Another major advancement that is now available for many small and mid-sized firms are client portals. These online file sharing tools let clients securely send source documents, in digital format, to the preparer, while also allowing the preparer to give the client anytime access to their final returns and other documents and files. Emailing these documents is unsecure and can result in hefty fines in several states, so secure file sharing that’s built right into the tax system can help speed up the return process. It’s also convenient for clients.
These tax document automation features help streamline the most tedious and time consuming aspects of tax preparation: data entry. At the same time, they help improve accuracy and often include internal review processes that help firms maintain best practices. Other tools, such as remote online access and mobile device apps can also aid in productivity.
Whether you’re a veteran professional or just getting started in your own practice, the tax system you use has a great impact on your efficiency, so finding the right solution that meets your needs and those of your clients is critical. As you read this year’s reviews, keep in mind how the just-completed tax season went, what your pain-points were, and then look for the systems that can help you strengthen and streamline your tax services.
What's the difference between "Traditional Workflow" and "Advanced Workflow?"
Traditional Workflow – Defined
In firms with a “traditional workflow,” nearly all of a tax engagement is handled by a single preparer, although there may be an administrative person at the front end (scanning, handling primary basic data entry, etc) and a manager/partner reviewing the return at the end of the engagement. The primary preparer guides all client communication, information gathering, data input, and processing. This typically takes place in a single interview with the client, and is the most typical firm workflow method for high volume 1040 practices with anywhere from one to 10 or more staff.
Advanced Workflow – Defined
Firms with an “advanced workflow” often have clients that require several staff to work on a series of federal and state returns. Firms who use these applications typically have administrative personnel or paraprofessionals performing data entry and organizational tasks, and reserve professional staff for more technical tax issues associated with the return. These firms typically require all returns and supporting documents to be reviewed by at least one person at a level above the preparer. Advanced workflow tax systems support the simplest of 1040s through business entities with complex ownership structures, multi-state apportionment of income, oil & gas partnerships, cross-border or expatriate returns, or elections for special treatment of transactions.