Tax Organizer Best Practices
Tax season is busy, messy, and for most people, stressful. Our tech-forward firm is always looking for ways to make it easier on our clients and our team. Enter personalized, digital tax organizers!
Organizers of any sort are helpful timesavers, but why not use one that can work with email, aggregate based on each client’s past submissions and needs, and cut your time in half? Digital organizers are the way to go. Here’s how we think you can effectively go about choosing a platform, learning it and rolling it out to your clients to achieve a high adoption rate:
Your new software should:
- Be cloud-based. This increases usability from all sides and helps prevent loss of data. It also speeds up your process by making submissions instantaneous.
- Integrate seamlessly with your existing tax software. Keep everything in one place.
- Be simple and easy to use from both sides. Look at everything from your clients’ perspective; if they can’t use it easily, you shouldn’t use it at all.
Review your software stack and choose something that integrates well. We chose Intuit® Link because we already use Intuit’s entire suite of accounting software. Link connects seamlessly with everything we use to make the transfer of data easy. It’s also cloud-based, which means our team and clients can access it anywhere across multiple devices. It’s simple; our clients log in and everything they need to do is presented clearly with minimal decisions and choices on an easy-to-read dashboard. Sounds great, but is it actually simple to use? That’s where testing comes in.
Test your new software to make sure it works for you. We added a team member as a “client” in our system and began to go through all the steps from our end and the clients’ end. This is important because you’ve got to be able to teach your clients how to use it! If you don’t understand it, how can you expect them to?
During your testing phase, ask yourself:
- Is this saving me time in my busy season? In our case, it was because Link pulls data from the previous tax returns so each client gets a personalized list.
- Is this something my team can all use effectively? Link was simple to use in conjunction with Intuit ProConnect™ Tax Online because the connection was seamless and we could sign in from anywhere.
- Can I easily explain this to my clients? If you want a good starting point, try likening it to something people are already familiar with. In our case, we told clients that attaching documents in Link worked just like attaching them to an email. Lightbulbs went off right away!
Create a plan for introducing your new tool to your clients and roll it out. This is probably the most important aspect of deploying out your new organizer. You need to cover all the bases from visual to auditory and demonstrative; remember, not everyone learns the same way. Create visual guides, find and disburse videos about it, and remain available to help walk clients through it by email, instant message, screen sharing and phone.
Here’s an example of a visual that was included in a pre-tax time “get ready” email:
In our firm, we created visual guides in the form of screen grabs. We drew circles around necessary elements and clearly outlined them in three steps, then put all of these into shiny, graphic emails that were dripped out to our clients over a period of weeks. We continued this throughout tax season. In addition, we found that it helped increase our adoption rate tremendously to incentivize the use of the new tool. We called it “early check-in” and gave a small percentage off this year’s bill when clients did everything on the checklist prior to their appointments.
Here’s an example email we sent using the automated emails feature from Link, and added step-by-step explanations to the email using the template editing options for the process the client was about to initiate in clicking the button in that email. This is our initial invitation email. We have a reminder email, a secondary “send your documents” reminder and a wrap-up email with steps on how to retrieve the tax return copy in Link when the time comes. That was a big timesaver for us!
So, is This Worth Doing?
Absolutely! We saved hours of time because the majority of our clients entered data directly into Link, and since Link integrates seamlessly with ProConnect Tax Online, the data they entered auto-filled on their tax return templates. We were able to complete more tax returns at a faster pace than ever before. The best part? You can re-use the guides and resources you created for next year.
Innovation takes a lot of work, but it’s worth it when you save time, increase productivity and have lots of happy clients!
Editor’s note: This article first appeared on the Intuit® ProConnect™ Tax Pro Center.