Using Cloud Accounting For A Better Tax Season
Recently, I talked with Rachel Riebling, a senior accountant at Franz Michael Walter, CPA. Rachel told me how moving to the cloud transformed her tax season experience last year – and why she expects this year to be even better.
Mindy King: What made you decide it was time to move to the cloud?
Rachel Riebling: QuickBooks® has always been our software of choice; if a new client came in, we’d suggest they switch over if they weren’t using it already. The only downside was they could have one of a bunch of different versions. With QuickBooks Online, we were excited because it meant there would be a standardized option.
Mindy: So you were ready to make the jump right away?
Rachel: Well, we had a bunch of questions. What about security? What if it went down?
So, we tested it on ourselves, first, and the results were amazing. We no longer had to be on the computer where the files were – we could be anywhere. The site didn’t go crazy or break down; it actually improved productivity. It was one of the best decisions our firm ever made. We started moving our clients to the cloud soon after. Now, we only have one left on the desktop, and they’ll be switching in January.
Mindy: Did you face any resistance from clients?
Rachel: For the younger, more tech-savvy people coming into the market, it’s what they want and expect. If we tried to give them paper, they’d go elsewhere. For our older clients, we told them that if they were not 100% satisfied and didn’t see the benefits, we’d happily transfer them back.
We haven’t had to switch anyone back! They’ve all become cloud advocates.
And here’s another cool thing: my father has been a CPA for 30 years; he comes from pencil-and-paper tax returns. Yet, he gave the cloud a chance and now that he sees the results, he’s a thousand percent behind it. He’s living proof that anyone from any generation can use this technology.
Mindy: How was your first tax season working in the cloud?
Rachel: Last year was amazing. In the past, gathering data from business clients during tax season was very time-consuming. When there were missing numbers, we’d grind to a halt. We work long hours during tax season and I’d often have to wait until morning to get the information I needed. I’d lose days at the busiest time of the year. Working in the cloud, I can just log into their books on my end and find what I need.
Mindy: Productivity has improved, then?
Rachel: It’s like having a head start. When a client’s file comes in, I already know what to expect. When you work in the cloud with someone, you’re really deep into their numbers. You know what their return is going to look like and there are no surprises. This year will be the first full year with all our clients in the cloud, so it should be even better.
Mindy: Do your cloud clients have a different attitude toward tax season?
Rachel: We’ve had clients tell us they’re actually looking forward to tax season! Working in the cloud, we can monitor their businesses more closely, provide guidance and advice. So, when the end of the year comes, nobody is freaking out. They know where they stand. They may have a liability, but at least they know about it in advance. It’s definitely peace of mind for them.
Mindy: You said working in the cloud gives you an opportunity to provide guidance and advice. How has that changed your client relationships?
Rachel: When we provide advice like that, what we’re doing is on a higher level than just entering transactions. We can help find strategies to keep more of what they earn, and get more benefit out of it. We have definitely become that trusted advisor.
Mindy: Outside of tax season, are there any other tasks that the cloud has made easier or more efficient?
Rachel: Bank reconciliation is so much easier. What used to take two minutes now takes 15 seconds. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you add it up, it makes for real time savings.
Some banks are not set up to automatically sync to cloud-based software yet, but I take that as an opportunity to have a conversation with the client, letting them know that their bank is behind the times and may not be the bank for the business owner on the go.
Mindy: How is the actual transition process? Easier or harder than you thought?
Rachel: It’s really stress-free. On the long end, the transition can take 30 minutes, but normally, it’s about 5 minutes.
I did have one that took four hours; the problem ended up being that the client didn’t have the updated version of the desktop software. She had just never clicked to download it, so I recommend that as a first step: always make sure your client has the latest version of the desktop software before you try to move them to the cloud. It could save you a lot of time.
Mindy: That’s good advice. Is there anything else you’d say to other accountants who are considering moving to the cloud?
Rachel: I don’t know why they haven’t already! Seriously, it increases productivity incredibly. The speed at which we can do things now, we’ve been able to just pile on clients and we’re actually looking at hiring more people now. Who wouldn’t want that?
Editor’s Note: Follow Rachel and Franz Michael Walter, CPA on Facebook.