As a general rule, accountants have one of the least stressful jobs in finance — most lists rank it last in terms of overall stress, according to eFinancialCareers. However, there's one exception: tax time. While private citizens worry they won't be able to claim a big refund or may face the stress of an IRS audit, finance pros are likely just trying to survive with their existing accounting solutions. From handling revenue reports, tracking employee hours, and communicating with multiple team members to ensure no form is missed and no number is inaccurate, it's easy for professional accountants to feel overwhelmed this time of year.
However, it's not all doom and gloom — automation and simplification have made their way to the accounting space. The following are four ways to lower tax season stress and keep your CPAs sane:
1. Collective Clouds
The cloud is quickly becoming a go-to technology solution for accountants, and for good reason. As noted by Accountancy Age, cloud-based offerings are easily integrated, can save your company money, and are ideal to help minimize IT risk. And, the biggest benefit of the cloud for accountants is the ability to quickly and easily share tax documents, which are automatically updated and versioned whenever changes are made. Instead of relying on laborious email chains and locking down files when finished, cloud accounting solutions make it easy for multiple professionals to tackle the same target.
2. Cross-Company Collaboration
Taking this a step further are cross-company collaboration tools, some offered as part of cloud packages and some as stand-alone solutions. These are ideal for companies with multiple, global office locations, which need to reconcile tax data across more than one jurisdiction. For example, your company may need to report taxes in the United States and in specific European Union countries, depending on what type of data you store and how it's used. These collaboration tools allow tax pros to work simultaneously and in real-time on large-scale tax projects, in turn reducing both the total time required and total spend.
3. CRM Number Crunching
One of the biggest headaches for accountants during tax time is reconciling billable hours — aka how much time accountants (or other departments) are spending with clients and what the final amounts owed are. With accountants pulled in so many directions during tax time, it's easy for clients with smaller hour totals to get lost in the shuffle, missed on tax filings, and then circled back to as part of late-year audits.
However, new unified communications tools not only provide automatic call tracking with detailed call logs, but also the ability to easily record calls for auditing or reporting purposes. You can go even deeper with Salesforce integration to track call times, notes, and call logs for all accounts across CRM in the cloud, in turn reducing the stress of tracking, sorting, and reporting billable hours.
4. Critical Automation
Also on the horizon for accountants? Automation. As noted by TechCrunch, startup Smacc recently secured $3.5 million in Series A funding to digitize and automate the accounting process. There are big promises here: Ideally, customers submit their receipts to Smacc, which converts them into machine-readable formats, encrypts them, and then assigns them to the correct account. In theory, the platform also self-learns over time to track data such as invoices, sales, and costs.
While some futurists see the next generation of accounting as dominated by intelligent machines, the complexities and nuances of large-enterprise tax returns suggest a hybrid solution: automation tools for error-prone processes such as data capture and storage, combined with human oversight to ensure data is properly managed, reported, and tracked for potential audits.
Tax time is here, and that means big stress for accounting departments. By making room for tech-driven accounting solutions, however, it's possible to reduce stress, improve productivity, and keep CPAs happy this tax season.
To learn more about how cloud accounting solutions can help during tax season, contact a Vonage Business consultant.