Kelly Phillips Erb, who covers tax for Forbes, and is the majordomo at www.taxgirl.com is running her annual #TaxHaiku contest. (Many of you, the gentle readers of this blog have seen some of my previous year entries here and here). (Who knew that people who could do #taxes could also write poems? I suppose it’s the torture our souls have endured during the long, long winters in front of monitors.)
Online accounting software publisher Xero announced today that they have created a direct interface to two applications commonly used to work on business tax data – Intuit’s Lacerte Tax and ProSystem fx Engagement. This is the Company’s first foray into exporting data from Xero into U.S. tax and accounting applications, although the local versions of Xero for Australia and New Zealand have already created integrations with acquired products like Spotlight Workpapers which automate work for accounting professionals.
Xero’s US President, Jamie Sutherland, said, “We know our accounting and bookkeeping partners who prepare tax returns are looking to get data from Xero into tax software this tax season. We worked hard to create an easy export from Xero to Lacerte Tax and CCH ProSystem fx Engagement. Accounting and tax professionals will spend less time worrying about getting the data and writing up tax forms and more time advising and guiding clients on tax issues.” “We recognized that ProSystems fx and Lacerte Tax are the major players in the tax space but we’ll be looking at other tax software as their SaaS solutions come to market to make the accounting and tax workflow even more seamless.”
Xero partner and accountant Steve Chaney, CPA, owner of Chaney and Associates, a Roseville, California accounting and consulting firm is excited about the new feature and its immediate impact on his practice this tax season. Chaney said, “When you are managing tax filings for hundreds of clients, these efficiency gains add up and go straight to the bottom line.” Chaney’s firm was established in 2002, serves clients in six states, and positions itself as a leader in the effective use of new technologies by accounting firms.
Online accounting software Xero has a strategy of reducing and eliminating data entry for accountants and clients where possible by importing transactions from financial institutions and using user-defined rules to assign accounts to the transactions. Last month, the Company announced an integration with time tracking and invoicing application Harvest, and in 2012, the company launched a proprietary tool (the Xero Practice Manager) for its US accounting partners.
The lovely and talented Kelly Erb (@TaxGirl) has been running a social media promotion where she asks aspiring poets to write haikus about taxes. This has served as my brain break (in an open Excel sheet) for the last couple of days. Today’s haiku follow:
Why do people quit firms?
Our review points reveal that
We are control freaks.
The Pizza man knows
the code to the office door.
Tax season is ON!
Dominos, The Hut,
TakeOut Taxi, Steak Out.
march madness is near
the tournaments will be shown
in the conference room.
it begins with a
1099 and ends with
one last extension.
Well, we made it. Today is Tuesday, April 18, 2006, and it’s the first day after tax season. I hope you all enjoyed a nice beer (or iced tea, or glass of wine, or whatever beverage you enjoy), and reflected on the end of the season. I celebrated by treating the family (and extended family) to takeout Japanese, and by spending the evening reading books to my four year old. (I’m trying to enjoy time with my son while he still thinks I’m cool).
A few things I learned this year which I’m going to try to implement over the next year:
Workflow management and document management are the keys to following up on where you are on projects, and focusing on getting things done. I visited some accounting solution vendors recently, and one of the things which stuck out in my mind during the visit was the need to manage both your pipeline of tasks to complete and the documents needed to complete them. I’m probably not the only one who has tried (in vain) to use shared tasks to manage my workflow in Outlook, and have come up short. I’m not sure if it’s my frustration with the to do list in Outlook or my own stubbornness, but it hasn’t worked for me. As a Lacerte tax software user, I have been impressed with the UI behold both the Proseries line and Lacerte lines of tax software (note: similar functionality exists in most major tax software), which allows projects to be aged, status codes to be assigned (info pending, on extension, review pending, final, etc.). This works fine if you look at your tax software all day, but I wanted something which I could use for ALL of my projects – my tech implementations, the consulting projects for clients, and all of the other things I do besides tax returns. And I wanted more than just one screen of data on the stuff in my pipeline – I wanted notifications on status changes on things I’ve staffed, and want to know when something’s ready for review. In short, I want the reporting and management structure of a top 100 firm without the IT department.
XCM Solutions offers an interesting app for this issue. XCM is affiliated with outsourced return prep vendor Xpitax, and is the method used by Xpitax to manage the workflow of items being processed offshore (think: the subcontinent). This tracking app seems to have lots of potential, so I’m testing it to see how well it works with my work style and my needs. More here to report later. (for an intro to what the heck I’m talking about, see XCM’s flash demo here)
Good tax software makes your life easier. I ended up doing some states which I had never done before, and the combination of the Allstates Quickfinder and my REP (remote entry processing, or pay per return) version of Lacerte tax software went pretty well. I really love the little things in the tax software – the client tracker home page, the diagnostics which keep you from doing something really stupid in the caffeine-laced, sleep-deprived state that most CPA’s are in during the winter. It’s also nice when you can set up your documents to print in a certain manner, and make those customizations for how you want your returns to look, it prints EXACTLY the way you like things to look. I worked on a pro-bono (some would say por bonehead) project this year for an international student. I delved into the world of tax treaties, weird states, and the 1040-NR for free. After I was 3 hours into researching the exact rules relating to this country (let’s call it Narnia), I finally broke down and spend the $28 to do the return in Lacerte. The nice thing about it was that the interview questions lined up perfectly with the Narnian treaty, and even though I’m not the world’s expert in preparing Form 1040NR, it made the whole process easy, and ended up saving me a lot of time. At the end of the preparation process (which after I understood the law took about an hour, mostly due to telephone calls), I printed two copies of the return, packaged it in the presentation folders I use, and delivered it to the client. The client was impressed with the presentation, and I think he will be back when it’s time for him to be a paying customer. Either way, the consistency of the styles and print ordering made it so organized that I could package this return in less than 5 minutes, including paper-clipping the postage-paid envelopes to the extensions, stamping the copies of the return “Copy”, and printing the insert sheets for the presentation folder. Nice stuff.
What did you learn this tax season, and how did it help you make more money in less time?