January 2017

Five Things You Need To Do for Tax Season

By Darren Root, CEO

Geez…are you ready? Here we go again. It’s tax season and we both know what that means. So the question is, how do we make this tax season just a little bit better. Following is my top 5 list of things that you need to do to make this one your best season yet:

Triage before busy season begins: All tax returns are not created equal. The best way to make busy season go smoother is to create efficiency in the process. The habit of reviewing every tax return doesn’t make sense. If you have experienced preparers and clients that have relatively “normal” or “basic” returns, however you define it, then you shouldn’t be reviewing every return. Create a Level 1 return in your practice management workflow that has the return getting scanned, prepared and sent out the door. Create a Level 2 return that is your normal process of Scan, Prepare, Review and send out the door. This step could save you up to 70% of your review time during busy season.

 

Add $30K or more to your bottom line in 2017 – You’ve heard us talk about adding Audit and Notice Protection to your line-up of offerings during busy season, well, delay no longer. If you’ve already done it, good for you, you are seeing the financial benefits to your action. Even if you’ve already done it, consider ways to expand adoption…make sure you are using the “opt-out” approach.

 

Minimize tax appointments – I know you think every client wants to meet with you and that real value is created by sitting in front of clients, but I don’t think this is the case. Consider ways to minimize meeting with clients, this is the only way you can get work done during the day…otherwise your options are nights and weekends.

 

Implement a communication manager – Managing tax season communication is key to a smooth season. Today, clients upload documents, drop them off, email and even text them. One person should be responsible for gathering and communicating with the client that all documents have been received. If there are missing items, yes, they should be responsible for gathering those items. When the return is completed, the same communication person is responsible for emailing and meeting with the client to complete the process. This person is also responsible for setting the expectation of payment upon completion of the return and for the opt-in/opt-out of Audit and Notice Protection.

 

Prepare the right amount of returns – Every return doesn’t represent an ideal client. Just because the client eventually pays you something does not mean they deserve your precious time and resources during busy season. Run a report from Practice CS showing the realization on all your tax clients. Take a look at the bottom 10% lowest realization clients and make a decision to stop doing those returns or double those fees.

 

These are 5 things you can meet with your team next week to implement before busy season. I guarantee if you will implement these strategies your tax season will be improved financially and with great free time.

I wish you a Happy and Prosperous New Year. We are already planning many great enhancements to your membership for 2017. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to let us know how we can help.

Software Savvy

By Sean Hanthorn, Education Team

This month’s tips & tricks relates to software systems.  Many firms that we work with are utilizing multiple software apps…so keep these tips & tricks in mind if you use any of the following applications:

QuickBooks Online
  1. Ensure you have your QBOA dashboard setup correctly. Documentation is available in the Online Learning System for the proper setup.
  2. Make sure you are closing periods in QBO as you complete a month/quarter. This will eliminate the problems that clients can create with messing up prior periods.
  3. If you pay for the client’s QBO subscription (and pass on the cost), make sure you setup Wholesale Billing to save 50% on the client’s subscription.
Practice CS
  1. Make sure your dashboards are simple and easy to use. If you don’t use the dashboard to track your work, how are you doing it? Examples of recommended dashboard setup are available in the Online Learning System.
  2. If your firm uses the Projects within Practice CS, update your tasks or status as you put in your time. This will create efficient workflow in your firm.
  3. Many due dates have changed for 2016 Tax Returns. It is imperative that you change those before the projects generate. You will find instructions for this in the Online Learning System as well.
Accounting CS Payroll
  1. To make corrections, you should almost always use Reverse. Voiding and deleting checks (especially if they were from a prior month) will screw up the liabilities in the system and create more hassle than it is worth.
  2. Never make a negative adjustment to a Pre-Tax Deduction (i.e. 401K, Simple IRA, Cafeteria Plan, etc.). This will not adjust the taxable wages the way you would think it would and will create problems at quarterly/W-2 time.
  3. Customize the Batch Data Entry Screen (Edit/Options in the Enter Batch Payroll screen) to make the data entry efficient. This is a one-time per client process, but it is worth it long-term.
Receipt Bank
  1. It is important to have your clients on a set schedule for getting receipts into Receipt Bank. If you follow the Rootworks Ecosystem process, having the client on a schedule is an imperative part of the process.
  2. Don’t teach your client how to login and do things in Receipt Bank. Keep it simple. Teach them how to take pictures of receipts and how to email in electronic ones they have. If you teach the client the full use of Receipt Bank, you have just created more work for yourself with onboarding and ongoing client support.
Slack
  1. If you firm isn’t using Slack for interoffice communications, we highly recommend it. That being said, make sure you create easy-to-understand channels for communication.
  2. Every time you plan to send an internal email, think about why you are sending it. Is Slack a better option for that message?  99% of the time, your answer should be Yes.  If not, we need to help you better understand Slack.

We will periodically update items with software tips and tricks in the newsletter.  Most of these items are included in the resources in the Online Learning System…so make sure you are efficient in navigating it.

The Price Is Righteous

By Chris Rund, Marketing Team
Solid Pricing Strategies are a Key Element of Your Marketing Plan

Of the four “Ps” of marketing (Product, Price, Place and Promotion), pricing is, perhaps, the most slippery for practitioners to get their arms around. We’ve put together some strategic tips to help you eliminate the guesswork and provide some solid guideposts for formulating your pricing structures:

  1. Thou Shalt Not Compete on Price Alone. It’s tempting to survey the market and aim to undercut your competitors’ pricing to attract clients, but don’t fall into this trap. Competing on price alone devalues your business and enters you into a race to the bottom. And consider the type of client who enters a relationship solely on the basis of price. Rather than viewing you as a trusted advisor, this client is apt to look at every one of your invoices with suspicion and constantly squabble over nickels and dimes. Is this the client you truly desire? We hope not.
  2. Go for Goldilocks. Not too high, not too low, but just right. It’s the Goldilocks rule of pricing. If you aim too low, you create low pricing expectations for clients, which creates an uphill journey from the beginning. Aim too high, and you risk pushing good clients into a corner where they have no room to increase the value of their engagements with your firm in the future. Aim for a comfortable zone in the middle ground, where you weed out low-ball clients and leave plenty of room for the good ones to grow.
  3. Fees vs. Value. Frame your pricing by expressing it in terms of value to your potential client, rather than merely fees. Instead of dollars spent, focus on the impact an engagement will make for your client’s business—discuss your relationship in terms of outcome and results. Remember, fees imply expense, whereas value implies a benefit that the client will derive from engagement. Which is an appropriate segue to our next principle…
  4. Many Happy Returns. Express your pricing plan to clients in terms of an investment that will provide better business results for your clients. As much as possible, quantify the return on investment a client will realize by engaging your firm. You can express it in terms of savings by outsourcing accounting services, improved cash flow, better KPI analysis and management, smarter spending strategies, enhanced tax planning… the list goes on. Understand the needs and concerns of your potential client, and show him or her how your engagement will pay off in those areas. Having documented studies of your existing clients’ results available will help you make a compelling case. (Be sure, of course, not to disclose any confidential details.)

These principles will help you approach the pricing puzzle with confidence and put you on the path to better long-term relationships with ideal clients.

Academy & Advantage Members:

January is going to be a great training month as we gear up for busy season! All event registration is in Grow on the Events screen. We’re choosing to do additional trainings more frequently in January and early February to help everyone better prepare.

  • January 6 – Staff Training: Getting Ready for Busy Season Part 2 of 2
  • January 11 – Staff Training: Getting Ready for Busy Season Part 2 of 2
  • January 12 – Q1 Planning Workshop
  • January 13 – Staff Training: How to Offer Audit Protection to Clients
  • January 18 – Staff Training: Tax Return Delivery (including 8879 digital signatures)
  • January 20 – Winter Technology Webinar (we’ll compare RingCentral to 8×8)
  • January 25 – Staff Training: Tax Return Delivery (including 8879 digital signatures)
  • January 27 – Staff Training: Electronic Filing Refresher

Executive Members:

Upcoming January Webinars:

  • January 12 – Q1 Planning Workshop
  • January 20 – Winter Technology Webinar (we’ll compare RingCentral to 8×8)

All Members:

For anyone thinking about Office 365:

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