Though many people may be reaching the part of their work calendar that’s easier than the rest of the year, for accounting firms, now is often the busiest time. Clients usually have more frequent requests as they close their books, and many companies have forms or official documents due by December 31.
No matter what your workload is like during the year-end tax season, we see accounting firms making a number of common mistakes holding them back from greater efficiency in operations and a higher degree of customer satisfaction.
Below are four typical errors we see made by accounting firms as they approach the end-of-year season:
1. Not having a set process to use for common tasks
This time of year typically sees clients request some common documents related to their accounting service: for example, they might want to see an itemized service invoice that reflects annual expenditures in a certain category. These forms are commonly used during year-end business analyses.
But if your firm doesn’t have a set process in place for fulfilling these common requests, they could add up to a serious drain on your team’s time and resources. No one should have to manually seek out documents or forms a client asks for, even if they are old. In this specific instance, you should not only have a process for how your team handles client requests, but a central location in which you are storing all the documents or records they might need.
Think about which kinds of processes you and your team often have to repeat during this time of year and document the ideal way to handle them.
2. Not using automation for simple processes
There are some parts of accounting firm services that are critical but don’t require a huge amount of human input. For example, completed forms may need to be sent to regulatory bodies by a certain time or date. Other times, you may need to send confirmation that a file or document sent over by a client was received by your team.
These are examples of processes you should already be automating within your accounting firm. There are many different ways to incorporate automation, from simple email functions offered by most popular mail clients to comprehensive accounting practice management software suites that give you a number of different features. The specific way you incorporate automation depends on the size of your firm and its current experience level with automation.
3. Putting too large of a burden on clients
In the accounting world, there are certain steps of larger processes that only clients can complete. These typically involve a signature or initial, or some other kind of written approval that has to come from a specific person or party. There’s not much your firm can do to get around these requirements.
However, there comes a point when some firms ask a little too much of their clients. For example, lots of traditional accounting practices ask their clients to print out documents, identify the right areas on which to sign, put everything in an envelope, and then mail it to the right place by a specific deadline.
By contrast, a more modern firm might offer multiple reminders in the lead-up to when the particular item needs to be done, allowing clients to be better prepared. They’d also likely use an electronic tool that can help make the task significantly easier for clients, instead of requiring them to make sure they have envelopes, printer paper, stamps, etc.
4. Managing all processes with disparate tools
It’s a common refrain among the accounting firms we speak with – they feel like all of their most important client information is scattered in different places. That client contract is in their inbox, the team organization chart is on the shared drive, and the expense report is on your desk waiting to be sent over to the internal accounting team.
You may feel like you have a handle on managing your processes with a bunch of different tools – even during the busy tax season when the pressure ramps up. But if you’re running your processes this way, there’s a good chance you’re missing out on some key efficiency gains that you could make by handling everything in one single platform.
Mistakes during tax season can be costly
We don’t mean to scare you, but challenges or mistakes you make during the end-of-year tax season can be even more damaging to your firm than if they happened another time. And while it may be too difficult for you to make changes on-the-fly during the current tax season, at the very least, we hope this article has given you some thoughts on how to improve for next year.
One of the easiest ways to enhance your end-of-year processes is by handling a majority of them with a single software tool. The right accounting practice management software can simplify things like employee time logging, deadline tracking, and client communication, helping you get the most out of your time even during the hectic tax season.