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Plus more than 3,000 need-to-know tips, tools and strategies – business-know-how articles – for your firm, your business and your career.

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Busy Season 2015: Vexed by Regs, CPAs Dismayed at Congress

Next Question: What’s the best way to fix the tax system? Register your comments here.

By CPA Trendlines Research

CPA Trendlines’ annual Busy Season Barometer gives CPAs a great opportunity to share their frustrations and solutions. This year, when we asked about lessons learned, we heard about staff problems, client problems, overload problems, and Affordable Care Act problems.

ACA problems, a.k.a. Obamacare problems, certainly brought out expressions of exasperation, but the annoyance with new forms and regulations didn’t stop there.

“All reason has gone out the door,” a CPA in Montrose, Colo., wept. “I have been preparing tax returns for over 35 years. There has never been a tax season like this one–and there will never be another one like it.” READ MORE →

Teamwork: Room for Improvement

Chart showing survey results about teamwork

You may believe you have a great team in place. But does your team agree?

A new set of CPA Trendlines Research findings shows room for improvement. READ MORE →

Busy Season 2015: When Clients Are the Problem

Top 9 client management solutions.

By CPA Trendlines Research

The CPA Trendlines annual Busy Season Barometer is uncovering some frank and candid talk about clients. Yes, we love them. Couldn’t live without them. Most of the time. But, well, not always.

Not that they’re bad people… But let’s face it, they aren’t always sweating tax prep much in advance of April 1, they have no idea what new regulations are in effect this year, their advisories from their CPA are filed under “Migraines-that-can-wait,” and they truly believe their CPA is exclusively dedicated to their company and doesn’t really have much else to do but wait around for their phone call.

Bryan Lantz

Lantz

“No matter how proactive you try to be at scheduling and planning ahead, clients still delay providing information for their taxes,” Bryan Lantz says. “Seems the IRS, Congress and the media are out to make our jobs even more compressed and stressful,”

His solution: “Keep communicating with clients to insure that we can do the best we can at equalizing workflow during busy season.”

From their remarks, CPA Trendlines draws at least nine lessons in smart client management: READ MORE →

CPA Trendlines Subscribers Sound Off About 2015 Self-Filers

bullhornSome predict those clients will be coming back for cleanup.

Tax professionals are sounding off in CPA Trendlines Comments on an apparent upsurge in do-it-yourself amateur self-filers while e-filing by professionals is lagging last year’s rates for four straights weeks so far.

Bea Nahon

Nahon

“Interesting that self-prepared is up and professionally prepared is down on a YTD basis,” says Bea Nahon, a Bellevue, Wash., CPA, and long-time advocate of women’s and small-firm interests.

“Is that because business is shifting to the do-it-yourselfers?,” Nahon says. “I suspect instead it’s due to the professionals bogged down in the mire of the TPR regulations. And the increasing trend of fraudulent self-prepared returns,”

“In fact,”Nahon adds alarmingly, “some of those self-prepared returns are likely going to turn out to be our clients, which we don’t discover until we attempt to e-file.”

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How Accounting Geeks and Techie Nerds Can Play Nicely Together

Shimamoto

Shimamoto

The budget demands it.

By Donny C. Shimamoto
Strategic Technology Decisions

Over the next few weeks, CPA Trendlines will present a series of articles based on conversations with Donny C. Shimamoto, CPA.CITP, and a leading advisor to CPA firms, that will look at issues in strategic technology budgeting for 

1. personnel,
2. hardware,
3. software,
4. licensing and subscriptions to IT-related services,
5. capital vs. operating vs. project expenditures, and
6. the IT asset lifecycle.

We’ll look at ways to use cloud computing to reduce costs and smooth budgets. These articles will offer concrete solutions whenever possible, but often they can do no more than suggest issues that geeks and nerds need to make relevant to their organizations. The solutions are as varied as the problems. And step one, as they say, is to recognize that there’s a problem. Shimamoto’s ideas are worth examining, and they inspire additional thoughts and questions.

Accounting geeks and IT nerds are folks from different countries, different cultures, different ways of life.

They speak different languages and they have different objectives within their organization. The accountants will never fathom – nor should they have to fathom – the hardware and software needs of the IT department. Likewise, IT has more important things to do than deal with the intricacies of accounting. READ MORE →

Tax Pros Gain E-filing Market Share

Some individuals choosing e-filing but paper return checks.

The IRS has received nearly 82.3 million individual tax returns as of March 20, down 0.6 percent from 2014. It has processed more than 80.4 million of them, down 0.9 percent from last year and a rate of over 97.7 percent complete for this year. READ MORE →

Here’s Your New Tax Season Marketing Plan

Arrow signs showing March through JuneThink now about June. Yes, June.

By Ed Mendlowitz
Tax Season Opportunity Guide

Marketing takes many forms. Further, many accountants are not trained in marketing. I also know that while most CPAs want more business, they are too busy with what they have to be actively seeking new business. Additionally, marketing can be external, internal or retentive.

MORE ON TAX SEASON: When ‘Quick and Easy’ Tax Season Research Isn’t | 5 Personal Touches for Tax Season | Consistency Simplifies Tax Season | 11 Clear Client Instructions to Make Your Tax Season Easier | 3 Ways to Build a Tax Season Team | Have Fun This Tax Season | How to Get Paid Faster This Tax Season

External is where new clients are solicited. That takes effort, ingenuity, time and maybe even some money.

Internal is where you sell additional services to existing clients. It takes little effort, little time and no money – but some ingenuity. It is READ MORE →

Busy Season 2015: Short-Term Staffing Problems Need Long-Term Solutions

Not enough trained staff, not enough seasonal staff, not enough staff.

Next question: The smartest moves this busy season? Join the survey; get the results

By CPA Trendlines Research

The CPA Trendlines annual Busy Season Barometer is eliciting a panoply of lessons learned and plans for a smoother season next year. A lot of professionals’ comments this year are nothing short of outright complaint. And not without reason. It’s been a rough year. If the snow didn’t get you, Forms 3115, 8962, 8965 or 1095a did. Plus, all things IRS got more complicated, clients got more desperate and, apparently, tensions rose as CPAs and staff stretched themselves to the limits of professional endurance.

Nancy Casburn

Casburn

One of the main lessons learned is the need for enough staff — enough staff hired early enough and trained well enough. Nancy Casburn at Casburn CPA in Lee’s Summit, Mo., sums up the importance of the softest of software: “Staffing is the most important reason for failing or succeeding at tax season.”

If we can draw any conclusion from all the staff-related lessons reported in this year’s Busy Season Barometer, it is that the profession needs more staff, better trained staff and an availability of seasonal staff. Given the increasing complexity of tax returns, the solution of this problem — more training, more accounting majors — needs to be broad-based and soon. READ MORE →

Busy Season 2015: Headaches from Obamacare

Affordable Care Act‘ACA is PITA BS for CPAs.’ Next year’s plan: ‘Become a monk.’

Next question: The smartest moves this busy season? Join the survey; get the results

By CPA Trendlines Research

As Busy Season 2015 grinds down, tax prep professionals are grappling with myriad and continuing issues with new rules, thin staffing and difficult clients, according to the CPA Trendlines annual Busy Season Barometer. But the new Affordable Care Act seems to be causing the most widespread aches and pains among accountants.

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How to Transition Clients from Retiring Partners

Older businessman shaking hands with businesswoman across deskDon’t make this common but potentially expensive error.

By Marc Rosenberg
Retirements & Buyouts

I have done extensive polling of firms in recent years on client transition and offer here some of their practices.

The BEST transition practice of course falls under the category of “the best way to solve a problem is to never let it happen to begin with.”

MORE ON RETIREMENT: Retirement Plan Funding? What Funding? | Vesting Can Cover Part-Timers, Too | Compromise Is In Order for Some Goodwill Payouts | When Retiring Partners Take a Specialty With Them | Why You’ll Get Less from Your Partners in a Buyout than You Might by Selling the Whole Firm | Eat What You Kill? Then Maybe ‘Book of Business’ Is for You | 5 Points to Consider When Paying Out Goodwill | Clients Leaving? Time to Reduce Retirement Benefits | 4 Ways to Decide How to Pay Out Capital | Partners May Balk at Guaranteeing Retirement Obligations

Said one MP: “The ‘transition’ process should start as soon as the firm gets a client (some start even sooner – on the sale pitch). Clients should be assigned a team, including a backup partner and a manager. The client should be told who the team members will be. Some call this institutionalizing the clients. If you do this, there is very little else that needs to be done when a partner announces his/her retirement.”

Some other points: READ MORE →

Women Need Promotions, Not Just Advice

Woman and man executive standing in front of office buildingMen advance 2 to 1 over women without sponsors.

By Ida O. Abbott
Sponsoring Women: What Men Need to Know

The benefits of sponsorship are indisputable. Having a highly placed sponsor is a distinct career advantage, and, when competing for top positions, it can be a critical differentiator.

MORE ON SPONSORING WOMEN FOR LEADERSHIP: Is Sponsorship Right for Your Firm? | Your Protégée Needs Your Feedback |  9 Ways to Promote Your Protégée to Others | 8 Ways to Help Your Protégée Focus on Career Opportunities | 3 Ways to Initiate Informal Sponsorship | 3 Roadblocks to Women and Men Working Together Well | Fear of Sex and Rumors Inhibits Sponsorship | Mentor or Sponsor? How to Distinguish Roles | 4 Ways Women Leaders Improve Firms | CPA Firms Must ‘Man Up’ and Get Women On Board

Protégées gain career-enhancing opportunities that others do not get. They

  • receive more chances to excel,
  • are accepted into influential networks,
  • gain visibility as rising stars and
  • enjoy heightened prestige through the intervention of a powerful backer.

They are recognized by others both for their own skillful performance and for having the personal support of a highly regarded sponsor. As word spreads that they are leadership material, their reputation grows and the shared and widespread view of their leadership becomes the “social proof” that makes them de facto leaders. This
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In a Pinch, Use Your Phone as a Scanner

Epson WorkForce DS-510 Sheetfed Scanner

Epson WorkForce DS-510 Sheetfed Scanner

With upfront scanning, 78% leverage on-screen review.

By Roman H. Kepczyk
Quantum of Paperless 

One of the keys to optimizing accounting firm production processes is capturing information at its “root” source – the moment data enters your firm, regardless of the format – mail, fax, email or on a flash drive.

MORE ON TECH SPENDING: Standardize QuickBooks Support for Clients | How to Choose the Right Client Portal Solution | Automating Bank Deposits Offers Instant ROI | How to ‘Go Digital’ when Partners Demand Monthly P&Ls on Paper | Digital Tools Streamline Audit Production | Tech Tools for Today’s Properly Equipped Field Audit Teams | How to Cut Tax Prep Costs with Scanners | Why Firms Need Document Retention Standards | Intranet Is the Best Place for Firm Knowledge

Ideally, documents would be delivered already in a digital format such as email attachments or preferably through a portal, but the reality today is that a significant portion of accounting firm source documents arrive from clients in a physical paper format. Your firm will need to develop processes to efficiently scan, name and store these documents. READ MORE →

Quote With Care When Asked for Valuation

Ed Mendlowitz CPA The Practice Doctor Q and A12 issues that might not have been addressed.

By Ed Mendlowitz
The CPA Trendlines Practice Doctor

QUESTION: I was asked to do a quote on a business valuation for a startup that will be raising money on their second stage financing. How do I quote this?

ANSWER: This is a wide-reaching question and it is not possible to know initially what the client really needs. They could need a valuation, a business plan or a method of bringing in the investor.

Here are some of the many issues and variables:
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Tax Pros Start to Make Up for Lost Ground in Pace of 2015 E-Filing

IRS processing nearly 98 percent of returns received.

Tax professionals e-filed more than 38 million returns through March 13, lagging 3.4 percent from the same time in 2014. Yet, that’s an improvement from last week’s 4 percent deficit.

RELATED: Have Fun This Tax Season! | Tax Preparation Fees: The National Averages [INFOGRAPHIC] | IRS Form 3115: a Sin and a Travesty | How to Get Paid Faster This Tax Season | Accountants See Solid Business Gains in 2015 | As Market Share Slips Away, Accountants Look Beyond the 1040 | IRS Emerges as Major Tax Season Competitor | Tax Pros Losing Market Share to Self-Filers

Last week, CPA Trendlines reported that the industry’s 33.4 million e-filings accounted for 53.6 percent of all the e-filed returns, compared with 56 percent in 2014. READ MORE →