07 Feb February 2018
It was 1984. I was a senior at Indiana University, and I got my first Macintosh computer; it was Apple’s initial release. Along with the computer came a program that was a game changer for me: Scott Cook had included the early version of his Quicken Software for personal finance—an electronic checkbook. I had never felt so organized.
Fast forward 30 years: Data has moved to the cloud, documents (bank, credit card and brokerage statements, paid bills) are now all digital, online banking is the norm, and an entire generation has grown up without a check register. Brokerage and retirement accounts are online and just as powerful, if not more so, as online banking solutions.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve felt a bit like Moses wandering the desert over the past few years as I’ve tried to sort out the best personal financial organization model for me as the marketplace was disrupted. To be quite honest, my financial disorganization has left me feeling, well, disorganized.
As with most things, if I’m struggling with an issue, then many of my clients are probably struggling, as well. If that’s the case, there’s an opportunity for us to lead and to educate ourselves and our clients. Consider this an opportunity to invite people in your community to your office, or host a webinar and teach them best practices for organizing their personal financial lives.
Let’s start by defining what I mean by Personal Financial Organization Model and agree on some basic core components:
- Access to all information anywhere, anytime and on any device. A core tenant must be that all of my personal financial information is at my fingertips.
- The model must include all banking and credit card transactions as well as brokerage and retirement account information.
- And, lastly, all personal financial documents must be digital in order to be accessible.
With these core components, I took a look at today’s marketplace tools in order to build my model.
- Personal Financial Software—Intuit’s Mint, QuickBooks Self-Employed, QuickBooks Online, Personal Capital and Quicken. As I reviewed each of these solutions, it was interesting to note that Mint, QuickBooks Self-Employed and Personal Capital were all nice solutions, with solid data feeds, but for me the fatal flaw in each of them was the fact that there was no check register and little to no reporting capabilities. Before you say it, I understand that today’s millennials have never used a check register, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.
Quicken, as of now, at least, is still a desktop product, so for me, it’s a non-starter.
This brings me to QuickBooks Online. QBO works well for banking and credit card flows, it has customizable chart of accounts (Categories), and robust reporting. QBO does not handle brokerage and retirement accounts, which caused me some pause, until I came to the realization that there was no need for brokerage and retirement integration, because those solutions are capable of standing alone.
- Brokerage and Retirement Accounts—Fidelity and Schwab, two of my favorites, stand alone as investment solutions. With the robustness of these platforms, there is no need to integrate them into QBO.
- Digital Storage—Google Drive works for me. I have a file structure, and every financial document I have is stored there.
On my smart phone, I have a folder/app container I call “Finance” where QuickBooks, Schwab and Google Drive live. Every transaction I have in my personal life lives there.
To make life just a bit simpler I’ve narrowed my credit cards down to two cards. One for business and one for personal. Both cards provide me the maximum value of points for travel. I’ve ceased all spending on my debit card because it doesn’t financially make sense based on the risk and not earning the travel points.
I’ve never been more financially organized than I am right now, and it feels great. If I feel this way, I think my clients will find value as well. I hope this article might inspire you to get your own personal situation more organized. But don’t stop there; pass it on to your customers and prospects, as well.
This is valuable content marketing at its best.
February…this is when things start to get interesting for most firms. If your firm does tax work, this year likely will have the added complexity of answering questions on Tax Reform changes and how it will impact your clients. While it adds complexity to a normally busy tax season, it also adds the potential for quite a bit of added business for tax planning. Below are some tips to handle these changes and also a small compliance change for 1099s to internally prepare yourself for next 1099 season.
Handling Tax Reform during Tax Season:
- Calculate a quick projection based on the clients’ current situation.
- If changes are significant, schedule a tax planning appointment for after tax season.
- Since tax season is typically stressful already, scheduling the tax planning session to after tax season will balance the workload.
- Also scheduling for after tax season will allow you to become more familiar with all the changes as well as allow timing for the software to include all updates as the IRS clarifies how things will be handled.
- For clients who necessitate your consideration of “Reasonable Compensation,” you may want to look at RCReports.com, which helps determine Reasonable Compensation.
- Set the expectation that a fee will apply. Have at least a minimum fee associated with the tax planning due to the law changes, so all staff will communicate this consistently.
1099-Misc Filing Changes for Tax Year 2018 (filed in 2019):
The IRS will no longer allow an electronic file or extra submission for a client. After the regular filing deadline (Jan 31, 2019), if a client realizes they missed/forgot a 1099, the entire client needs to be reprocessed and filed together. Essentially only one 1096 can be filed per employer to the IRS whether paper or electronic. If a mixed submission (i.e. multiple submissions that do not include all 1099s) is filed, it is subject to the Section 6721 penalty.
This should be communicated to clients now to encourage them to keep better track of their vendors for 2018 and beyond!
Some questions to consider with your IT professional
I was talking with an IT peer last week who does outbound services, and we were discussing the fact that many of his clients haven’t authorized him to update the firmware on their WiFi hardware, despite the fact that a major flaw was discovered in November in the encryption standard that virtually all WiFi networks use for security. It made me wonder if any of our firms are in the same scenario. His client’s lack of response for him to do this work could be a result of not enough urgency being presented to this person’s clients, or it could be that his clients are just so busy, they aren’t listening to the concern. Either way, it made me decide to emphasize this in our monthly Security Pro Tip, and to stress its importance. Here are three things you can ask your IT provider regarding the secure wireless access in your office to ensure you are properly protected:
- Has our WiFi network been patched to prevent the KRACK security flaw? All major vendors have issued patches for their hardware. Also, all Windows, Android and Apple devices have had a patch issued for every device OS, so make sure your devices are up to date on patches.
- Should we choose to “not broadcast” our WiFi’s SSID? You can make your WiFi network “secret” by not broadcasting the network name. This makes it harder to detect and attack.
- How long has it been since we’ve changed the passphrase? If it has not been changed in over a year, you should consider changing it for safe measure. Make sure the new passphrase is at least 12 to 16 characters and easy for staff to remember if they are connecting a new device.
Many devices also have the ability to restrict access to only an approved list by their network address (MAC address). While that creates a lot more complexity, it’s also a security feature worth considering. Any new device would have to be registered to get access, making it effectively impossible to hack unless a hacker can guess and spoof the network address of an approved device.
Build a stronger team during busy season by creating workplace rituals
This month, let’s go off-road and look beyond our usual scope of marketing and consider your company culture. If you attended your Rootworks Firm Retreat in Indianapolis last summer, you heard us discuss how workplace culture grows at the intersection of three aspects of your firm:
- Doctrine: The beliefs behind your firm, expressed in terms of mission, vision, values and business model
- Leadership: How your doctrine is taught through inspiring, empowering, incentivizing, rewarding and correcting staff and staff behavior
- Ritual: Creating experiences and traditions that are shared by all staff, from how new staff are onboarded and brought into the organization, to events such as company picnics, celebrations, brown-bag lunches—anything that brings people in the organization together in a positive, shared experience
The last one—ritual—is something to think about especially during busy season. These experiences and traditions are powerful moments that shape and define the culture of your firm and strengthen your esprit de corps. That’s why there’s no better time than tax season for an accounting firm to bring staff together with rituals that acknowledge and support their hard work, help them recharge their batteries, and decompress for a while when the workload is dense and relentless.
So how do you do it? How do you create an organizational ritual? The solution is as boundless as your own creativity. (And yes, you are creative! You’re an entrepreneur, which, by its very nature entails a creative vision.) If you fall prey to self-doubt about your creative prowess, remember what Pablo Picasso said: “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” Look around, search online, and shamelessly take good ideas and adapt them for your firm.
Here are a few ideas to prime the well:
- How about a special, simple Friday ritual during busy season to celebrate the end of the week? Maybe a breakfast spread of bagels and schmears, or lunchtime visit by a favorite local food truck, for example.
- Give each employee a $100 allowance to use creatively to jazz-up the office environment during busy season. Employees might even pool their allowances for a big-ticket item.
- Put on a halftime show—schedule a dinner party with entertainment around the middle of tax season to give everyone an evening to relax and unwind. Invite families to attend, too.
Rituals are powerful drivers of culture. They create a time, place and reason for people to gather together, share meaningful experiences and bond as a team. Celebration, feasting, storytelling…the kinds of ritual activities practiced by companies are widely varied, but the best ones are designed with intention to express the doctrine of the organization—its mission, vision and values.
There’s no better time to bring your staff together as a team than when they’re working intensely, shoulder-to-shoulder, to get the job done. Try to create a tax season tradition for your firm this year.
Want to read more? Try these links:
2017 Benchmarking Is Active
Firm Partners only, you will see the Benchmarking survey under the My Company menu in Grow.
KnowBe4 Member Offer
KnowBe4 is the world’s largest security awareness training and simulated phishing platform. Businesses use KnowBe4 to educate their staff on Cybersecurity threats. Rootworks has been using KnowBe4 since last year. They are offering Rootworks members a 25 percent discount. You can find more information in Grow under Learn | Vendor Information. Very important note: KnowBe4 is running the 25 percent discount through March 31. We will work to extend that as we get closer.
February Staff Trainings
- February 7. Electronic Filing Refresher.
- February 14. Tax Season Status Check & Extension Filing Process
Summer Events and Inspire Conferences
The on-premise event schedule is live in Grow. For new members, you’ll want to attend a Modern Firm workshop.
The following resources have been updated to include information on Liscio. All items below are in the Education Resources course:
- Complete Paperless 1040 Tax Process now includes appendix on Using Liscio in Your Process
- New Client Setup Process now includes appendix on Using Liscio in Your Process
- Kick-off Call Template now includes section for Liscio
- New Business Client Onboarding with Liscio flowchart has been created
- Remote Payroll Setup and Use has been renamed to Best Practices for Obtaining Payroll Hours from Clients
- Accounting CS Payroll Processing now includes section for Liscio
- New Business Client Setup Form Using Liscio
- New Individual Client Setup Form Using Liscio
- Client Exit Process and Client Exit Forms
- Checklist for Maintaining Database Consistently
Don’t have time to review everything now? Stay tuned for our Resource Update webinars, and we’ll walk you through things.