustrating than an over burden of tax prep work is probably the collecting of the documents. Not all clients are lazy, some truly don’t know what it is that they need to give you.
Further, clients don’t have a firm grasp on the time it takes to prepare, review, and issue a compliant return. Afterall, that’s why they hired you instead of doing it themselves.
A big challenge during tax season then becomes managing client behavior to train and educate them on what we as preparers need, and then collecting it efficiently and effectively enough to get into a return without pulling our hair out.
Here are five budget friendly tips and software suggestions to help improve your document collection process this filing season and eliminate wasted time tracking down miscellaneous pieces of information just to get a return out the door.
1. Secure a portal
Compliance is key with tax documents as they often contain sensitive information such as social security numbers, names and addresses. Tax preparers need to keep security in mind for all forms of client communication, but especially document collection. Unfortunately, most free versions of software also do not provide any liability protection in the fine print, so be careful not to be overly budget conscious.
I highly recommend a secure client portal that includes a mobile app for clients, such as TaxDome. Everyone has and is used to using their cellphone. If clients can simply snap pictures of their documents and easily upload them to you, you’ll increase your chances of receiving them and receiving them sooner.
2. Create reusable templates
Tools like Jotform can be a huge help to create questionnaires that you can easily use to ask recurring questions, like do you have crypto currency transactions. If you know you have a recurring list of questions that you have to ask everyone, every year, creating easily fillable forms that allow you to electronically collect answers will save you time.
Filled documents can be saved to the client file and addressed when the return is started instead of as a late addition at the end, slowing down the review process.
3. Make your clients a checklist
If you have followed along with our multiple webinars on using AI and ChatGPT in your practice, making checklists and templates is a great way to take advantage of this tech tool. Best part? It’s free. Just prompt ChatGPT to create a client checklist for you to send to your individual income tax return clients and be sure to include a reminder for all common forms.
You can follow up and ask ChatGPT to create a business tax return checklist too. Of course, these templates are not all inclusive, but they are a free and fast way to create checklists you can easily send (because you know your clients will ask).
4. Increase your client communication
This can be through social media posts, newsletters, automatic email reminders, and more. It matters less what method you choose and more that the contact happens. It is easy for clients to put tax returns out of sight and out of mind. Schedule automatic reminders to go out at the beginning of the season. Bonus points if your portal/CRM sends automatic reminders for you.
Keeping in frequent contact will help deter some of your procrastinators. Combine these touches with checklists, organizer tools and clear information. Taking the scary out of tax returns will help incentivize your clients to get you their documents early.
5. Use a mail scanning service
Cut paper completely out of your work flow process by using a mail scanning service. Not only will it save you time having to scan mailed in paper documents, but it will help get the documents to you sooner as many allow for an online scanner view before the physical mail even arrives.
Your team can easily download scanned documents in the order they need to immediately start preparing tax return workpapers instead of opening, scanning and sorting in the office.