wTop tax tech: The best results in the shortest time With each new year comes a wave of new technologies aimed at helping tax preparers work more efficiently through tax season. “We see the use of scan-and-fill technology increasing for more efficient management of client source
documents; more firms utilizing Web-hosted or Software-
as-a-Service solutions to allow staff anytime, anywhere
access to software and client data; and an upswing in
portal adoption,” explained Scott Fleszar, senior director
of strategic marketing at the Tax & Accounting business
of Thomson Reuters. “Those technologies will drive
workflow efficiency and improve staff utilization in the
coming tax season.”
Below are some of the top tax technologies that
tax preparers should be considering to make their filing
seasons more productive.
standardizing processes across the firm.
“Instead of six different partners having six
different ways of doing things, XCM enables firms
to establish a standard approach for various types of
tasks, such as a 1040, and then automatically apply that
process globally to all 1040s,” Albrecht explained. “This
ensures that a firm’s best practices are followed in every
applicable instance, and thereby creates greater efficiency
across the practice.”
In October 2008, WithumSmith+Brown deployed
XCM’s workflow solution for every work product that
was processed by the firm.
“I spend a significant amount of time on the road
and out of the office. I can honestly tell you that I don’t
miss a beat. I know the status and whereabouts of every
job currently in process in my office,” Bourke said.
SCAN AND POPULATE
Vendors have advanced from just capturing images and
producing indexed PDFs, to extracting data from W-2s
and 1099s and populating the appropriate fields in tax
“In the last several months, we’ve seen a lot of
momentum. We feel firms are catching up to the hype,”
said Ed Jennings, chief executive of tax document
automation provider Copanion. Copanion’s Grunt Worx
product identifies and bookmarks scanned source
documents, and its Grunt Worx Pro enables firms to
upload scanned source documents in batches and receive
a single PDF for use in tax preparation.
New this season is Grunt Worx Trades. “It allows
firms to calculate short-term and long-term capital gains
and losses, to identify any trade missing a cost basis and
to easily import trade details into their tax preparation
software,” said Jennings.
With four tax seasons behind it, SurePrep’s
1040Scan has been used to process more than 125,000
tax returns. 1040Scan’s population capabilities integrate
with the GoSystem Tax RS, ProSystem fx Tax and
Lacerte tax preparation programs to automatically
extract data from scanned documents for preparing
client 1040 returns.
“If the CPA firm is not looking at this technology,
they should be. Plain and simple, scan-and-populate
allows for the auto-population of the tax return input
screens with little or no human intervention,” said James
Bourke, New Jersey-based WithumSmith+Brown’s
partner-in-charge of technology.
Want to increase
A recent survey conducted by CCH found that
high-performing accounting firms are significantly
more like to leverage technologies to help them
optimize performance in areas such as staffing,
client service and practice management.
The CCH survey found that nearly 25 percent
of high-performing firms have professional
staff working remotely, and they are putting
solutions in place to support a growing number of
mobile workers. In addition, 75 percent of high-performing firms already have a paperless strategy,
and within three years, 90 percent expect to have a
This might sound great, but if you are not an
early adopter of technology, the task of deciding
which new technologies to implement at your firm
can be daunting.
Jim Boomer, chief information officer of
Boomer Consulting, suggested taking these steps
when considering adopting new technologies.
• Review processes. Technology alone
cannot make a firm more efficient and profitable
for the upcoming tax season. The initial focus
needs to be on documenting, reviewing and
improving existing processes.
• Training. If end users are not properly
trained, they will not use the technologies.
• Support of leadership. You must gain
buy-in from firm leadership or the adoption effort is
doomed to failure.
• Timing. Trying to fast-track the implementation of a new technology at your firm right before
tax season will ensure that you will start from
Software-as-a-Service will inarguably remain a growing
trend over the next several years.
“Firms are looking to cut inefficient processes,
reduce process times and lower the number of preparers
required to prepare the higher volume of returns this
year. With SaaS solutions, firms are now well-positioned
to give their clients the best results in the shortest time,”
said Bob Dias, vice president of product and segment
management at CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business.
CCH recently introduced the next generation of
ProSystem fx to work as both a SaaS application and
on-premise software. The software has been built with
Microsoft’s .Net 3. 5 Framework, allowing the ProSystem
fx Tax, Document and Practice components to inter-operate with outside applications. CCH has also added
two new applications, ProSystem fx Workstream and
ProSystem fx Portal.
Meanwhile, Intuit began offering a beta version
of its new SaaS tax prep program, ProLine Tax Online.
It’s designed with a single-screen data entry process to
streamline workflow, and a visual three-step process for
inputting, reviewing and filing, as well as diagnostics to
catch mistakes and omissions. “Overall, the benefits of
Web-based products and services include an increase
in accounting and tax professionals’ productivity by
providing anytime, anywhere access; business growth
opportunities, such as obtaining new and previously
unreachable clients due to geographic barriers; and
the creation of a paperless office, which is not only a
priority for many in today’s environmentally conscious
world but also helps accountants save time and money,”
said Intuit ProLine Tax Online Edition product manager
Bourke agreed: “The SaaS model allows everyone,
regardless of size, to take advantage of the same
infrastructure and technologies.”
“More than an efficiency tool, workflow management
software captures all the unstructured data necessary to
effectively manage the practice during tax season,” said
Mark Albrecht, CPA, MST, founder and chief executive
officer of XCM Solutions.
The latest version of XCM’s Web-based workflow
management software gives firms greater flexibility in
Portals can help firms save money, better meet client
expectations, and improve the firm’s image. “We’re
already seeing a big upswing in portal adoption, and that
will continue,” revealed Fleszar.
Thomson Reuters has been offering client portals
for more than eight years with NetClient CS. The client
portals include 1040 client organizers and the automatic
presentation of both the completed tax return and
supporting source documents.
Added Fleszar, “The bottom line is that clients
expect online service, be it for banking, investing,
learning or shopping. That has made client portals a key
element of client service and a fundamental part of tax