When considering switching tax software, many firms take the “wait until next year” approach, waiting for the “perfect time” to make the switch. But there is no perfect time to switch tax software. Nobody wants to exit their comfort zone and learn a new system, so pulling the trigger on switching gets deferred indefinitely.
While the “slow season” of summer used to be the preferred time to make a change, that is not necessarily the case anymore. For many firms, there is less of a distinction between “slow season” and “busy season” than there used to be. Since tax season doesn’t fully kick off until the end of January, and doesn’t reach fever pitch until spring, there is still plenty of time to make the change.
If you are considering switching tax software, there are a lot of options to weigh. It’s important to remember that your tax software may be the cornerstone of your tax practice, but it is only one piece of your firm’s technology infrastructure. Here are some areas you’ll want to consider when making a decision:
- Complexity/Special Situations – Any tax software can handle a simple 1040 return, but most firms aren’t making a lot of money on simple 1040 returns. You’ll need to take a good look at your client base and identify special situations like oil and gas returns, multi-national companies, consolidated returns (including multi-tiered consolidations), and complex apportionments. Even if these affect only a small minority of your clients, they can take up a large portion of your time.
- Workflow – If your tax software is the cornerstone of your firm, your expertise is the foundation. So don’t spend your valuable time on low-value work like data entry or tracking down client information. Your tax software should incorporate workflow and productivity tools like a digital organizer, scanning and flowing information into a return, e-file status tracking, e-signatures and electronic file exchange.
- Integration – Your tax software needs to work in the context of your entire firm. Integration with a workflow tracking system, time capture, onscreen billing/invoicing, document management and reporting is a must to ensure your firm works efficiently. If these systems share a client database, you’ll have more reliable client data, with fewer duplicates and less chance of errors.
- Mobility – Offering opportunities to work remotely is known to improve staff satisfaction. Clients are also demanding more mobile access to their own information. Your tax software should include mobile features that allow staff to access client information 24/7 without going back to the office after hours or on the weekends. It should also include client-facing mobile-ready apps, so clients can have self-serve access to their own documents. Lastly, even if your firm doesn’t currently offer remote work opportunities on a regular basis, a cloud-based system leaves the door open for you to allow remote work when needed.
Settling for another painful tax season just to avoid making a switch won’t save you any headaches. To find out what you should look for in a new tax system, download the Tax Software Decision Checklist by Brian Tankersley, CPA, CITP, of K2 Enterprises. Download Now.