This article was written by Roman Kepczyk, founder of InfoTech Partners North America.
The 2002 tax season is around the corner, so it is important that you focus on fine-tuning processes and procedures to ensure that this is the smoothest tax season ever. Below are some opportunities for creating a more efficient busy season.
1-Digital document storage: Put procedures in place to immediately begin storing a PDF copy of every final tax return in your client directory whenever you print out the final copy of the return for the client and the IRS. This will allow you to have desktop access to files whenever you might need to look at them in the future (and they are also backed up and stored offsite by your tape backup system so you have redundancy!).
2-Rethink your document directory and file names for storage: When saving client files make them more descriptive, so you can search through your network files by date or name and staff can find client files more easily. (Instead of 78345eng.doc, name the file: 20020115 Thompson tax engagement letter.doc).
3-Utilize onscreen review: Make sure your people are comfortable with the onscreen review process and use of digital review notes by providing training and follow up. This will allow you to complete returns quicker and minimize the amount of unnecessary printing you have to do.
4-Get the bill out with the return: Be sure your tax professionals are entering their time on a daily basis and posting the information. Charge an administrative setup fee to cover all miscellaneous charges and administrative production costs (no more $1.35 copy charges or .1 assembly time charged!) Remember that previous year’s charges have a large impact on this years return, which is always subjective, so implement procedures to get the bill created quickly and ask for payment at delivery.
5-Standardize support procedures: Formalize your listing of primary and secondary tax application gurus and place this information on the intranet so everyone knows who to contact when there is an issue. Also know how to restore a damaged file from backup tapes and make sure at least two people know how to install updates from your tax application provider.
6-Update your business continuation plan in the event of a disaster: This includes working with your network integrator to verify your backup software is working properly and that everything is being backed up (including implementing disaster recovery software). Negotiate a recovery scenario with the integrator such as having a “hot spare” server available or expanded coverage (nights and weekends) for the core months.
7-Review equipment contracts: Schedule preventative maintenance and update your information, so that your duplicators and printers are ready to go and covered during your expanded hours/weekends. Be sure to have adequate supplies for toner and laser cartridges (as you may have some new equipment) and alternate suppliers for these products.
8-Fileserver capacity: As many of you prepare to rollover your time and billing files at year end and install the new tax season applications, remember that they will take up a lot of room. Make sure you have plenty of hard drive space free for the rollover (20% or 2Gb).
9-Communicate digitally: Collect all of your clients email addresses and that open communication with them as email is rapidly becoming the easiest way to ask clients questions or obtain information. Email allows the preparer to ask questions during off hours and document the question was asked. The email list can also be used for documenting your requests and for sending out tax bulletins.
10-Organize your tax knowledge: As always, we will be inundated with tax bulletins and alerts at the time when we are busiest. For email alerts, set up a separate directory in your email account and have them automatically routed there (Outlook has a rules wizard), where they can be reviewed when you have time and easily searched if you are looking for something specific. Also by placing everyone’s favorite links to tax sites (i.e the IRS link to applicable federal tax rates) on your intranet site, it will make everyone’s web searching more effective.
Contact Roman at [email protected].