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3 Tax Technologies You Shouldn’t Ignore

Cloud technologyOMG CLOUD. Cloud, cloud, cloud. You’ve heard it. Repeatedly. By now you probably even know what it means. But running a successful tax practice is about more than acknowledging the technology du jour. It’s about knowing which technologies make the most sense for you, and using them to their fullest potential. But no matter your firm’s size, market or specialty, here are three tax technologies you shouldn’t ignore.

Cloud-Based Servers/Software as a Service

An IT department is a luxury many small- and medium-sized firms can’t afford. Even in larger firms, the demands of day-to-day management of client systems can overtax an IT department to the point where managing servers is a time-draining hassle, not to mention expense.

Cloud-based servers save time and money by removing the burden of purchasing and maintaining dedicated servers, the infrastructure to properly house and cool them and the personnel to keep them running right. Cloud servers can be configured to meet any level of need, and you only pay for what you use in terms of dedicated space. Even better, your cloud provider will guarantee regular backups and, in many cases, 100 percent uptime. Having your information in a secure, off-site location also means staff can access files from anywhere, and security is maintained and kept current by your provider. Make sure to investigate your service provider thoroughly and have them sign a security agreement.

Software as a Service, or SaaS, is another aspect of cloud computing. It replaces dedicated apps on your systems with cloud-based solutions, presenting them by subscription, often through a web browser. The advantages of using a SaaS solution include spreading out software expenses over the course of a year and regular, automatic and secure updates that address bugs and improve functionality without needing to download updates manually.

Client Portals

Providing information digitally, while convenient, has some limitations. For example, complying with privacy laws means many documents can’t be emailed. That’s one place where a client portal comes into play.

Using an up-to-date web browser, a client can access a dedicated, secure area of your servers to exchange files with your firm. Since the files are encrypted, privacy concerns are greatly diminished. On top of this, limits on file sizes for email don’t apply to client portals, which can accept much larger files. So, you can share documents of any kind or size with your clients, and vice-versa. Security protocols range from simple password to password-challenge to two-factor authentication (typically a message sent to the user’s mobile phone with a code to input after logging in). Client portals can be cloud-hosted or hosted locally on firm-owned servers.

Scan-and-Input Software

Even if your practice is taking advantage of the newest technology, it’s far from a sure bet that your clients are, as well. You probably still have that client who shows up with a shoe box filled with receipts or stacks of paper forms.

In the past, this meant hours of dedicated administrative time hand-keying data into the system. Not only is it slow, it’s also prone to error—and firms that understand this spend even more time proofing their data entry.

Scan-and-input software comes to the rescue. When you can’t have an all-digital environment, scan-and-input software is the next best thing. Using a desktop scanner, the software can read documents and identify the information you need, transferring it into your accounting or tax software (or into a more useable file to then export into your accounting software). It’s fast, highly accurate and frees up your administrative staff for more productive pursuits. While scan-and-input software is a must for practices transitioning their technology, it’s also good to have in firms that have transitioned fully; the time savings and improved accuracy will help ensure nothing is missed.

We’ve reached a point in time where technology is no longer a curiosity, nor is it an option. By embracing these and other emerging technologies, you’ll position your practice for future success. To keep up with the latest trends in technology, get the most recent tax-related news and find opportunities to meet and learn from your peers, consider joining the AICPA Tax Section. Even if you aren’t a Tax Section member, many of our tax practice management tools, videos and checklists are available to you.

Adam Junkroski, Lead Manager, Communications: Tax, PFP, S&C--Public Accounting, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

Cloud technology courtesy of Shutterstock


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