Embrace Technology: Your Firm Depends on It
By Lisa A. Myers, CPA, CFE, MAFF, CGMA
Rather than displacing accounting professionals, advancements in accounting technology may be making CPAs even more valuable. Accounting firms that embrace technology are seeing improvements in time management, productivity, accuracy, and security.
When I became Boyer & Ritter’s chief operating officer last year, one of my first tasks was to look at our tax preparation processes and find efficiencies that would benefit staff and clients alike.
Many of our firm’s clientele are owners and shareholders of closely held businesses. In addition to their corporate tax returns, we also handle their personal tax returns. In looking at ways to make the individual tax return process smoother, an initial step entailed looking at technological solutions.
COVID-19 drove home that the ability to work remotely and electronically share and process information is crucial. When the pandemic hit, fortunately we already had the technology in place that allowed our accountants to continue working with clients, who could securely send us documents without a trip to our office.
In 2019, we started using SafeSend. This program allows clients to send us documents electronically, and thereby enables us to efficiently use SurePrep and CCH Axcess Tax. In 2023, we are implementing another piece of the puzzle for handling individual tax prep: TaxCaddy from SurePrep. It’s a free app that clients can install on smartphones, tablets, and computers. Through the smartphone app, clients can take pictures of their documents and send them in. We can ask clients follow-up questions using a text function, and clients can electronically store their documents and returns.
Increasingly, we have clients who summer and winter in different locations. Many are spending less time in their offices. TaxCaddy gives them an easy way to get us their documents and quickly respond to questions we may have about their return. The TaxCaddy app allows us to cut through clutter and engage with clients without wading through overflowing email inboxes.
Let me be clear: I’m not looking to promote any particular products. We did our research and adopted the solutions that met our firm’s particular needs. Your needs may be vastly different.
My point is that whatever technology solution is right for your firm, you need to embrace that technology for the good of your clients and your staff. Yes, technology has a cost, but the cost of going without is far greater.
From the COO perspective, anything I can do to take pressure off our staff and enhance their work experience – which translates into a stable, motivated team – is a must. Our accountants want to spend their time being trusted advisers to clients, not performing data entry functions. Implementing technology and automation that removes much of the “grunt” work allows our professionals to concentrate on higher-level issues – challenges that drew them to public accounting in the first place.
Not only does automation give our team a better work experience, but it also helps us attract talent. Professionals entering the field have used technology and automation in college and look for the same in their employers.
All indications are that the pool of available accounting professionals will continue to tighten. Technology and automation are certainly one of the ways firms can keep growing and meeting client needs without burning out staff.
This is an issue for firms of all sizes. Indeed, smaller firms may handle a higher volume of individual returns. Accounting firms looking to survive and thrive must move past the days of shuffling paper and entering data manually.
Clients and your workforce demand it.
Lisa A. Myers, CPA, CFE, MAFF, CGMA, is principal and chief operating officer of Boyer & Ritter LLC in Camp Hill, Pa. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.