Being a tax preparer, you have certain due diligence requirements for the preparation of income tax returns. The AICPA sets a minimum standard that we all must follow. But I believe it is much more than a due diligence when preparing returns. Why, you might ask? I believe that our impact on the taxpayer is greater than the return itself. We provide guidance on many levels and, specifically, with our business clients.
Ask yourself a few questions:
- Does your office look like a paper storage unit?
- Does your firm (even a sole practitioner) display the level of professionalism and organization that would lead your clients to refer business to you?
- How efficient does your firm operate when communicating with your clients?
- Do you utilize technology for a smoother process or are you still killing trees?
You also may ask yourself, Brolin, what does all of that matter to me? I work 16 hours a day during tax season and I don’t have time to worry about any of those questions. I would turn around and say to you, maybe it is time to take a look at your practice NOW, before the season starts, and consider making some critical improvements to make tax season less of a Nor’easter and more like a day at the beach!
The old saying “You only have one chance to make a first impression” is a very important one for tax preparers. If people walk into your office for the first time and see paper all over the place in piles, they may immediately think in their minds, “I can’t leave my documents here, this person may never find them again!” Being organized is not only super important for your firm’s efficiency, but it’s also important to your clients. Start with organizing your office in a way that removes any fear of you losing a client’s tax documents. I recommend that you begin this season with an online document storage solution. Then consider suggesting to your client that you store their returns for them rather than handing out a paper copy.
People always ask, how do you attract new clients? My business has grown on word of mouth, period. Nope, I’m not perfect, as a matter of fact I am far from perfect. But when you show that you are professional but also a human being just like they are, you gain a confidence and a mutual respect between you and the client. And when you have a happy client, they will refer people to you; you will stay in the forefront of their mind and when someone asks who does their return, they will be happy to send a new client your way!
How are you currently communicating with your clients? We actually ask our clients: do you want us to email you or call you if we have questions? That will immediately alleviate the stress of communications between you and the client. Everyone is running at warp speed these days and prefer one method of communication over another. I would definitely tell you that if you are handing out your cell phone number to communicate through text, that is not always the best option. I have made that mistake, and many times, miss whatever the request was because it was at night or over the weekend. Utilizing something like Slack, or some other method of communication with your clients is a better solution than texting, in my opinion.
Lastly, when it comes to an efficient process for tax preparation, as I stated earlier, suggesting that you store the clients returns in an electronic manner where they would have access to their returns and source documents anytime from anywhere is very efficient. I know that I travel a lot, but yet have all of my client’s information stored in SmartVault where I can access their returns from anywhere, at any time. I have had possibly five requests for printed returns in the last seven years. People lose returns often. Eliminating the possibility of that potential identity theft, and explaining that to your clients, will be a major increase in time savings!
I hope this first article has been helpful in some way. The purpose of this publication is to help you make some strides in having an efficient and effective tax practice. Some of my suggestions will include technology solutions, some will be simple tips that might increase your bottom line as well as help you really connect with your clients in a way that you never have before. Through this great content, you will find recommendations for technology, best practices for client onboarding, client management, communications, price increases, process and procedure creation, and much more. I have worked for over 19 years to gain control over my practice; and in tax season 2018, we tripled our revenue and production with just some tweaks in our process. I hope you enjoy the articles, stories, and more as we try to deliver the best content possible for you to work on your business, not just in your business.
Author Bio: Dawn W. Brolin is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, and CEO of Powerful Accounting, LLC, a nationally recognized accounting, tax, forensic and fraud, IRS Representation as well as a QuickBooks consulting firm. Dawn’s list of professional accomplishments is extensive and includes speaking and consulting for prestigious companies. Named “Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Accounting” 2012-2017 by CPA Practice Advisor, a “Top 10 Managing Partner Elite – Great Accounting Firm Leader” in 2017 by Accounting Today, and selected as a “Top 40 Under 40” by CPA Technology Magazine.