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8 posts from October 2018

Technically, your planning practice could be better

Shutterstock_304478969Is there even a day that passes anymore in which you don’t read, hear or watch a story about the wonders of technology? New apps, new computer systems and entirely new technologies are emerging and being put into practice at dizzying speeds. Cutting through the noise and knowing which technologies are best for your planning practice can be complicated, but ignoring the value technology can add to your practice carries a heavy price in lost efficiency and opportunity.

Are you still driving a manual?

Spreadsheets used to be the go-to tech for organizing and assessing a client’s finances and your resulting financial plan. Handy but labor-intensive, spreadsheets were and are prone to errors and omissions. Other old-school trappings like physical copies of client’s financial data, wills or healthcare directives presented other problems related to security, inaccessibility or loss of the paperwork due to disaster or misplacement.

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Smishing – what you need to know

Shutterstock_653556430When I first saw the word smishing, I assumed it was some new lingo the kids came up with to further stump us adults. But then again, this is coming from someone who didn’t know what ‘on fleek’ was until it was no longer cool to use. (It’s okay if you still don’t know what that means.)

Jokes aside, smishing is a very serious matter – and since October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time to discuss it.

What is smishing?

According to Experian, a credit reporting bureau in the U.S., smishing is yet another tool used by cybercriminals to obtain personal information and steal identities. You’ve probably heard of ‘phishing,’ which is an attempt to get people to provide sensitive information via email, like credit card numbers or passwords. Smishing is a mashup of SMS (short message service) and phishing.

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What do your clients really want? Ask!

Shutterstock_752463637If you have a small firm, you know how much of your valuable time can be eaten up with things that don’t generate revenue, such as administrative duties and staffing headaches. So, the thought of doing one more thing might seem overwhelming. But what if it’s the one thing that catapults your practice to the next level?

“We talked about doing a client poll a million times, but never seemed to find the time,” explains Jim Davidson, CPA, of Davidson and Nick CPAs in Naples, Florida. “This past year we had a lot of new staff. We wanted to know what clients thought we did well, and what we didn’t.”

What Jim learned didn’t exactly surprise him, but it did give him some good ideas. After 30 years of practicing in a town known as a retirement mecca, it wasn’t a revelation to learn clients were looking for estate and trust planning. But Naples is nearly bursting with those services already. Surely his clients are getting them elsewhere?

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3 ways small firms can turn challenges into opportunities

6a0133f5884316970b01b7c94b352c970b-320wiThe thing I enjoy most in my role as Chair of the AICPA is the time I get to spend talking to members from across the profession about the issues most important to them. What’s clear to me is we’re all facing the same challenge of staying ahead in a fast-changing world. But we’re unique in how we confront this challenge.

This is especially true with small firms and sole practitioners, which play a powerful role as trusted advisers for their clients and communities. Firm owners wear many hats — human resources, business development, marketing and service providers. As the pace of change speeds up, it’s hard to manage the day-to-day and prepare for the future.

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Cybersecurity facts tax practitioners need to get right

GettyImages-678819951How many emails does your firm receive in one day?

Whatever the number, there’s a good chance a chunk of it is malware. According to a 2018 report compiled by Symantec, Corporation, one in 412 emails contained malware in 2017. For businesses with less than 250 employees, this rate jumped to one in 376 emails. When you consider just how many emails the average office worker receives in a week, things can look a little scary.

Cyberattackers represent a growing and evolving threat to CPA firms. Perpetrators are seeking sensitive client information, financial records and firm data like PTINs using any method available to infiltrate your defenses. And a lot of times, it works.

Understanding how to ward off these attacks is half the battle. Learn how to dispel common misconceptions about cybersecurity so you can be better prepared to face down any threat to your data.

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4 ways to strengthen culture in your firm

Shutterstock_509115232Fall has finally arrived. The change in season is the perfect time to evaluate your firm’s inner workings and maybe even switch up your routine. Are your staff and clients happy? Are you fostering a work environment where staff feel energized, supported and have growth opportunities available to them?

People need the right blend of opportunities, challenges and accomplishments to achieve optimal success. And when the environment is right, growth can flourish. We asked three successful firm leaders how they’ve nurtured their firm’s cultural climate. This is what they said:

  1. Define your desired culture and core beliefs.

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5 tips for nudging procrastinators on extension

Extension blogYour clients may feel like October 15 is still far away, but you know better. Completing a return that is on extension takes time, and you’re getting worried because you don’t have all the information you need. Calls and emails to the clients aren’t producing results. 

You may feel like you’ve seen this movie before, and perhaps it’s time to write a new script. Here are a few actions you can take to address the issue.

1. Issue an alert

Ideally, you sent clients an engagement letter at the beginning of the year that spelled out deadlines and responsibilities of both parties, as well as the consequences if the client does not produce information required to complete a timely return. These letters are important, as they protect the practitioner and make the client aware of the consequences of procrastinating. If your engagement letter didn’t include a deadline, set this now and notify your client by certified mail. 

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Three things your firm needs to get started with SOC services

Shutterstock_611298710In an era of near-daily cyberattacks, organizations increasingly need to show they are protecting sensitive data—and they are turning to CPAs to help them do so.

SOC reporting isn’t something auditors should learn on the job or figure out as they go, though. If you’ve been thinking about expanding your firm’s offerings to include Service and Organization Control (SOC) engagements, there are a few things you need first.

  1. You need to be knowledgeable in the service area

Specialized knowledge of an industry or organization is vital for understanding where risks are, assessing those risks and adjusting procedures to the appropriate risk level. As such, focus your SOC practice on areas with which you are already familiar.

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