Tax firms still behind


In more than one interview in the last couple weeks, more than one candidate described their current work environment in a way that I thought tax practices stopped adhering to at least five years ago, and if not, definitely post pandemic.

Multiple candidates described working in environments that did not allow for remote work, still dealt with QuickBooks desktop and, still primarily had manual data entry for both bookkeeping and tax preparation.

This caused me to raise some eyebrows and questions. Are we still doing these things? And is it still prevalent enough that two people, in two completely different states, at two completely different firms described it?

If this is really the case, we have a long way to go to bring the rest of tax firms into the 21st Century. I cannot leave it to lack of knowledge or training because there is too much free content available now. If you are reading this and you fall into the “behind the times” category, I highly recommend our YouTube channel for all you can eat access to high quality free training.

The concern, aside from huge inefficiencies, is that these environments are continuing to drive away high-quality staff. Accounting, which has seen a decline in graduates and existing professionals for several years, cannot afford to not offer the opportunities that potential staff members are looking for.

While remote work environments might not be good for everyone (maybe your audit team cannot always work from home and the intern who is training needs to come in) refusing to give people any flexibility is going to significantly reduce your candidate pool.

In addition to allowing remote work for flexibility reasons, we have also considered technology and what’s available to help drive automation and efficiency. No one wants to work 60-, 70-, 80-hour work weeks anymore. The extra pay, or, even worse, extra comp time they cannot use, is not worth it to staff members who have experience and know they have other options. Firms have to be looking at ways to reduce the number of man hours they need to service their client base.

Reducing the required OT can provide a lot of benefits. For one, you will have a happier team. A colleague told me this week that it is easier to replace clients now than it is to replace high quality staff. There is simply too much work and not enough of us to go around. If still you are mandating your teamwork crazy tax season hours, you can look at a couple areas of your business in addition to technology tools that can help cut manual workloads.

You also should be looking at your pricing structure, client profiles, and profit margins. If you are taking a whole bunch of low profit margin work, you are going to create a hamster wheel feeling in your office. A lot of firms won’t take the time to analyze their client basis and determine which projects bring in the most for the bottom line and also contribute positively to the team.

What that means is clients that make you more money, with less hours and may also be able to be completely remotely, giving your team the flexibility trifecta.

If we are going into another tax season of losing staff that are hard to replace, we already are behind in terms of setting our firms up for long-term success. The industry already is years behind with lost graduates. If firms are not on the technology train yet, constantly and consistently moving the needle on efficiency gains, we already are looking at a troubling future.

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