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Still Feeling the Pain of Tax Season? Now’s the Time to Transform Your Workflow

As tax season winds down and the frantic pace of your practice starts to subside a little, it’s easy to turn off your “tax brain” and focus on other areas of your business. However, by doing this you miss the opportunity to assess the effectiveness of your current workflow and makes changes that will improve your productivity not only during next tax season but also throughout the year.

To help your firm identify and evaluate key areas for workflow improvements, TaxWorkFlow LLC’s co-founder, Jonathan Medows, CPA, offers his insights on workflow optimization for tax and other engagements. 

Q: Can a workflow management system help small firms get a handle on their tax return processing?

A: In addition to making core workflow as efficient as possible, which enhances both productivity and profitability, using a workflow management system also helps to ensure that any exceptions or errors are identified and handled appropriately. As many firm owners can relate to, during the busiest months of tax season, there is simply not enough time to monitor, research, and follow-up on possible exceptions and the errors that can occur when you are processing high volumes of returns. Having a workflow system that can automatically flag and initiate follow-up in these instances can save literally hours of time, reduce the rate of errors, and improve the overall quality of return processing.

Q: Another challenge that accounting firms face, regardless of their size, is document management. How does your firm handle the volume of documentation involved in tax preparation without losing key pieces of information?

A: As every accounting firm is no doubt aware, document management is vital to successful client tax preparation—and every other engagement. We utilize TaxWorkFlow for this purpose and the platform was designed to make organizing and sharing documents very easy so that collaboration among firm team members could be improved. Having instant access to your documents anytime, anywhere is one of the key features that I would recommend firms look for in a workflow system.

We actually took document management a few step further in the TaxWorkFlow platform with the ability to organize documents based on the client with which they are associated using a database that is housed on our secure servers—that way we aren’t dependent on individual computers to store and manage documents. Managing documents using TaxWorkFlow is also a big timesaver. For example, if I am working with Brown & Company, I can easily upload their documentation and attach them to their file in TaxWorkFlow so that I can later locate them easily and I can also search for any documents previously associated with them in the database instead of searching my hard drive or those of my staff members in hope that I can find the document I need again. With TaxWorkFlow, everything is right there, organized and secure.

Q: In a small firm, responding to clients and keeping them up to date on the status of their returns can be very time-consuming. Any tips on how to effectively manage client communications? 

A: We have spent a lot of time at my firm working through the best way to manage client communications, especially during tax season when things are so hectic, yet clients want regular status updates on their returns. What I have found is that being able to automate parts of the process is a real time-saver as well as an effective way to make sure that clients know what they need to do to expedite their returns. In the TaxWorkFlow platform, there is an integrated email system that allows us to automate everything from general client communications to individual client level reminders and notifications. Within the integrated email module, we utilize batch email reminders, templated email campaigns, and customizable notifications that can be defined for each task or ticket in the system. 

Q: As you mentioned, collaboration within a firm is critical for effective workflow, as is effective internal communication, what tools do you use to streamline communications internally?

A: We use TaxWorkFlow for all of our internal workflow-related email. The platform has a global company mailbox which allows everyone on our team to have access to all client communication. This saves us valuable time in archiving communication as well as searching for particular communications that need additional follow-up. Not to mention, if someone on our team is out of the office due to illness or vacation, it doesn’t stop the work from progressing because we can access all of their email conversations for a specific client very easily. 

Q: Of course, many clients are becoming more Web savvy and they want to be able to exchange documents electronically. How has your firm responded to these requests from clients?

A: Since client portals can really increase firm efficiency and be a valuable convenience for clients, we designed TaxWorkFlow to have a Web-based client portal. This is where our clients upload and download all documents referred to them from the TaxWorkFlow platform. Documents can be easily uploaded to the TaxWorkFlow database using drag-n-drop functionality and are automatically published to the client portal. One of the best features, in my opinion, is that the system also sends out automatic client and staff email notifications about new documents that are available to be downloaded.

Q: Any other tips for firms trying to increase their workflow efficiency? 

A: I think the most important thing is to start thinking about your current workflow now, instead of waiting until you are in the heat of tax season to realize that things aren’t working the way you want them to. Make a list of the processes that could be streamlined, the places where bottlenecks occur, and the times when failure has occurred. These are the items that will help you identify where you need to make changes and, if you start making adjustments and improvements now, your firm will be a lot better off in terms of efficiency, productivity, and profitability come next tax season.

TaxWorkFlow offers complimentary demonstrations to help firms see its robust capabilities in action. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to schedule a demo or to learn more about how TaxWorkFlow can support your firm’s productivity and efficiency goals.