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How to Optimize Tax Season With New Software

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Tax season is stressful enough; there is no need to add more stress with software problems. Now is the time to minimize added stressors and address the issues that are giving your firm headaches. IRIS Managing Director Jim Scott offers his views.

May 3rd 2022
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There is plenty of time left to learn from last tax season’s mistakes and implement new solutions to ensure you don’t repeat them.

The way we work has changed dramatically over the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, driving CPA firms to increasingly turn to cloud-based software solutions. Software is a powerful tool that can increase efficiency, client retention and firm growth if appropriately utilized and implemented. Although software has many benefits for firms, steer clear of mindlessly throwing software solutions at every issue you face. Be sure to vet vendors and focus on integration and usability.

The decision to implement new software or change existing systems should not be taken lightly. Critically analyze your firm's appetite and ability to change systems before taking the next steps. Once buy-in is received, ensure your entire team is on board and open to the change, especially anyone expected to be a front-end user.

The addition of software solutions should not be a rushed process, but rather a thorough and well-thought-out one. It is critical to vet providers based on several factors such as usability, integration with third-party applications and cybersecurity precautions. During this process, pay close attention to the implementation timeline of new solutions. Ideally, all software solutions for tax season should be ready when the season begins to prevent technical issues and hiccups in the middle of this busy time.

Test, Then Test Again

It's critical to thoroughly test and evaluate your systems; nobody wants to spend hours during the busy season on the phone with IT to fix bugs. Learn how to use new software and understand how to integrate applications. Even if you are not changing software, read up on known changes to your current systems.

Take note of any changes and notify staff accordingly, encouraging teams to practice and conduct test runs with the new software to address any questions before the busy season. Ensure user counts are up to date and account for expected new hires to ensure you don’t waste time waiting for licensing.

Finally, check for updates and determine if it is worth upgrading your systems. In some cases, upgrading systems can be critical for security and support reasons. If your firm does decide to upgrade, ensure you can roll back to the older version should any problems arise. Adequately testing old and new software before tax season begins can ensure minimal hiccups and time wasted during the long workweeks.

Proper Training is Power

While technical issues are a concern when using software, human error can also slow down processes if you do not have adequate training. The benefits of software can become nonexistent if staff are not properly trained – and that often results in wasted technology spending and a continuation of the original issue.

When vetting software solutions, investigate what type of training is included, for example, e-training videos allow employees to watch at their convenience and reference whenever needed. Some vendors also provide sandbox training, offering employees hands-on experience and walkthroughs.

Beyond training from the software provider, firms can encourage someone to become a 'power user' or expert in the software. Having an internal expert at the firm can be highly beneficial to teach other staff members and answer quick questions.

While software is a powerful tool, it can become a liability if misused. Be sure to make your software decisions, implement bug fixes and conduct employee training with ample time before tax season to reap the maximum benefits.

Grow Your Firm With Software

As the next tax season is many months away, now is the time to ensure you iron out the kinks in your software. Focus on the aspects of your services where you can drive value, reduce wasted time, generate additional revenue, or reduce cost.

With these proactive measures in place, your business will be prepared to manage uncertainty, ensure adequate resourcing, and mitigate costly reactive measures.

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