CEO & Co-Founder Catalytic
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3 Tasks Accountants Should Automate to Save Time

Even though the extended tax deadline is coming up in just a few short weeks, there's still time to upgrade your process for handing client tax forms. Doing so will help you attract Millennial and Gen Z clients, who expect everything to be digitized, as well as save you time, prevent errors and increase client satisfaction and compliance with IRS deadlines.

May 4th 2021
CEO & Co-Founder Catalytic
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Tax day was extended one month and two days this year to May 17, 2021. But that doesn’t mean the job will be any easier for accounting and finance professionals. More time to process files doesn’t necessarily mean more time to get work done.

For accountants and tax experts, it simply means an extra month of the hard work they already do during tax season. It’s expected that many taxpayers will take advantage of the extra time and put off filing until later. And tax experts were already planning to face a plethora of tax filing extensions before the extension deadline was moved. This means the tedious tasks that come with every tax season, like collecting customer information, consolidating financial data and managing mountains of paperwork, remain.

But what if these repetitive duties could be taken off your plate? Many of the tasks that consume tax experts’ time are ripe for digitization, which can keep you on track during this abnormal and hectic tax season.

How to Free Up Time During Tax Season

Although Monday, May 17 is quickly approaching, it’s not too late to save time by digitizing arduous or repetitive tasks. By leveraging automation and analytics tools, you can free up time to focus on clients’ needs and maybe even leave work a little early.

Here are three time-sucking tasks you can digitize quickly:

1. Client Intake Forms

The time suck: With most of today’s consumers operating in a digital-first mindset, sending your clients a tax information packet to fill out in the mail isn’t going to cut it. Requiring customers to print out a tax information form, fill it out, scan it onto their computer and then email the form as a PDF document is also too many steps. Even after the information is sent by the client, this process still requires you to manually track the info down and store it in a shared folder. This system can add up to hours spent simply managing client data when you could be spending more time on valuable projects — like filing their taxes.

How to digitize it: Replace the tedious back and forth of manually sourcing tax information with web forms — online questionnaires used to digitally collect information. With a web form builder, you can use templates to easily customize your own client information intake form. You can also add a section for clients to attach digital files like W-2s. Using web forms helps streamline all customer information into a secure digital thread that can be stored on a single online platform. Web form software can also be easily integrated into your email system and notify you once a client has submitted all of their tax information.

2. Bookkeeping

The time suck: Data entry is arguably the most tedious task of tax season. Entering data is vital for calculating returns and taxes owed, but the hours spent on it add up. Manual data entry also brings the risk of human error — an average 4 percent error rate, to be precise. And when clients are relying on you to give them the most accurate tax return and/or payment possible, every detail matters when it comes to data entry.

How to digitize it: Data analytics software can save hours of time wasted on data entry and improve accuracy at the same time. One study showed that automated data entry can be up to 99.99 percent accurate, and one company saw a 95% percent decrease in manual data processing after automating its Excel data entry. Consider data analytics software that can integrate into existing tools like spreadsheets and CSV files so you can calculate data from multiple sources and consolidate it in one place.

3. Signature Coordination

The time suck: Although IRS Form 8879 can be signed digitally, many accountants and tax services still require taxpayers to print the form, sign it, scan it and send it via email. This multi-step process could hold up the filing of your client’s return if they don’t have easy access to a printer or scanner.

How to digitize it: Instead of making clients literally take pen to paper for their Form 8879s, leverage eSignature technology like DocuSign to collect customer signatures online. eSignature tools offer a secure and easy way to acquire customer signatures without printing a document. Ensure the eSignature service you use is compliant with IRS regulations for e-signing.

Don’t be intimidated by the May 17 deadline as tax filing requests flood in. Take advantage of the time that is left to lighten your tax season workload with technology. With the right tools, it’s possible to make significant improvements in a short time period. For example, in March 2020, global advisory services company Grant Thornton helped a healthcare company with 100 locations reduce their time to gather supporting tax documentation by 65 percent using a solution built in just one week. Digitizing repetitive, time-sucking tasks can help free up your schedule and improve your processes for not just this tax season, but for many seasons to come.

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