In this issue we are featuring employee benefits. I’d like to point out that some of the benefits we have are taken for granted to the point where they are not even listed as a benefit. Technology, for example.
I began my tax career in the early era of automated tax prep when this was the process:
- Designated tax staff member meets with clients in person to discuss and collect tax data (long-distance clients can mail their tax documents to the accounting firm)
- Preparer makes hard copies of client tax documents
- Preparer organizes copies of tax documents in workpaper folder for preparation of return
- Preparer fills out tax form entry sheets (using pencil) with information from the client tax documents
- Preparer or designated staff member contacts client by phone, mailed letter, or with a follow-up meeting to clear open items
- Preparer finalizes initial tax preparation on entry sheets
- Tax return is given to senior staff member for review
- Senior staff member reviews return and adds comments/corrections on review sheet
- Reviewed return goes back to preparer for corrections
- Corrected entry sheets are given to office admin personnel to be dispatched to offsite computer center for input
- Upon its return from the computer center, the tax return forms are reviewed by preparer and senior staff member
- Tax return is given to manager and/or partner for final review
- Corrections/comments, if any, are returned to senior staff member
- Changes are made, input sheets adjusted, admin sends corrected input sheets to computer input center, final tax forms are returned
- Tax return goes to manager or partner for signature
- Tax return and original documents are given to admin personnel to be delivered to client
We generally allowed two to three weeks to prepare a tax return. Some of this process could be streamlined as we got closer to the filing deadline, but for the most part, tax returns that came in after April 1 were required to be extended.
At any given time, a member of the tax department might have one to two dozen tax returns in various stages of this progression, and so our individual offices became minefields of stacks and piles of file folders and documents as tax season progressed. We would climb over the piles to get to our desk chairs. Office cleaning crews were instructed to ignore the offices in the tax department until after April 15.
This isn’t just a nostalgic trip down memory lane. This is a timely reminder of how our processes have changed. With video conferencing, document portals, tax software on our own computers/laptops/tablets/phones, availability of online research and training, electronic filing – we are well positioned to do our work from anywhere and provide better service than we ever could in the past.
This past week I’ve heard that some schools are closing with fears of not just the Coronavirus but spring flu as well. I found myself thinking about how businesses would survive if working parents have to stay home with their children. But at least in our profession, cloud technology has made our jobs transportable, so there is that silver lining to the current health crisis.
See inside March 2020
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