Managing Client Expectations During Tax Season
- By Liz Briggson
- March 12th, 2021
Tax season brings about a convergence of challenges for CPAs and accountants. The 2021 filing season for the 2020 tax year now involves a brand-new stimulus package, the American Rescue Plan, and potential for the April 15 deadline to shift to July 15 again this year.
Managing client expectations has never been an easy feat and it becomes more difficult with new provisions and changing deadlines. QXAS recently presented a one-hour webinar on this very topic: Managing Client Expectations During Tax Season with Remote Resources: Rationale and Best Practices.
Acknowledging the challenges ahead is a wise place to start, but not a space to dwell. In this webinar, QXAS’ Shaishav Dave, Associate Vice President US Operations, provided solutions to manage the tax season ahead:
- Proactively communicate mutual expectations
- Adopt a remote resourcing or outsourcing model
- Invest in digital transformation
Accounting firms that take the time to clearly communicate expectations with clients at the start of each tax season enjoy more predictability in their workload. Defining boundaries with clarity can be very simple. Here are a few ideas.
- Communicate deadlines: Share an information request list with your clients and provide a firm deadline by which time you need your clients to respond with all documents. Let your clients know that responses are required by the deadline in order for you to complete their tax return on time.
- Define your availability: Let your clients know when and how to get in touch with you. Do you prefer email or phone calls? How quickly do you intend to respond to email and return phone calls? You might decide to set business hours when you are available by phone. Let clients know they can expect to hear back from you within 24 hours.
- Clearly define project scope: Utilize an engagement letter to define exactly what work is required of you and when you will complete each deliverable.
Outsourcing and remote resourcing models provide staffing flexibility when needed most at a highly cost-effective rate. The Big 4 firms and Fortune 500 corporations have been using outsourcing as part of their delivery models and finance functions for well over a decade. Advances in data security technology make it possible for smaller firms to also implement outsourcing.
Choosing an outsourced partner is a significant undertaking. From a technology standpoint, Shaishav recommended seeking a provider that utilizes SSL encrypted client portals, is ISO compliant in the fields of security and quality and has achieved SOC 2 Compliance for data security.
Along with data security qualifications, choose a provider that has a demonstrated track record staying up to date with US tax and accounting standards, knowledge of various accounting systems, and well-defined client support protocols. Ask about how Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are set and measured.
SLAs benefit both you as the firm owner and your clients. When communicating with clients to let them know about the changes in your delivery model, let your clients know the benefits of incorporating outsourcing and what they can expect from the experience. In short, they should be able to expect the same things you do, namely, smooth communication and a timely and accurate work product.
AccountingToday reported on a 2020 Hinge Research Institute study that found accounting firms are 3.5 times more likely to successfully increase their prices when they communicate the benefits of automation to clients. Automation and digital transformation go hand in hand.
A 2021 AccountingToday survey found that small firms spend approximately 16.5% of their budget on technology, and 41% of small firms expect to spend more on technology in 2021 than they did in 2020. The shift to virtual work has driven greater adoption of technologies that enable remote work to take place more effectively.
While it may not be practical to implement a new cloud-based software during tax season, this is the perfect time to think about system requirements. Make notes as you go through tax season to increase your awareness of which current processes work well and which ones you would like to replace or improve prior to next tax season.
Outsourcing with the right partner can help to increase digital transformation. Established outsourcing companies have well-defined infrastructure and access to tools and processes that can be very helpful as you undertake your next transformation project, whether that be document sharing, invoicing, or engagement letter management.
Whether you choose to start with digital transformation to make a process smoother, outsourcing to create more staffing bandwidth, or proactive communication to give you and your staff some breathing room, remember this one take-away from QXAS: “Setting the right client expectations is a good start to managing client expectations better.”
About QX Accounting Services
Since QXAS USA's inception in 2013, we have been providing accounting, tax returns, bookkeeping, and payroll services to a growing number of CPAs, EAs and accountants across the USA. We are proud of our steadfast infrastructure, top-notch software and well-trained staff members. We operate at the top of our game; the global, standard-setting organization IAOP recognized our parent company QX Limited as one of the top 100 firms in 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018. This feat is a testament to the fact we are working to our fullest potential to help businesses innovate, grow and to enhance their customer experiences. So, if you are looking to expand your practice and get ahead of the competition, we can help you!
Visit https://qxaccounting.com/usa/ to learn more.
- Tax season
- client expectations
- digital transformation