How to tackle the tax season challenges with technology
6th Dec 2019
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The run-up to the 31 January has traditionally been the most dreaded time of the year for practitioners, but new tools are now helping accountants smooth over the tax season.
Although returns can be filed from April, clients tend to leave it until the last minute, causing stress for practitioners and problems with staff retention.
But technology is now changing the way firms approach the tax season. With clients becoming more tech-savvy, many of them expect to be able to communicate with their accountants regularly and to be able to use online portals to send documents and information easily. Technology is also improving efficiency and allowing practitioners to reduce their fees.
Communicating with clients during the tax season
“Still roughly around 45% of our clients are paper-based. It’s partly generational, partly attitude-based,” said Lucy Cohen, co-founder of Mazuma. “But we have introduced things like barcoding in envelopes so that when they arrive clients get an automatic notification.” According to Cohen, this stops clients from ringing to ask whether their envelopes have arrived, saving time for everybody.
“We use AI and recognition software and because we digitise everything we are able to apply that even to our paper-based clients.”
When it comes to reminding her clients of the deadlines, Cohen uses tech to send automated emails and texts. But it’s not just about the deadlines – it’s essential to communicate with clients regularly even if it is to ask them to do something as simple as to stop using staples in receipts and documents which need to be removed to process the files, Cohen explained. “It’s an education process.”
“E-signing is a big thing, having a shared document space,” said tax product manager at Thomson Reuters Mark Purdue. “One of the things that we do in Onvio is that when a document is digitally signed by the client, we put that into a folder that is automatically shared with them, so that two years down the line when they say ‘can I have a copy of last years’ tax return because I’m applying for a mortgage?’ they’ve already got it.”
The role of MTD
Technology will also play an important role in the future of self assessment. Making Tax Digital (MTD) will have an impact on those who are not ready for it. Every quarter, practitioners will have 30 days to provide the data for that period, which can cause a problem if the client is not answering emails or not contacting their accountants when they should, explained Purdue.
“Looking at your processes, making yourself more efficient and better technology is going to help with that quarterly process when it comes in,” he said.