Tax season compression continues to be a top concern for firms of all sizes. Late nights, long weekends and little time for family are often things we have learned to live with during tax season. But does it always have to be this way? Are there opportunities to reclaim some of this time?
A common complaint is the inability of staff to effectively research and resolve client tax issues encountered during the tax preparation process. This is often the result of not having effective tax research resources or the proper training to use them. It may be the source of a number of inefficiencies and a potential opportunity to reclaim some valuable time.
Those inefficiencies could be:
Being bombarded with questions during their busiest season
If staff are not equipped with the proper resources for researching tax issues, then they may look to others for answers. All too often, an issue identified by the staff winds up on your desk to resolve. This adds another task to your day causing you to work longer and keeping you from focusing on higher value client services — complicating not only your work/life balance during tax season, but also keeping you from enhancing client relationships (and profits).
Staff resorting to using unreliable sources
Even when they attempt to resolve the issue, they often resort to using Google to find their answers. This might lead them to a reputable source such as www.irs.gov, but it will often end with them using unverified information found on less reputable sites. This could lead to erroneous conclusions or missed opportunities to benefit the client. This risk creates a lack of confidence in their answer (or its source) and may cause you to perform additional research to verify that it’s accurate.
Spending way more time than they need to
Staff who do not have access to effective tax research solutions (during tax season and throughout the year) often spend more time than necessary trying to locate answers. Most of us are all too familiar with the pain of having to flip back and forth between dozens of websites to find the information we are looking for. Not only are you going to different websites for questions related to the federal return versus any state return, but you have to browse a different website for each state. This is frustrating enough without even considering that each website is designed differently. This lack of consistency results in an even greater blow to efficiency because you have to learn how to search and navigate through any number of formats and layouts, each with its own challenges. The time spent navigating multiple sources often outweighs the cost of a quality research resource.
Good news — there is a better way
Does any of this sound familiar? It is easy to go about your day without noticing some of these inefficiencies, but when you step back and really think about all of them, you start to realize how much time and energy is wasted. Even worse, this is time and energy wasted when there is none to spare — during the heat of tax season. With the TJCA changes making this tax season more challenging than most, a new light is shined on this issue.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could reclaim this time and spend it with family or providing high-value services? The solution might not be as challenging as you think. Maybe you just need to ensure your staff have the right tool for the job.
This is why so many professionals are turning to trusted tax research solutions. When evaluating tax research solutions, there are three crucial factors to consider.
1. How comprehensive is it?
It is essential to find a trusted resource that is suitable for all your tax research needs. That is the key to bringing consistency to your tax research process. If your staff are only finding some of their answers, then they will likely revert to Google. If it is not comprehensive enough to cover all of your needs, you will still wind up searching multiple sources or websites to find your answers. The solution you choose for your firm must be able to handle all your research needs and you must be able to trust that those answers are always right.
2. Is the information easily consumable?
Although finding all the right answers is certainly important, that ability quickly loses its importance when those answers are too complex to understand. The tax research solution you choose should provide information in a way that makes it easy to find and digest. Plain English explanations also make it easy to pass information along to your clients when topics are particularly relevant to their needs.
3. Does it integrate with your current tax compliance solution?
How can your tax research solution make it easy to find your answers? Well, the best way is to integrate with the tax compliance solution your firm is already using. Remember how much you enjoy manually searching for all your answers? Integration allows you to bring up relevant information based on the field you’re on in your tax compliance solution, eliminating the need to search. Not only does this save time, it also makes finding the right answers a lot less stressful.
As if there were not already enough reasons for firms to employ a sophisticated tax research solution, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) has ushered in approximately 500 changes to the Internal Revenue Code, including many new and highly complex provisions. With so many changes, how do you ensure that everyone in your firm has the same interpretation of how each client’s situation should be handled?
When firms partner with Thomson Reuters for their tax research needs by using one of the Tax Return Compliance Solutions, they enjoy industry leading resources like the PPC Deskbooks and Federal Tax Handbook. These solutions provide guidance using real-life examples to bridge the gap between interpreting the law and navigating real-life client situations. The PPC Deskbooks and other Checkpoint solutions often seamlessly integrate with UltraTax CS professional tax software and GoSystem Tax RS, so you can conduct tax research without missing a beat.
Making use of tax research solutions like these allow firms to empower their staff to be more self-sufficient. Not only does this avoid time-waste, it also frees up partners and senior level staff to focus on other things such as business development or staff development. This benefit should be welcomed by all firms given the profession’s increasingly competitive landscape and consistently high turnover rates.
These solutions also integrate with Checkpoint Learning, which is especially useful for those who own subscription packages. To ensure tax professionals are truly making the most of their time, Checkpoint Learning also offers a Tax Research Certification Program. Tax research proficiency is invaluable when it comes to conducting this research during tax season.
Whether you’re tired of being bombarded with questions, concerned that some in your firm are resorting to using unreliable sources, or simply spending too much time trying to find and interpret answers, partnering with Thomson Reuters can be a game-changer. Not only will doing so save you much-needed time during tax season, but it will also empower your staff such that everyone will be more productive and additional time can be allocated to other important tasks.