Wolters Kluwer recently surveyed 260 Australian and New Zealand accounting and tax professionals for the Wolters Kluwer 2021 Tax Season Challenges Report. This article talks about the top 3 challenges accounting and tax professionals faced at tax time. Sixty-four percent of the survey respondents confirmed their number one challenge at tax time was keeping up with recent taxation legislation changes. This isn’t new - for several years, we have seen how ongoing legislative changes create challenges for accounting firms and tax practitioners. Fifty-three percent of firms grappled with obtaining all necessary data and documents from clients. And the third most common tax time challenge, with 43 percent of respondents, was recognising the need to improve productivity outcomes.
All of these challenges are underpinned by the fact that accounting and tax professionals provide “always-on services” in an economy that is facing constant corona-impacted change. Employees and clients expect you to stay ahead of the curve and help keep them there too. This is why Wolters Kluwer have created products which provide a firm with digital automation software, practice management tools and online research capabilities. These products help you with task-based workflows, as well as examples and practical guidance to enhance your services roadmap. Also, tools such as calculators, checklists and flowcharts are available for your needs.
Here’s how to overcome the three major challenges the Wolters Kluwer 2021 Tax Season Challenges Report identified and future proof your accounting firm.
1) Ever changing legislation
Remote work is tough for any professional to manage by themselves—but when you’re a CPA or CA, and dealing with financial data, there are legal repercussions for not getting it right. Even tougher is ensuring your team is spending an appropriate amount of time researching, analysing and staying on top of legislative changes. This in turn diverts vital resources, time and energy when you are already time-poor. The cost of this task is falling back on your business one way or another - you will either lose time over-analysing unimportant information or engulf your staff with an unsustainable workload during tax time.
There has already been vast and rapid-fire legislative change in the last year which meant that individuals and businesses needed a trusted advisor to understand, analyse and communicate virtually overnight. A genuinely difficult task for any accounting firm – and one we expect will continue in Australia in the medium-term.
This is where an intelligent online tax research platform, that curates and creates expert content and commentary, cases, and practical, real-world examples, with trusted up-to-date data and insights becomes invaluable. Having an online tax research platform with easy access to the latest tax legislation, rulings and judgments is crucial.
There are also tools available, like CCH iQ Client Match, which identify the hundreds of macro-economic and legislative events that take place every year in Australia – including changes to tax laws, Australian Tax Office (ATO) announcements, or rule changes to accessing superannuation. The tool uses predictive intelligence to search an accounting firm’s database and identify specific clients who will be impacted by those event(s). In just a single search, a firm can match ever-changing legislation to multiple client outcomes, allowing huge work gain effectiveness. This is a great way to help the firm build relationships based on high-value tailored advice and updates. The task is also made easier with tools available including Pro-forma client letters, client impact statements and calculators.
2) Chasing client information
A centralised practice management client portal can solve the second obstacle – and major headache - of chasing clients for their information.
It’s no surprise that constantly reminding clients to provide annual information during the tax season is a key pain point for more than half of our surveyed firms. Missing data, collating, reviewing, and making more information requests is something many firms still need to do manually. And what’s worse, disruptions to workflows and increased WIP days can lead to a greater chance of errors. Getting to the discovery phase of an annual return is still easily side-tracked by the administrative burden of chasing clients for information.
Also, with more employees working from home, rather than the office at the moment a firm needs to ensure a clients information remains secure. This is why the adoption of technologies to help remote, or hybrid-remote, professionals stay secure and prevent cyber-intrusion is of such importance.
Cloud-based client portals are the single best way to simplify communication with every client. This 1on1 secure portal between the firm and client removes the need for the typical perfect storm of emails, paper and phone calls. By removing the paper trail and taking clients to the cloud, a client portal can deliver greater collaboration in a secure environment. It’s never been easier to accelerate client communications in the cloud.
3) Improve productivity outcomes
A great way to future proof your firm is to support individual and team productivity outcomes through technology. Intelligent practice management can automate tasks and workflows – helping your team to execute jobs efficiently.
Automation and smart workflows support error reduction, streamlined operations, increase productivity and margins. Making the right solution choices will give you time back to spend on strategic activities to grow your firm. Today’s firms need to make onboarding new clients easier, improve collaboration, streamline communications, automate calendars, jobs, client signature(s)/approvals and allocate resources.
Empowering staff to better manage their workloads and better service their clients leads to a greater likelihood of correlating team empowerment with team performance. High-performing individuals have high levels of job satisfaction (which means staying put) and a desire to go above and beyond.
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In 2021, CCH iKnow won Gold at the Asia Pacific Stevie Awards, the International Business Awards, and the Golden Bridge Awards. CCH iQ Client Match also won Gold and Silver at the Asia Pacific Stevie Awards.