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IRIS Software Group (IRIS), a leading global software provider of accountancy solutions, is today announcing the expansion of Doc.It By IRIS capabilities to include cloud-based document management. The new update enables accountants to reap the benefits of an all-in-one platform with enhanced flexibility to deploy on premise or migrate to the cloud at their own pace.
The announcement comes in response to the growing demand for automated systems offering flexibility and scalability. Doc.It provides customers with exceptional benefits for both on-premise and cloud solutions. The enhanced platform streamlines document management processes to drive efficiencies, foster growth and focus on expanding service offerings for customers.
The new electronic signature integration with DocuSign and enhanced PDF editor capabilities allows users to streamline document processes and eliminates the need to deploy solutions from multiple providers and purchase multiple licenses. Firms can also auto file non-PDF documents and use automated email notifications to improve productivity, all while leveraging added Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) capabilities to gain full confidence their sensitive data remains secure on the platform.
The expanded features are available for both on-premise and cloud deployments, which offers firms the same functionality and service offerings with 100% parity. All IRIS solutions are designed to give customers the flexibility to choose their deployment option and migrate to the cloud at their own pace.
“Our team is thrilled about the latest release from a security perspective, but it also supports other long-term objectives like flexible working options,” said Matt Sharp, Office Manager at Fates Bodily and Parker. “Furthermore, the DocuSign integration saves our team two to three minutes per document by reducing upload and send times which is critical when working with large document sets.”
“Efficient document management is essential to running a successful accounting firm, and every firm has different needs based on their clients’ requirements, current technology solutions and future growth plans,” said Don Emery, general manager for Doc.It By IRIS.
“We are excited to introduce these new document management capabilities to offer firms expanded scalability through cloud software. IRIS is committed to taking the pain out of processes, and these new features will allow firms to decrease time spent on document management and increase focus on delivering valuable services to their clients to further drive growth.”
By Alison Cutler, The Charlotte Observer (TNS)
A new movement has bubbled up on TikTok, inspiring young workers and baffling some bosses.
“Quiet quitting,” a hashtag that has over 3.9 million views on TikTok, has nothing to do with people quitting their job. Instead, the movement aims to help people reel in their overachieving tendencies at work, which “quiet quitters” argue can lead to burnout.
“I took a step back and said, ‘I’m just going to work the hours I’m supposed to work, that I’m really getting paid to work,’” 24-year-old Paige West told The Wall Street Journal. “Besides that, I’m not going to go extra.”
In her previous role, West found herself so stressed she began to lose hair, she told The Wall Street Journal.
“They’re not chasing hustle culture at work. … Essentially they’re doing what they’re paid to do,” TikTok user Allison Peck said in a video about quiet quitting.
Though the movement is embraced by many Gen Z workers and professionals from older generations, not everyone is on board, including career coaches.
TikToker and career coach Kelsey Wat shared her concerns about quiet quitting in a video and challenged the idea.
“I fully understand why people do it, but personally I don’t really think it’s healthy. To me, quiet quitting is a coping mechanism. It’s a way to numb yourself from a bad job,” Wat said.
Instead, she encouraged workers to reflect on if their jobs aligned with their values and interests. If they don’t, maybe it’s time to move on, Wat suggested.
“If you have career goals to do more than what you’re doing now … what’s going to get you there is going to be the network that you built at your current job. Quiet quitting is literally wasting your time at this company and shooting yourself in the foot,” TikToker Emily Smith said in a video.
Other professionals raise the questions: Why is it called quiet quitting when quitting isn’t even a factor, and is the name of the movement doing more harm than good?
Shini, a software developer known as @Baobao.farm on TikTok, argues that the concept of quiet quitting is just working a healthy amount and fulfilling expectations in a role. It should be called what it truly is, Shini says: doing your job.
“I just feel like the term ‘quiet quitting’ kind of normalizes the idea of going above and beyond in your job, because if you’re not, then you’re quiet quitting, and I’m just not about that,” Shini said.
Her bio on TikTok says “I code to pay bills,” highlighting a common belief among Gen Zers that work is a way to support the life you want to live, instead of living to work.
Shini said she used to jump through many corporate hoops and go above and beyond but doesn’t do so anymore and continues to get positive reviews with her company. By setting boundaries, Shini said she created a full-scale east Asian vegetable farm during her free time and maintains a healthy work-life balance.
Senior client partner Elise Freedman told The Wall Street Journal that quiet quitters’ who seem less engaged with their jobs may face layoff risks.
“It’s perfectly appropriate that we expect our employees to give their all,” Freedman told the outlet.
Some Gen Z and millennial workers aren’t so willing to negotiate when it comes to values and culture in the workplace, though, a global Deloitte survey that included over 23,000 Gen Z and millennial workers found.
Almost half of Gen Z employees showed interest in leaving their jobs within the next two years, according to the survey’s news release. The top reasons workers have recently left included pay, workplace mental health concerns and burnout. The new priorities for a job include work-life balance, learning and development.
“Don’t make assumptions about particular generations,” Walters told Gallup. “The best managers, as we’ve talked about before, individualize their approach. So I would go to your people who are millennials or Gen Z and ask them about their strengths, ask how they like to be managed, ask what they value in the workplace and what that culture should look like, and let that inform the decision.”
U.S. lawmakers are pressing the IRS to explain how it plans to relieve a backlog of tax returns that have delayed refunds and to detail what measures it’s taking to improve customer service.
Dozens of congressional Republicans and Democrats made the demands in a letter to the Internal Revenue Service, obtained by Bloomberg News.
The IRS has said it plans to reduce by year-end the backlog of paper filings, which have been running at historically high levels since the pandemic hit. But the lawmakers, citing data from an IRS watchdog, said that the backlog has grown and that the agency has failed to meet targets to hire new employees.
“The IRS must take additional steps to improve customer service issues, decrease processing delays, and work down the backlog of paper returns and correspondence by continuing the maximum use of overtime and surge teams,” according to the letter, signed by 93 House and Senate lawmakers.
The group also called for “the continued suspension of automated notices and collections—which have been critical in reducing pandemic-related tax return and correspondence backlogs.”
The group is led by Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Representative Abigail Spanberger of Virginia on the Democratic side and Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania on the GOP side.
The lawmakers asked IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig to answer questions this week about how the agency plans to resolve the backlog and bring on additional workers.
Refund delays, long wait times to reach customer service agents and other difficulties reached a high point during the pandemic, when processing centers were closed and the IRS took on additional tasks to distribute stimulus payments and other benefits.
More than two years later, the agency has yet to recover, despite Congress giving it some relief, including the ability to fast-track hirings.
The push to improve customer service at the agency comes as the IRS is on the cusp of getting an influx of new funding as part of the Inflation Reduction Act. The bill, which President Joe Biden is expected to sign into law this week, includes $80 billion in additional money for the agency over the next decade to rebuild enforcement capabilities, hire new employees and invest in new technology. IRS officials have said this will help revive an agency that has suffered from budget cuts for years.
The Neat Company says it has become the only small business financial management platform to offer inbound ACH/bank transfers at no additional cost. By eliminating the standard 1% ACH transaction fee, a subscription for Neat’s all-in-one financial management platform, which offers bookkeeping, invoicing, and financial document management, essentially becomes free to any small business that has $29,000 of invoices paid via bank transfer each year. Anything beyond that is money saved for Neat subscribers.
For nearly 50 years, small businesses have relied on ACH/bank transfers for both safety and convenience when sending and receiving electronic payments. According to Nacha, the organization that operates the ACH payment system, more than 29 billion ACH payments were made in 2021. These payments were valued at close to $73 trillion. Small businesses are commonly subjected to a 1% ACH fee on every transaction, even though each transaction may cost the processor less than a quarter to facilitate. For a consultant, freelancer, or contractor, these fees add up quickly. With The Neat Company, these fees are gone.
“As a small business owner myself, I always sought to maximize value from the services I used and from every dollar that came into my hands,” said Garrett Baird, President & CEO of The Neat Company. “Neat customers deserve those same advantages. Not only will our customers be able to receive electronic payments for the invoices they issue through the Neat system, but by avoiding overblown ACH/bank transfer fees on receivables, they can effectively pay for their Neat subscription with the ACH fees they save.”
This ACH savings is the latest example of what the Neat product team works to develop and refine every day. To calculate potential savings, all small businesses need to do is identify the percentage of their receivables currently paid via bank transfer and then calculate what is 1% of that number. Neat also offers a simple calculator for those who want to see how much they can save by accepting bank transfer payments free of fees.
Neat continues to redefine how small businesses do their bookkeeping. Its platform permits small business owners to quickly and confidently manage their books and keep business finances in order — whether they’ve done it for years or are bookkeeping beginners. The Neat platform provides customers with:
Fast and secure online payments from their customers
Unlimited customizable invoicing in just a couple of taps
Comprehensive financial document storage and organization
Easy-to-use bookkeeping with real-time data from anywhere
Neat is priced at $288 for an annual subscription ($24/month) or $29 month to month with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Try Neat for free for 14 days at www.neat.com.
By Leada Gore, al.com (TNS)
The Internal Revenue Service has changed the amount teachers can deduct for out-of-pocket classroom expenses.
For tax years 2012 through 2021, the limit teachers could deduct for out-of-pocket classroom expenses for things like books, materials and other educational supplies was $250 per year. For 2022, that amount has been raised to a maximum of $300 and will increase in $50 increments in future years based on inflation.
Eligible educators will be able to deduct up to $300 on qualifying expenses. Married couples where both are eligible educators can claim up to $600 but the $300 per spouse limit remains.
Educators can claim up to $300 even if they take the standard deduction, the IRS said. Eligible educators include anyone who is a kindergarten through grade 12 teacher, instructor, counselor, principal or aide in a school for at least 900 hours during the school year. Both public and private school educators qualify.
Educators can deduct the unreimbursed costs for:
Books, supplies and other materials used in the classroom.
Equipment, including computer equipment, software and services.
COVID-19 protective items to stop the spread of the disease in the classroom. This includes face masks, disinfectant for use against COVID-19, hand soap, hand sanitizer, disposable gloves, tape, paint or chalk to guide social distancing, physical barriers, such as clear plexiglass, air purifiers and other items recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Professional development courses related to the curriculum they teach or the students they teach. But the IRS cautions that, for these expenses, it may be more beneficial to claim another educational tax benefit, especially the lifetime learning credit. You can see more here.
Qualified expenses don’t include the cost of homeschooling or nonathletic supplies for courses in health or physical education. The IRS also reminds educators to keep good records, including receipts, cancelled checks and other documentation.
A former senior accountant for a construction company in Chicago was indicted Aug. 12 on fraud charges for allegedly embezzling millions in company funds.
The indictment charged Richard Mandarino, 43, of Scarborough, Ontario, with three counts of wire fraud. His arraignment in U.S. District Court in Chicago has not yet been scheduled.
A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois says Mandarino committed the alleged fraud from 2015 to 2017 while he lived in Canada and worked on the unnamed construction company’s Canadian business projects. The indictment alleges that Mandarino fraudulently embezzled and obtained more than 2 million Canadian dollars.
According to Mandarino’s LinkedIn profile, he worked as a senior project accountant for the Walsh Group from November 2010 until November 2017. The Walsh Group, which has been in the construction business since 1898, is headquartered in Chicago and has an office in Toronto.
Mandarino allegedly entered false payment requests in the construction company’s accounting system, causing checks to be issued to vendor companies for goods and services that Mandarino knew were never provided, according to the indictment. He then converted those payments for his and others’ personal use. Mandarino allegedly concealed the thefts by creating fictitious credits and offsets in the construction company’s accounting system.
If convicted, Mandarino faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each wire fraud count.
The Illinois CPA Society announced today that Geoffrey Brown, CAE, will serve as its next President and CEO. He will start in the role on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022.
A seasoned executive, Brown brings more than 20 years of experience as an association professional. Currently, he is the CEO of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), the nation’s leading professional association of fee-only financial advisors. In his nine years there, Brown has transformed NAPFA by addressing organizational structure and brand challenges resulting in multiple years of double-digit growth in membership and revenue increases. He also led development of the organization’s DEI initiative to form a more diverse and inclusive membership by becoming a beacon of diversity within the financial planning profession.
Prior to NAPFA, Brown was an Account Executive with Sentergroup and an Association Manager at SmithBucklin Corporation, the world’s largest association management company.
In his new role, Brown will lead the Illinois CPA Society in its next chapter of growth and evolution as it continues a tradition of excellence in supporting the CPA profession in Illinois and beyond. One of the largest state CPA societies in the nation, it is the only professional association serving CPAs in Illinois and plays a prominent role nationally in guiding and shaping the future of the profession. Brown will be the fifth leader in the Illinois CPA Society’s 120-year history and its first Black President and CEO.
Board Chair Mary Fuller noted, “We are thrilled to welcome Geof as our next leader. The Society is poised to tackle leading challenges within the profession today and in the future. Geof is the right leader for our continued focus on enhancing the value of the CPA profession through the strategic initiatives of education, information, advocacy, and connections.”
Brown served as the Board Chair for the Association Forum and is also an active member in the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). He is also a Board Member for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and Association of Fraternal Leadership and Values.
Brown holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland. He lives in Chicago with his family.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to join the Illinois CPA Society at such an important time for the profession. I am looking forward to partnering with the Society’s leadership and staff to focus on helping CPAs take advantage of the opportunities and overcome the challenges that lie ahead. The Society has a long history of growing and stewarding the CPA community in Illinois and I am honored to have been selected to lead it into the future,” said Brown.
The Society’s Board of Directors created a seven-member Search Committee comprised of current and former Board members to lead this search after Todd Shapiro, the Society’s current President and CEO, announced he was retiring in early 2023 after a 24-year career with the Society. The Search Committee partnered with executive search firm, Koya Partners, to find the next President and CEO.
RSM US released its 2022 annual report on Monday, which revealed that the firm raked in $3.3 billion in revenue during its most recent fiscal year that ended on April 30. That is roughly a 15 percent increase over the $2.9 billion in revenue the Chicago-based firm had in 2021.
“RSM has been on an incredible journey—particularly over the last 11 years as we have greatly increased the number of clients we serve; significantly expanded our talent; built outstanding business relationships; launched a philanthropic foundation; implemented a culture, diversity and inclusion program; and grown our business to $3 billion as we executed our strategy. We have carved out a unique position as the first-choice advisor to middle market leaders globally. I am honored and humbled to have been a part of it,” Joe Adams, managing partner and CEO of RSM US who is retiring on Aug. 31, wrote in the report.
He added: “As I look ahead, I am energized by the opportunities I see for RSM, our clients and our people. There may be headwinds facing us, such as persistent inflation, supply chain challenges, war and ongoing civil and political unrest, but we have proven that together we can turn challenges into opportunities and thrive even in uncertain times. Our strategy for the next several years is aptly called, ‘Vision 100 … Powered by our culture,’ because it is our unique culture that puts RSM in such a strong position to serve our clients, develop our people and give back to our communities in compelling ways.”
“Transformation amid this rapid pace of change will be one of the biggest challenges facing all businesses in the coming years—we see it all around us with technology and digital; new work paradigms; environmental, social and governance issues; diversity; and more. Brian is a leader who sees the opportunities created by change, and he has been leading digital transformations for our clients for the majority of his career. He is absolutely the right person to lead RSM on the next phase of our journey,” Adams wrote.
Of RSM’s three core service lines, consulting saw the biggest year-over-year increase in revenue at 37 percent, followed by tax at 34 percent and audit at 29 percent.
The firm is now in 82 cities in the United States and in six locations in Canada, and had 13,549 employees as of April 30—a headcount increase of 16.3 percent over last year. The firm also had 1,101 partners and principals at the close of its fiscal year.
RSM US is the fifth largest public accounting firm in the U.S. by revenue, only behind the Big Four firms (Deloitte, PwC, EY, and KPMG, in that order).
Conflicts of interest can arise in any profession, and CPA firms are no exception. While the AICPA has always acknowledged the possibility of a conflict of interest arising in the accounting profession, what constitutes a conflict of interest had not been clearly defined. They have taken measures to correct that, offering a revised code on conflicts that may arise, with expanded guidance for CPAs in public practice as well as those in private business.
The current AICPA framework consists of three distinct areas:
Identify the conflict – Ideally, this should be done before a new client engagement is accepted. This includes looking at the nature of the services the client is interested in, all of the parties involved, and if accepting the engagement may cause a conflict with other clients or within the firm itself.
Evaluate the conflict – Once a conflict has been identified, it’s important that the necessary steps be taken to evaluate the conflict and if there are proper safeguards that can be put in place to help mitigate any potential threat. If a threat is determined to be likely, the threat must be reduced or eliminated. This can be done in a variety of ways, including confidentiality agreements, limiting access to confidential documents within the firm, having an independent third party oversee the engagement, or declining the engagement.
Consider matters relative to disclosure and consent – If a conflict is present, you must disclose details about the potential conflict and the nature of the issues that may appear. Once the client has been notified, it’s up to them to determine whether to continue with the engagement. Consent must be provided to the firm in writing. If the client neither consents nor declines, it’s important that any requested services not be performed.
Unfortunately, it may not always be clear before an engagement that a conflict of interest exists. If that’s the case, then the conflict must be mitigated by either terminating the existing agreement or removing the circumstances surrounding the conflict.
These are just a few examples of potential conflicts of interest that may require further investigation:
Your client comes to you for advice on new investment likely opportunities. They are interested in a new start-up venture that clearly fits with their investment goals and interests. The only problem is that you’re one of the original investors in that same startup.
The Smiths have been clients of yours for years, where you have provided everything from asset valuation to financial planning. Now the Smiths are divorcing, and both want you to continue providing the same services.
Client A is interested in acquiring Company B and wishes to have you advise them. The only problem is that Client C is also interested in acquiring Company B as well.
A current client approaches you with a request to forensically investigate a company they believe is responsible for criminal activity. The only issue is that the company they wish to be investigated is also one of your clients.
You have been providing financial services for a small partnership and its two partners for years. Now, each partner wants you to continue to provide your current level of service, even as the partnership is about to be dissolved.
Not all of these situations mean that you should not provide services to the client(s) in question, or even that a conflict of interest exists. But all of the above situations require investigation and disclosure of any potential conflicts to your clients.
To reduce the risk that conflicts of interest can pose to your firm, be sure to be proactive; identifying potential risks and taking the appropriate steps to mitigate the risk. And while some conflicts can be managed by putting the appropriate safeguards in place, others may pose too significant a risk to undertake. But only by being aware of these risks and taking the appropriate actions can the appropriate decision be made.
CohnReznick LLP, one of the leading advisory, assurance, and tax firms in the United States, today announced that it has been named to the ABF Journal’s Most Innovative Companies in Specialty Finance list for the second consecutive year.
This is the third year the publication has produced their list which celebrates 30 companies based on five “innovator categories” to distinguish how each company is standing out from the competition. CohnReznick is included in the Current category which is defined as “a company setting the tone for the present state of the industry through its innovation.”
“At CohnReznick, innovation infuses every purposeful and intentional action we take. When we focus on enhancing the digital and data literacy of our talent, we equip them with the tools necessary to help our clients exceed their business goals and objectives,” said Tama Huang, Chief Innovation Officer, CohnReznick. “Embracing automation allows us to align our human capital with the velocity of advancements in emerging technologies.” “Technology-focused solutions are central to the various ways we are advising clients in areas such as performance improvement, turnaround management, operational restructuring, organizational redesign, process re-engineering, and more,” notes Cynthia Romano, CohnReznick Global Director, Performance Improvement and Restructuring. “As business challenges become increasingly complex, innovation takes on a much more important role in helping to resolve these challenges. We are proud that our strong commitment to innovation has been recognized by ABF Journal.”
Launched in 2002, ABF Journal is a leading independent trade finance publication focused exclusively on the asset-based lending, factoring, commercial finance, and turnaround management industries.
During the webinar, Adams will demonstrate the newest features in QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Enterprise 2023. Attendees will be able to:
Identify the new features in QuickBooks Enterprise 2023
Recognize the changes to Pro and Premier Plus subscriptions.
Determine how these upgrades can assist your firm in everyday tasks.
“QuickBooks 2023 will be launched mid-September, and this year, there are significant changes with a big opportunity to clean up and more efficiently use QuickBooks,” said Adams. “Getting to data to make better decisions in your business is always the direction. The new QuickBooks desktop features reflect the strategic changes to enable our clients to achieve their goals.”
Global business advisory firm EisnerAmper has announced that the partners and colleagues of Minneapolis-based accounting and advisory firm Lurie LLP will be joining EisnerAmper in a transaction anticipated to close in September of 2022.
With more than 200 employees, 24 partners, and offices in Minnesota and Florida, Lurie serves clients across the United States and globally, in a wide variety of industries, providing solutions in accounting, audit, tax planning and wealth management, serving business leaders in healthcare, professional services, technology, manufacturing, real estate and more.
“We are thrilled to join EisnerAmper,” said Beth Kieffer Leonard, Lurie Managing Partner. “We see the world the same way – in how we serve clients, provide opportunities for our people and how we give back to our community. Additionally, our culture of innovation and our values align perfectly. This combination will provide our clients and the business community that we serve with greater resources that accelerate growth and opportunity, today and into the future.”
Founded in 1940, Lurie is a different kind of accounting firm, made great by exceptional talent and fueled by an entrepreneurial spirit driven to serve its community. Lurie was named to the “Best of the Best” firm list for 2021 and “Regional Leader” 2022 by INSIDE Public Accounting, establishing Lurie as one of the 50 highest-performing public accounting firms in North America. Other notable recognitions include “Best CPA Firms for Equity Leadership” and “Best CPA Firms for Women” by the Accounting MOVE Project, “Best of Accounting” Client Satisfaction for 2022, and many more.
Allan D. Koltin, CEO of Koltin Consulting Group, who advised both firms, commented, “The joining of these two forward-thinking firms creates a powerful combination. EisnerAmper has traditionally been known as a powerhouse on the east coast and, with the addition of Lurie, takes a huge step toward establishing a flagship presence in the Midwest.”
“We have respected Lurie for many years now,” said Jay Weinstein, EisnerAmper Vice Chair of Industries and Markets. “By supporting startups, accelerators, and organizations that support underserved groups, they don’t just get involved in their communities, they get invested. Adding these talented professionals to our cause is a real win for EisnerAmper, and an even bigger win for our clients. We warmly welcome Team Lurie to EisnerAmper.”
By Mairtini Ni Dhomhnaill.
Whether or not you like numbers more than people, client relations are a necessary evil in the accounting world. In my experience, the number one reason new clients cite for leaving their previous accounting firm is a lack of responsiveness — especially over email. Now, as economic headwinds drive fears that a recession is imminent, forging and maintaining strong client relationships is one of the best ways accounting firms can mitigate potential economic fallout as enterprise customers look to cut back on spending.
Amid an uncertain economy, dependable client relationships are more important to accounting than ever before. In fact, 46 percent of accountants believe that relationship building is the most critical skill for future accountants, according to Sage’s Practice of Now. Meanwhile, the same report reveals that 82 percent of accountants say clients are more demanding these days, expecting better and faster service without paying higher rates.
Let’s dive into why client relations are so essential to meeting the current moment and how to navigate these changing tides.
The changing face of accounting as the landscape moves digital
The state of accounting has significantly shifted in recent years. In the past, primary communication with clients occurred monthly, quarterly, or even annually. Today, clients expect their accounting firms to be much more involved in day-to-day activities.
This evolution has largely coincided with the pandemic-induced digital transformation, as automation and artificial intelligence (AI) have shaken up the accounting space. As the new tech proliferates across the industry, the market for AI in accounting is estimated to reach $16.07 billion by 2028 from $1.7 billion in 2021. AI and automation offer significant value to back-office roles, taking over tasks machines can do while providing greater accuracy and efficiency. That said, AI cannot deliver a financial report at your next board meeting.
AI is coming at the perfect time to help firms handle the deluge of day-to-day customer communication. But without investing in automated workflows and the proper technology tools, firms can quickly fall out of pace with customer demands and fail to meet the ever-mounting expectations around responsiveness.
While understanding around appropriate response times can differ depending on the client, the reality is that — when prioritized by company leadership — there are tools available to drive efficient customer support. For instance, my company, Countsy, uses Front to organize our communication and streamline collaboration by swiftly looping in the people needed to best deliver on a request. With a finger on the pulse of emerging enterprise tech, you can ensure that your accounting workforce is set up for success and able to scale as your business grows.
Using the human touch to drive client retention + expansion
Multi-year client relationships are the bread and butter of any accounting business. A client relationship that goes beyond the strictly transactional and offers human touch points across interactions can make a difference when it comes time to renew your contract. People like working with people they like, which is why Deloitte found that B2B customers are on average 32 percent more likely to renew a contract with B2B companies that have mastered customer experience.
Investing in client relations and providing a robust communications protocol will better equip you to build these human relationships using digital tools. With less time spent on one-off requests, teams can instead focus on the higher-value conversations that truly showcase the depth of their service. When the pandemic began and Countsy moved remote, our clients did not experience a change in service quality since we were already using Front for our customer communications. Without having to spin wheels on relevant players to loop in on client responses, we can deliver faster while digging deeper on the analysis that really drives our value as accountants.
Instead of getting overwhelmed by email aliases and playing hot potato with your team as you wait for someone to spearhead a response, customer communication tools can help you divide and conquer. Above all, people want to be heard, and focusing on that personalized human touch will build trust — making your clients feel seen and understood.
Workforces should evolve with the times, but don’t ditch company culture
While the U.S. saw the Great Resignation peak in March, nearly two job openings remain for every unemployed person. The accounting profession was hit hard by this attrition, compounding upon an already short supply of accountants as the number of accounting graduates dropped nearly seven percent in 2019 since peaking in 2012.
Following the recent surge in turnover and subsequent job openings, firms must prioritize comprehensive onboarding and maintenance of company culture to ensure sustainable growth and strong customer relations. Replacing an individual employee is not cheap — costing between half to two times the original employee’s salary. Inadequate knowledge sharing comes with an even heftier price tag. According to Panopto’s Workplace Knowledge and Productivity Report, the average large U.S. business loses $47 million in productivity each year due to inefficient knowledge sharing.
Maintaining a thorough understanding of your history with a client is essential to strong customer relations in accounting. Communication tools that allow new employees to access their company’s entire email history with a client greatly simplify onboarding. Such tools that streamline efficiency around client relations and knowledge sharing will help maintain a company’s identity while leaving more time to build a strong company culture.
Hybrid workplaces have demonstrated their staying power and firms must leverage technology to simplify collaboration as they settle into this enduring norm. When tools streamline such vast knowledge sharing, more time is left to build stronger internal relationships and create a place where people want to continue growing their careers.
However tangential to the actual service accountants provide, accurate numbers and detailed analysis mean nothing without strong client relations. As technology changes the landscape and helps accountants meet escalating client demands, a robust communication framework will help accounting businesses retain clients while maintaining their company culture and expanding their workforce. The industry will continue to navigate major technological and societal shifts, but high-touch client relations will remain the linchpin to long term success.
The rapid evolution of accounting technology has automated traditional compliance work. Small businesses and accounting professionals, alike, are beneficiaries of artificial intelligence built into accounting software and apps.
As lower-level compliance work continues to be automated, tax and accounting professionals have to find meaningful ways their services can remain valuable to their clients—hence, the evolution of client advisory services.
We need to show, and help, clients understand that the automation of compliance tasks is just a tool to getting to the heart of the matter. Automation helps capture the data efficiently, which frees us up to perform tasks that will add value to our clients’ businesses. The data becomes a report, with the ability to read, understand, analyze, interpret, and communicate the information.
Reports provide valuable insights
The message of the report is the main objective of capturing the data in the first place, and this is where the real value of the professional lies. We have the ability to turn the report into a powerful tool to help a business achieve its goals, including more efficiency in operations and cash flow management. This is done by identifying shortages ahead of time, and making adequate provision for capital profitability, expansion, growth, and other areas.
Advisory work is future oriented, while compliance work is historical. Advisory work entails how to use the results of the compliance work to achieve a better future for the client. This is what is valuable to the client: “wanting a better tomorrow”—an assurance that their business can survive in the future and has the potential to withstand an adverse climate.
With these types of services, clients see their accountant/advisor as a partner in their businesses. Clients enjoy better service and have a more personal relationship with their advisors when the advisors are proactive in recommending strategies that lead to growth, profitability, and success.
The result? Increased client loyalty leads to long-term retainerships.
The reason? You can help your clients make more money through advisory services.
Efficiency for a florist
What’s right before our eyes can be somewhat invisible for a business owner. For example, an in-depth analysis of the financial statement might indicate a waste of materials, as in the case of a client of mine—a flower shop running at a loss. A thorough investigation into the high cost of goods sold, without a correlating increase in sales, indicated that the flower designer was ordering more materials than needed. Because the materials were perishable, they ended up in the trash.
This situation was quickly addressed: A system was put in place to order the right quantity of materials, eliminate waste, reduce cost of goods sold, and increase gross profit.
A comparison of the monthly income statement may even reveal more issues; for example, if the rent or a mortgage payment is not made. Timely payments of bills save late charges, interest, and penalties that could add up to a significant amount.
Using the appropriate ratios, inefficiencies in capacity would be revealed. Addressing this, and putting a system in place, would result in making more money with current capacity.
A cash flow analysis is also very important in making sure that funds are available through every stage of operation. When identified ahead of time, shortages can be remedied and also puts the client in a position to shop for the cheapest cost of capital.
Automate your processes
Any tasks you continue to do by hand that software can do more efficiently are costing you time, resources, and money. Cloud solutions enables us (the client and advisor) to optimize our processes. Assisting our clients to build a tech stack for their businesses allows them to operate more efficiently, profitably, and competitively. When clients automate some of their processes, it frees up their employees to apply their time and talents to income-generating activities.
When clients use a comprehensive suite of business applications, they can expect these five benefits:
New operational efficiencies.
Improved ability to scale operations.
A greater potential for revenue growth.
While there are sophisticated reporting tools to capture every aspect of the business, insights from the reports enable our clients to make more informed business planning decisions that increase efficiency and profits. The reports need to be interpreted by an advisor. The ability to interpret these reports and effectively communicate what they reveal about the business includes the business’ performance, the client’s position in the industry, the opportunities and challenges in the future, and how to adequately and timely address them.
Providing this information is an invaluable service to the client. Our firms are successful and of greater value when clients can connect our services to an increase in their revenues and profitability.
Ibi Ojo, EA, is the owner of Fortune Accounting and Business Solutions, a full-service accounting, consulting, and training firm. An Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, the favorite part of work is when she gets to engage with clients and recommend strategies to help them attain their objectives. Ibi has been working with QuickBooks for more than two decades, loves all things QuickBooks Online, and uses Intuit ProConnect Tax. Her QuickBooks Training classes were born out of her passion to help small businesses keep better books and obtain reliable reports that can be used in making decisions that will enable them to grow and be profitable. In 2020, Ibi was nominated for ‘Top 50 Women in Accounting’ and recently became a member of the Intuit Trainer Writer Network.
Taxes may be one of the guarantees in life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they – or their purposes – are always understood. While sales tax is meant to be a means for states and local jurisdictions to pay for things like schools, roads and public services, there can be unintended consequences of these regulations. However, consumers can also end up with the short end of the stick when it comes to tax regulations.
For example, income disparity can skew percentages of spending on essential items such as food and housing. Sales tax can be considered “regressive,” especially when low-income taxpayers face greater impact than high-income taxpayers. Many jurisdictions will provide exemptions or reduced rates for basic necessities (e.g., food, clothing, prescription drugs). At the same time though, taxes may increase the cost of food among lower income areas.
More states are opting to exempt food purchased for home consumption to make food more affordable for everyone. State-enacted exemptions for food generally include items such as fresh produce and meats but typically exclude prepared foods and candy. Essentially, ingredients required for preparing meals from scratch may be exempt from sales tax. However, some types of prepared meals are not. And those are the types of meals those who don’t have access or ability to make a home cooked meal often purchase.
There is also the issue of food deserts, which are communities with limited access to healthy and affordable food. Food deserts are borne from complex societal transformations, including the sales tax growth. However, narrow definitions of “food” do not ease the burden of sales tax in food deserts – even when there are food exemptions in place. For example, sales tax legislation pushed administrative difficulties and costs onto independent grocers in more urban areas. Many were forced to close. Comparatively, chain grocery stores in high-income suburban communities did not have as much difficulty absorbing those new costs.
From there, lower income communities saw higher growth of fast-food restaurants and convenience stores. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) studies indicate that more than 23 million Americans live in low-income areas more than one mile from a large grocery store. Furthermore, 2.3 million of those households do not have access to a car. These communities are more dependent on convenience stores and fast-food establishments offering limited food choices that could be taxed differently than if sold at a traditional grocery store.
For example, in Maryland the sale of grocery food is taxable unless the sale is made by a “substantial grocery or market business.” Additionally, “a grocery or market business is considered substantial if sales of grocery or market food items total at least 10% of all sales of food.” If a Maryland convenience store meets that 10% threshold, then food purchased there may cost differently than if purchased at a grocery store.
The ‘pink tax’
Another consequence of tax regulations is the “pink tax,” which is the application of sales tax in a way that is considered disproportionally unfair to females. The “tampon tax” is another side of that same issue, with menstrual products being taxed disproportionately. That is because the taxable status of menstrual products often results in them being costlier for those who menstruate.
Menstrual products being subject to standard sales tax indicated to the public that they were seen as regular goods instead of necessities, especially in those states that give tax breaks to necessities. Being subject to tax, especially in VAT jurisdictions where rates can be as high as 27%, sometimes places these products out-of-budget for people with lower incomes.
However, some states (California and Louisiana) are working to fully exempt menstrual products from sales tax. Each bill exempts similar products (i.e., pads, tampons, menstrual cups and sponges, and sanitary liners), with Louisiana also opting to exempt panty liners. Hawaii’s bill specifically names many more menstrual items, like feminine hygiene syringes, and vaginal creams, foams, ointments, jellies, powders and sprays. Other states (Alaska, Iowa and South Carolina) accounted for all products used in connection with the menstrual cycle.
The definition of ‘necessity’ is changing over time
So where do we go from here? How can we ensure that sales tax does not negatively impact some groups more than others? With food, perhaps the definition of food should include any item made for consumption. That could perhaps level the playing field, placing less of an emphasis on ingredients.
Changes are already underway in numerous states when it comes to menstrual products, but as with the issue of food deserts, there is not a one-size-fits all approach. Legislatures pass rules due to differing opinions and varying public influences and priorities. And what about all of the other states that do not have such bills in place? Are they waiting to see results in other locations or are they waiting on something else? Whatever the reason, it’s especially clear that sales tax is only going to continue to evolve over time.
As vice president, regulatory analysis and design at Sovos, Chuck Maniace lives and breathes tax. For him, job No. 1 is ensuring Sovos customers remain fully compliant as rates, rules and requirements change around them. Chuck places a premium on making time to share his expertise, wisdom and insight as a means of facilitating career advancement within the Sovos organization and in increasing regulatory understanding in the broader Sovos community.
By Adrienne Barrett.
When someone hires a personal trainer because they want to get in shape, they don’t think twice about paying them for their services. After all, there’s nothing more valuable than health. So why isn’t it the same for tax professionals, who look after a client’s financial health?
This is the challenge tax professionals face when it comes to building strong advisory relationships. The reality is that many people only contact their tax professional when it’s time to file their taxes. Following the three points below can help tax professionals build stronger client relationships, change people’s perception of the industry, and empower the newest generation to take a more proactive leadership role with their clients.
1. Be Clear About the Importance of Advisory
My father has always told me: “You need two people in your life, a good best friend and a good CPA.”
That’s because, as a small business owner for the last four decades, he understands that a good tax professional is so much more than the source of a once-annual tax return. They are problem-solvers and confidants who clients trust to have honest conversations, make the best decisions with their money, and provide the most invaluable feeling of all: peace of mind.
Being crystal clear about these offerings is crucial for the long-term success of client relationships, and this is especially true when it comes to advisory services. Not every client will initially understand a fee-based structure or a line item bill for advisory offerings, so it’s imperative to sit down and define your role and the life-long resources you are bringing to the table.
Selling your services can be a challenging step for new tax professionals and career veterans alike, but starting this dialogue with your clients early will build the foundation for your role as an advisor who is always a phone call, text, or email away.
2. Beat the ‘Awkward Tax Pro’ Stigma
There’s no shortage of well known jokes about professions and the people who pursue them. Tax professionals aren’t exempt, and whether you’re in the industry or not, you’ve likely heard the stereotype of social awkwardness (queue the outdated pocket protectors).
Of course, this isn’t the case. Like any industry, accounting is full of an incredibly diverse range of people with different backgrounds, interests, and personality types. Still, it’s important to acknowledge the impact these preconceived notions may have, and be sure to put your best foot forward when meeting a potential client.
If someone is new to advisory services, it’s also important not to let doubt or fear impact your willingness to find new clients. Remember that you have the experience and expertise to be a financial leader, and that people want to pay for those skills to help plan their futures.
While there may be tax professionals that are more gregarious than others, someone doesn’t have to be an extrovert to build strong relationships. They can go the extra mile by showing their passion and how much they care about the success of their clients.
3. Stay Open, Flexible, and Curious
To build the best relationships, tax professionals need to know who they are, how they want to work, and what clients fit their personal interests. Achieving this takes an openness to change and flexibility to follow new paths.
As more firms go digital and clients turn toward Internet-based services, tax professionals need to lean into these trends and invest in the future of cloud, advisory services, and assurance. This applies to even the most old-school CPAs, who can learn from this younger generation of tech-first tax professionals while teaching them the fundamentals.
More people are also moving into accounting, so firms dealing with staffing shortages should be open to hiring professionals with non-traditional backgrounds. Doing so can lead to finding the best fit for their business that they may not have found otherwise.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that joining the tax profession comes from a love of solving problems. The best way to do that is through cultivating and maintaining strong relationships with everyone from industry peers to clients, new and old.
Adrienne Barrett is a client success leader at Intuit. She also works with a fee-based personal trainer and happily pays her CPA for advisory services.