Can Software Replace You?

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With tax season fading fast in the rearview mirror, how are your clients preparing for next year's tax season? Are they planning to spend more time with you? Are they investing in some fancy accounting software in hopes of becoming more self-reliant? Have they discussed any of it with you? If not, you might want to pick up the phone and start the dialogue yourself.

According to industry expert the path to accounting success for small businesses involves a combination of do-it-yourself software and a personal touch from a professional accountant.

“These programs have not eliminated the need for an accounting firm,” Rich Carlson, president of Carlson Communications Corp. told the Boston Globe. “But they've given us the ability to use the accounting firm's expertise more efficiently.”

The sophistication of newer financial software reduces how much small businesses rely on their accountants but is not without risks. Having a single individual doing all the book-keeping can lead to bottlenecks or, if the bookkeeper leaves or is unable to work for any period of time, can make it harder to “catch up” after a down period. Proper initial set up is also needed and may offer accountants an opportunity to consult with their clients to insure the software produces information both the client and the accountant can use. The right software can also help streamline the communication process because most packages offer an email function that sends reports and data directly to the accounting firm via the Internet.

“Starting out right can give them more control over their business and make better business decisions,” Denise Cataldo, a CPA in Marlboro, MA told the Boston Globe. “Companies might use the software to key-punch their payroll and data entry, then we'll do their bank statements and quarterlies.”

Software manufacturers also recommend consulting regularly with an accounting firm. Liz Sophia, product manager at Peachtree, encourages small businesses to “match their software program to their accountant” and to make sure their accountant helps them choose the right software for their business needs, according to the Boston Globe.

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