06Jun

Clients love their tax accountant, though half wonder if they’re doing enough to cut their tax bill.

Those seemingly contradictory opinions come from a survey by practice management software provider Canopy.

85% of the taxpayer respondents say they would recommend their accountant, despite 53% not being confident they’re getting enough help minimizing their taxes.

What the survey takers most appreciate is the in-person communication with their accountant. In fact, they appreciate these meetings so much they also list them as the No.1 thing they would change in their relationship. Both business owners and individual taxpayers want more in-person meetings.

Since the survey was conducted before the COVID-19 restrictions were imposed, we don’t know if taxpayers still consider in-person meetings so important or if Zoom meetings and phone calls have become an adequate substitute. However, all types of technology were clearly important before the pandemic.

After meetings, taxpayers said what they most liked next about working with their tax accountant was being able to send and receive documents online. That could be as simple as using email or a file hosting service like Google docs or Dropbox. In reporting on the survey. AccountingToday notes that “the most common ways clients exchange documents with their accountant are during in-person meetings, through hard printouts and via email.”

Before the shutdown, taxpayers were already noticing technology shortcomings. After in-person meetings, improved technology was second among the three top things they would change in working with their accountant.

Besides a secure way of exchanging documents, the technology features clients most want from their accountant are text chat and appointment scheduling. Women, according to the survey, want a chat feature even more than do men.

Chat would help get timelier responses, which is the third more important improvement they would make in their accounting relationship. A chatbot could help with routine questions, but the survey respondents felt getting a faster response directly from their accountant was most important to them.

One especially troubling finding is how little clients know about post-filing services like audit protection and legal tax services. A third of all clients don’t know if their accountant provides audit protection. Business owners are even less likely to know.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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Green Key

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Pay Is Only Part of Attracting and Retaining Accounting Talent

While the rest of us may be having sugarplum dreams, accountants are seeing stacks of spreadsheets and tax forms and year end reports in their future.

For accounting professionals at firms across the country the end of the year brings the beginning of their busiest months. The long hours, routine, if important, tasks and the lack of flexibility that marks these next three months puts traditional firms at a disadvantage, says a whitepaper from Thomson Reuters.

Though the COVID pandemic may have cooled the intense talent wars of the last few years, it won’t last. “Competition is bound to only intensify,” the report says. And compensation is only part of the formula. Firms, need to “focus on more intangibles like employee engagement, and nurturing a positive and inclusive workplace culture.”

As its title says, the whitepaper details 4 Ways to Elevate Your Accounting Firm’s Talent.

The first step is to elevate the firm’s visibility among those professionals you want to hire. Recruitment marketing is as essential as marketing to attract new clients, says the report.

“Change begins with developing and raising awareness of your firm’s reputation as a place to work,” says the paper. “The visibility and awareness of your ‘employer brand’ among prospective candidates is important.”

The place to start is with the firm’s website. Think more like a candidate, than an employer when crafting the careers pages. What is it your firm offers? What makes your firm unique and a good place to work?

Most of the report focuses on building a strong culture to retain and attract talent. You do that, says the Thomson Reuters paper by emphasizing career development and learning, by focusing on engagement and developing a positive work environment.

“What is the ideal culture? For many associates, a positive corporate culture is one rich in diversity, inclusion, and flexibility. This is especially true among younger associates.”

For many diversity is associated with “a forward-thinking mindset that involves tolerance, inclusiveness, and openness to different ideas or ways of thinking.” In addition, empowering associates and providing a path to a better work/life balance through flexible work schedules, telecommuting, compressed workweek, etc. helps promote a positive workplace culture.

“Attracting and retaining top accounting firm talent is challenging for many firms. Shifts in employee expectations, greater competition from tech players, and a constricting pipeline of accounting graduates means that the job market will only intensify,” the report observes.

A competitive paycheck is important, the report concludes, but “earning the loyalty and commitment of your employees is about so much more.”

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

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