The top 5 technologies helping tax practitioners automate & work smarter

By February 19, 2019 March 12th, 2019 Homepage, In the Media, Technology

Taxpayers Australia
Published by Taxpayers Australia
Written by Heather Smith, February 2019

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As our world becomes more digital and automated, there are seemingly endless opportunities for tax professionals and accountants to invest in technology that promises to offer efficiencies and benefits to clients. Heather Smith, accountant and automation expert, shares her top 5 technical solutions.

Implementing modern technology solutions in your practice can help refine business systems and processes, and simplify, automate, or eliminate activities. Furthermore, it enables access to timely and accurate data to empower decision-making capabilities.

When I’m considering a technical solution, I look at workflows and try to figure out how I can streamline processes. I aim to automate everything and minimise data entry where possible. When looking at a particular process, I ask myself: “Is every step necessary? Can I end bottlenecks?” It’s also good to chat with colleagues and relevant software providers to find out if there’s any hacks or other options I’m unaware of.

I use connected solutions so data can flow from one to another. In other words, they talk to one another. This happens through an API – application programming interface — or something called a “trigger”, which pushes data into the other solution.

I frequently review the technology I’m using, and if something better comes along, I swap over to it. I opt to update and use the latest version where economically possible. I’m prepared to invest in technology and tools if it’s worth it. I compare the estimated dollar value of the time saved, versus the cost of the technology.

Here are five accounting technology solutions that help me work smarter.

RECEIPT BANK: AUTOMATION FOR THE ACCOUNTS PAYABLE DEPARTMENT

Receipt Bank extracts key data from bills and expenses. Data consists of supplier name, date, invoice amount, and line detail if required. It pushes the data and scanned documents into the accounting solutions. The dashboard provides an overview of all clients. From there, you can drill through to access details of clients’ bills and expenses. It allows you to define settings to suit a client’s individual needs. Depending on their business model, you can push the information straight across. As an extra step, you can add details, such as category and project information, and push through once approved.

Features and benefits

Using Receipt Bank saves time. It minimises data entry time and offers flexibility and mobility. I can upload expenses incurred into my mobile device. They’re processed and pushed into my accounting solution. I then reconcile them against a live bank feed.

It makes it easier to search for documentation and details, and makes accessing supporting paperwork attached to transactions to answer queries quicker. Pricing, warranty and audit queries are also faster with complete, accessible information.

The ability to scan and store documentation also supports a paperless office. It’s a way to minimise handling and store business and client documentation and integrates with many accounting solutions, including Xero, QBO, MYOB and Sage Accounting.

Where it fits in the practice workflow

Receipt Bank has two places in the tax practice’s workflow. It can process the business’s own accounts payable. It also helps clients provide complete and timely accounts payable information. It’s a solution both the tax practice and clients enjoy.

MINUTEDOCK: A TIME TRACKING TOOL

MinuteDock helps track how people use time. There are several ways to define time: client, billable, unbillable, projects and tasks. Compiled time recordings can generate a single detailed client invoice within MinuteDock. Or the solution can push invoices through to Xero, QBO, or MYOB.

Features and benefits

Included is the ability to define default client, task or project hourly rates. Plus, it has a default client currency, which is useful for overseas clients. It’s goal setting features can help you track staying under budget, or achieving and exceeding a target. For refined tracking you can filter the goals to users, contacts, tasks, or projects and period.

Once created, goals sit on the time log dashboard. The bar indicator reflects time logged against goals. Colours reflect what you’re trying to achieve. For example, when it turns red, it’s flagging concern. There are also extensive reporting options.

MinuteDock is a handy tool for tracking CPD. Set up CPD as a task, then set up a monthly CPD goal. You can run a report of CPD tasks for a full year. Export a csv file and submit the details to your professional association.

Where it fits in the practice workflow

There’s a desktop and mobile (android and iOS) version so you’ve got the flexibility to log time, wherever you are – and logging time only takes a few seconds. For businesses that bill hourly, logged time accumulates to create detailed client invoices. Some clients appreciate a comprehensive summary of work they are paying for. For businesses that bill on a retainer basis, it’s important to track time to complete client work.

Along with normal activities, you can track lost time, late lunches and outside hour client calls. These capabilities mean you can address ineffective time and measure and analyse business time. This tracking means you’re better placed to manage schedules and make informed decisions with accurate data.

PRACTICE IGNITION: PRACTICE MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE FOR ACCOUNTING FIRMS

Practice Ignition formalises sales leads through to onboarding and ongoing client engagement. The practice generates a proposal from a library of service offerings and pricing. There’s the option to include an authorisation for fee collection. Clients can comment and discuss the online proposal, and once satisfied, the client electronically signs the proposal. This converts it to a legally binding engagement contract, which is stored for your records. Client invoices are generated from the agreed terms.

You can track proposals and can tell if clients have viewed outstanding proposals.

Features and benefits

There are a variety of pricing structures available. You can move clients to fixed fees or recurring billing, if that suits your practice model. You can charge clients upfront, or 50% on acceptance and 50% on completion. This combined with automatic fee collection gives you clarity and predictability over cash flow.

Where it fits in the practice workflow

Practice Ignition sits at the start of the relationship with your client. It integrates with your accounting solutions to automate recurring client invoicing.

Implementing Practice Ignition pushes you to formalise the client onboarding process and can help sort out your engagement letters.

SIMPLE FUND 360: ONLINE SMSF MANAGEMENT

Simple Fund 360 is an online self managed super fund (SMSF) management solution. Like online accounting solutions, it integrates with information sources, such as banks, brokers and wrap platforms. There are investment reports and graphs to view online or export to pdf. Various stock exchanges and foreign currency rates are available within the solution.

Features and benefits

Simple Fund 360 features Smart Matches and Smart Posts. Leveraging data feeds, transaction matching and rule creation, Smart Match suggests data matches. Smart Post predicts the ledger account of exceptions in the suspense accounts. Where possible all details feed in and are automatically reconciled. There’s a dashboard summary of the year’s ASX corporate actions. Relevant calculations and data are accessible for processing where necessary.

Where it fits in the practice workflow

Simple Fund 360 supports your SMSF clients. It’s a solution for managing and monitoring the SMSF during the year. Using the “trustee query” feature, messages can be sent to clients to retrieve transactional information. If you give clients restricted access, they can upload relevant documents into the file storage area, and view dashboards and reports. Information is complete and accessible online. Prepared SMSF financial and investment reports are submitted for the client’s digital signature. When it comes to an audit, SimpleFund 360 integrates with audit applications and Xero HQ to streamline the audit and SMSF process.

CAS 360: ASIC CORPORATE COMPLIANCE SOFTWARE SOLUTION

CAS 360 is ASIC corporate compliance software designed to help add, organise and manage trust data, including discretionary trusts and associated information, in a single location. It helps practitioners to manage annual reviews, company registrations, company debt alerts, trust beneficiaries and to prepare distribution documents.

Features and benefits

CAS 360 helps practitioners help clients meet their corporate compliance obligations. You can send and track client SMS reminders from within the solution (without the fat thumb typo errors!). It helps you track messages and manage document deadlines and company debt obligations, and also includes customisable Microsoft Word document templates.

Where it fits in the practice workflow

The annual company statement downloads from ASIC and associated details are compared to your CAS 360 database. From within CAS 360, the annual statement pack, including a covering letter, relevant documents and an invoice, are prepared and emailed to the client, who can then digitally sign and return it.

CAS 360 integrates with several solutions including Xero HQ.

SUMMARY

Adopting and implementing online technology and modern working methods improves a practice’s efficiencies. Rather than wasting time on manual data entry, or manually monitoring alerts, or dealing with paper piles, you’re able to offer a better service to clients.

Taking your clients along on the journey with you by getting them to organise documents to be submitted digitally, saves administration time at your end and opens them up to the benefits. Move workflows online and enjoy having more flexibility and mobility around when and where you do your client work.

Heather Smith is a chartered accountant and business automation expert who helps practitioners find accounting technology that works for them. Visit heathersmithsmallbusiness.com 

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