Work smarter, not harder this tax season
Are you stressed? If you’re a tax professional then the answer is probably yes. As the tax season is upon us-- right after going through a seemingly endless tax season this past year, you might be wondering how you are going to do it all. We have some tools that can help you become more efficient, less stressed, have happier clients and maybe even make more money.
A reminder to prioritize your self care and mental health
Maintaining good physical, emotional and mental health is key for a productive tax season. While we can’t always avoid working long hours or deadlines, we can change the way we approach these things. It might be counterunitive or difficult to justify self care during busy times, but you will be more effective at work when you can bring your bodies and minds back to a state of wellbeing. If you aren’t taking care of yourself then you can’t give your best self to our clients and families.
There are many modalities to maintain our mental and physical health that only take a few minutes a day. A simple tip is to become aware of how we breathe. There are studies by organizations like the Heart Math Institute that show that once our heart and brains are working in coherence, we feel less stressed and more in tune with ourselves.
If you find yourself stressed, try this simple breathing exercise. It works in just a few minutes. Take a long, deep breath in through your nose. Imagine pulling the air up through your lower belly up to your chest, expanding your ribs and visualizing the air moving it to your heart. You can put your hands on your heart as you feel the energy go there.You can hold it for a few seconds or exhale right away. Exhale as slowly as you can through your mouth and relax your belly completely. When we are more centered into our hearts rather than our heads, then we feel less friction in our lives.
Time may be very scarce, but incorporating a few good habits each day works wonders. Here are some small steps that you can take each day:
- Movement every day helps. Even ten minutes of a YouTube exercise video or a brisk walk can help you feel less stressed and more uplifted.
- Sitting at a computer can be very taxing on the body in many ways, not only because we are not moving but also because the blue light from the computer screen confuses our internal clock and could disrupt our sleep. Consider buying blue light blockers, glasses that shield our eyes from harmful light from computer and phone screens, and try to minimize your time looking at the screen at night before bed.
- Sunlight does wonders for your mood, try to get into the sun as much as possible, preferably at sunrise or sunset as it helps our internal clock.
- Lastly, remember to drink water. When we are exhausted, sometimes we are actually really dehydrated.
Take these suggestions with you and know you are empowered to make changes at your own pace. Remember to do your research to better learn what is best for you to maintain your mental and physical health during stressful times. We are designed to handle stress, but not for prolonged periods of time.
How healthy are the processes within your Tax Practice?
Once your body and your mental systems are in balance we can take a look at the systems within your Tax Practice. Do you have clients that come in with a shoebox or bag full of faded receipts? Are you catching up on years worth of transactions during tax season, rushing to get a tax return done? We have some tips on how to use Cloud Accounting and Xero to prevent you from doing tons of catch up work during tax season and possibly generate revenue from your clients year round.
If you are one of those tax professionals who is getting a box of receipts from clients, you probably would like to never see such a box again. Not only is it time consuming to enter everything manually, but there can be data missed from losing receipts and faded ink. We recommend using tools like Hubdoc or Xero Files to go paperless. Hubdoc will read the receipt and put key data directly into Xero. It will also bring in an image of the receipt to Xero so that your client is audit ready. Xero Files is a simpler way to get data into Xero so that you can code the transaction to the correct account manually with the image for reference. Both tools allow you or your clients to send the data to Xero quickly via a mobile app or email.
If you are coding transactions one by one, you are losing time and money. When you are a tax or accounting professional, your time is a cost that will impact your bottom line directly. The work must be done no matter what, you can make the decision to use technology to do the majority of it or to use your time--which is ultimately a cost for you. Cloud accounting tools allow us to use technology for data entry so that you and your staff can spend time working with clients, analyzing data and doing the work that only humans can do. Time spent doing this type of work is also valued more by clients, who don’t see much value in your data entry skills but do see value in advice and insights on their financials.
If your client is using online banking, it might be time to connect their bank account to Xero so that their transactions can flow in daily from their online banking. All they need to know is their online banking details to connect with Xero securely. By automating data entry, you won’t need to enter transactions line by line bringing ease to your work.
Cloud Accounting Tools
You may have the banking data in the accounting system, but then how do you get it categorized into the correct account and get it ready for the tax return quickly? Xero offers two wonderful tools for this called Cash Coding and Bank Rules.
Cash Coding allows you to bulk reconcile transactions at once so that you can reconcile a year's worth of transactions in just a couple of hours. If you have one of those clients that didn’t keep accounting records all year, this will speed up the process of coding the transactions to the right account so that you are ready to work on the tax return in no time.
Bank Rules are extremely helpful for both monthly clients and clients you see once a year. Using Cash Coding in conjunction with Bank Rules is the most powerful way to reconcile in Xero. Bank rules allow you to essentially pre-code a transaction based on data that Xero will recognize such as vendor name or reference information. For example, you could put a rule in for all transactions that say “Gas” or the name “Exxon” be coded to “automobile expenses” automatically. Bank rules will be saved in your client’s organization automatically and ready to be reconciled using Cash Coding with just the click of a button. Using this tool will help you for tax seasons to follow.
Better conversations with your clients
Once you start working in the cloud and utilizing these tools, you are opening up opportunities for amazing new ways of working with your clients. You now have the ability to work with clients in real time because you have introduced automation. Since you can whip up a professional and polished Profit and Loss Statement quickly, you can present this to your clients to show how you can provide insights on their business all year long. You can explain to them how you could help them make big decisions on their business. Two suggested key areas to show your clients are:
- Show them what their profit margins are. They might not be as profitable as they thought or they might want to discontinue a certain business line. This can explain why they aren’t performing as well as their competition.
- Another key account to show would be the Owner’s Draw which could help highlight any cash flow issues.
By sharing these simple insights, you are having a conversation with your client that should motivate them to see their accounting data and interact with you more than once a year. This sets you up as a trusted advisor and provides opportunities to add on services such as bookkeeping. Having the numbers in real-time and an advisor like you gives your clients the power to make better and timely business decisions.
There may be clients who will resist real time accounting because they are afraid of what they might owe in taxes. The reality is, they can save money and take advantage of tax laws if they are working with their tax preparer all year to do tax planning. They can estimate their tax payments accurately throughout the year to avoid an unpleasant surprise tax payment due at the end of the year. An added bonus is that working with an accountant for tax planning can also be a tax deduction.
Another suggestion is to structure your pricing to reflect higher rates for clients who are requiring you to do manual work, since your precious time is a cost and these cloud accounting tools can help you spend less time per client.
You can also give your clients incentives to interact with you more times throughout the year by giving them a set monthly fee, which includes the tax return at the end of year. It can help them budget better for your services. One suggestion is to add a line item for taxes to their budget to help them manage their cash so that they don’t have to pay a large amount for tax preparation in April but spread out the cost over the year.
We might not be able to control our clients, legislation, pandemics or natural disasters but we can control how efficient our processes are within our accounting firm. We also have the ability to care for our wellbeing to give ourselves, families and clients the best experience. If you’d like more information on the tools we have provided join our Xero Community. You can also contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Xero is a cloud-based accounting software platform for small businesses with 2.45 million subscribers globally. Through Xero, small business owners and their advisors have access to real-time financial data any time, anywhere and on any device. Xero offers an ecosystem of over 800 third-party apps and 200 plus connections to banks and other financial partners. In 2020, Xero was included in the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index and recognized by IDC MarketScape as a leader in its worldwide SaaS and cloud-enabled small business finance and accounting applications vendor assessment.
About the Author
Jackeline Velez is the Director, US Hispanic, Xero. Before joining Xero in 2016, Jackeline spent 10 years working in public accounting and industry at PwC, Flotek Industries and Schlumberger. She previously served as a Senior Account Manager in Xero’s Houston community. In this role, she led a team of four women—the only all-female sales team at Xero in the U.S.— that supports accountants and bookkeepers as they adopted digital technologies to transform the way they do business. In 2019, Jackeline was recognized by Practice Ignition as one of the Top 50 Women in Accounting.