08 Jan January 2018
Building For a Great 2018!
Heads-down started for RootAdvisors a couple of weeks ago, as the House and Senate readied to pass new tax legislation. We were slammed with phone calls, text messages, and emails asking about the impact of tax legislation on individual situations. Now, it’s on to payroll tax returns and W-2 preparation. We, like you, get very busy this time of year.
As our accounting firm digs in for the season, our team at Rootworks gets laser-focused on making things easier inside the firm and for our clients. This focus on our firm is what enables us to help you make our member firms better. Here’s a sampling of the projects we’re working on during busy season to enable us to better serve you when you resurface:
- Website Platform — Using Rootworks.com as our guinea pig, we’re working on our most advanced website concept ever. Our goal is to integrate, as thoroughly as possible, the website and client experience. This is my brainchild, and I will be personally spearheading the initiative. Grow and Rootworks.com will become one; this is the future for Rootworks and will be for your firm, as well.
- Planning Section in Grow — Vision, Core Values, Internal Firm Projects, Tasks and To-Dos, GPA and Benchmarking will all be ready following tax season.
- Learning Center in Grow — We have been re-imagining the tools, resources and courses in an easy-to-use, modern way. Finding tools and resources will be easier. Taking a quick course will be a better learning experience. Registering for one of our Firm Retreats or Inspire Conferences will be a simple click away.
- RW Connect in Grow — We’ll be making this a much more modern experience.
- Account Representatives — We’re working on developing a model that allows us to be more outbound to you instead of you having to always be inbound to us. Our goal is for you to get the most out of your membership.
- Firm Retreats — We are rebranding our Summer Partner Retreats to be Firm Retreats. We want to encourage you to bring your staff along for the experience. We’ve seen from our Inspire Conferences this year how valuable it can be to you and your staff when you’re all on the same page.
This is just a sampling of the initiatives we’re working on to make your firm’s 2018 the best it can be. Some additional projects on our agenda include staff onboarding and evaluations, digital CPE certificates, and enhanced marketing materials for our Academy firms.
Just know that while your heads are down working hard, so are ours. As you prepare to tackle the season, remember what we’ve discussed in 2017:
- Tax Audit Protection — do not let another year pass by without implementing this service.
- Firm Culture — The next four months are tough; make it as enjoyable as possible.
- Slack.com — This is a great tool for internal communications.
- Zoom.us — Make sure to take full advantage this busy season and offer video conferencing with your clients.
- Liscio.me — This is a great tool to improve your client experience. A simpler onboarding process for your new 1040 clients, an easier way to manage your To-Go file cabinet in the front of the office, and a mobile app that allows you to communicate with your clients securely. In addition, Liscio Front-Desk tablet app was just released in time to improve the experience for those clients walking in your front door.
- Security — The bad guys know it’s tax season; take every precaution possible to secure your client’s data. Two-factor authentication, VPN when connecting from home, endpoint protection on all devices connecting to your network… and do not email personal information! This should be communicated to your clients, as well.
As a final note, I want to personally thank you for all your support in 2017 and wish you all success in 2018. We’ll be doing our very best to support you!
Ready or not, tax season is here.
Take a deep breath. Hold it…now release. Remember that line, “You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here”? It’s about time to reverse it: “You don’t get to go home, you have to stay here.” If you feel like this before tax season, you’re not alone…at this point, these are the questions: What can you do, quickly, to feel ready for tax season, and are there any last-minute items that need to be addressed for this tax season to run as smoothly as possible? Here are a few areas that you can consider:
- Are your systems clean and ready to go?
- Make sure your project management tools have no old due dates hanging out. Cancel or complete projects that have gone past due that were forgotten or skipped.
- Deactivate clients in your CRM, document management and other systems that did not return to the firm last year or that you know will not be returning this year.
- Are your routing sheets updated for any process changes you have made?
- Decide on process changes. Are there any areas in your tax process that caused friction last year? Common areas include:
- Eliminating client meetings: do you REALLY need to meet with that client or do they just expect it because you’ve always met with them before? Use the “Reduce 1040 Meetings Letter Examples” document under Education Resources > Tax > Letters, Forms and Tools.
- Organizers: Do you send them because that’s what you’ve always done? Do clients really use them? Could you replace them with a simple letter or checklist as a reminder that tax season is here?
- Missing information: Who in the firm requests data from clients? Plan on designating one or two staff members for this step. For example, a preparer creates a list of missing info, sends this list to the admin staff, who then contact the client. The preparer continues with return work until the data is received by the admin and passed back to them. Admin should also be used for the final contact.
- Delivery: Admin staff should be in charge of contacting the client for payment, signature and delivery of the final documents. As part of data security best practices, make a plan to eliminate emailing any client documents this season.
- What new tools are you using this year? Are staff sufficiently trained?
- Have the right clients: Have you raised your rates recently? The clients that are likely to complain are also the most likely to be at the bottom of your list. Make sure you only accept new clients that fit your preferred business model, and release those clients that you know will never fit.
- Client Experience: Have a plan to document your clients’ experiences this tax season. This will allow you to pinpoint areas of friction and areas of excellence in your internal and external processes. Once the deadlines are past, review this document and plan changes to be made during the slow months of 2018.
With just a few tweaks, you can save yourself plenty of time, lots of headaches and allow different staff to help with the burden. You may just find time to have dinner with your family, time to read (something other than tax law), or just quiet time with a glass of wine! Whatever you decide, good luck! Your Education team is cheering you on, and we’ll be here if you need us!
When tax season heats up, so does fraud. Review this list of popular scams.
While everyone is scrambling to make sense of the new tax laws, it is also important to review the most common tax scams with staff to make sure your firm doesn’t fall victim to a security breach or cyber attack. Last year, the IRS released the “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams. While it is likely that some new scam will emerge this tax season, the old hits never really go out of style.
The list covers everything from phishing, scams and identity theft to unethical marketing practices of inflated return claims. The list is worth a review with staff to increase awareness as your office activity heats up.
You can read the IRS’s “Dirty Dozen” article here.
It is also a great idea to do one more training opportunity in phishing email red flags, and how to think, and look carefully before opening any email attachment, or clicking on any link. Remember, if there is any doubt, delete!
The Year-round Habit of Marketing is Starting Anew
Happy 2018! Time to get on the merry-go-round for another trip around the sun. For us, the year-end revelry gives way all too quickly to the reality of busy season approaching like a tsunami. As you confront myriad seasonal tasks leading up to tax rush, remember the importance of good marketing communication.
One of the primary segmentation points you have with your audiences is existing clients vs. non-clients. During the seasonal tax push, communication shifts decidedly toward your existing client base. Focus on delivering content and information that helps your clients comply with IRS requirements and conform to your firm’s business model, and everyone will have a better tax season. This year, there’s no shortage of relevant content. Here are a few ideas:
- The impact of tax reform law
- Early reminders for 1099 filing
- Organizer notification
- Portal adoption incentives and instructions
- For firms that have adopted Liscio, provide instruction on downloading and using the web interface and mobile app
- Early filing incentives—remind and encourage people to submit documents earlier, rather than later
- Reminders about Audit and ID Theft protection, if you offer those services
Deploy your email and social media channels on the digital side, and keep some fact sheets and printed materials on the shelf for walk-in clients.
And, importantly, set up a mechanism to use your tax-season touchpoints to identify clients who are ready to augment their relationship with your firm in the coming year. When the smoke clears after tax deadlines, you can go to work on new marketing plans for those existing clients, who represent the path of least resistance to enhanced revenue.
Happy New Year, and here’s hoping your busy season is shaping up to be the best ever!
January 5, Staff Training: Getting Ready for Busy Season, Part 2 of 2
January 10, Staff Training: Getting Ready for Busy Season, Part 2 of 2 (repeat of Jan. 5 session)
January 17, Staff Training: Cleaning Up Your Systems for the New Year
January 24, Staff Training: How to Offer Audit Protection
January 31st: Staff Training: Tax Return Delivery and 8879 Signatures
February 7, Staff Training: Electronic Filing Refresher
February 14, Staff Training: Tax Season Status Check & Extension Filing Process
SurePrep offering free training webinars
If your firm uses SurePrep, here are three training dates:
Training Supplement Webinars: In an effort to make sure that everyone is ready for tax season, we are offering two 1040SCAN Training Supplement webinars and a TaxCaddy Training Supplement webinar. The supplement webinars are intended as high level overviews. They do not replace the formal training modules that all new users should go through before using the system.
IMPORTANT: There are three separate sessions. All three training supplement webinars will be recorded and made available in the SurePrep Help Center. If you use both 1040SCAN ORGANIZE and 1040SCAN PRO we suggest you only register for the 1040SCAN PRO session. The PRO session will cover everything that the ORGANIZE session covers and then some. If you use a combination of PRO and ORGANIZE, you’re welcome to register for both, but there will be many redundancies. 1040SCANverify users can register for the PRO session on January 18th. Outsource customers do not need to attend the training supplement webinars.
If you are a 1040SCAN ORGANIZE user, please register for this session on January 16: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/5982361790291167747
If you are a 1040SCAN PRO user, please register for this session on January 18: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/1668394933363440899
If you are a TaxCaddy user, please register for this session on January 25: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/8374311953236768770