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IMPROVE CASH FLOW 7 mins 31 Jan 2024 by Matt Kanas
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For many accounting and tax professionals, tax season, err, the busy season, is synonymous with relentless hours and a nonstop workload. In a normal year, the pressing demands of this period are taxing (pun intended), but with the current staff shortages, this year’s looking even more grueling.

Imagine coupling these intense, traditional tax season pressures with a thinning team. It's a double-whammy that could cripple the unprepared firm.

But it doesn’t have to. Amid these challenges lies an opportunity. 

By harnessing the power of automation and streamlined workflows, you can significantly free up your time – making your work life easier.

During tax season, time becomes an increasingly scarce commodity. But by implementing efficient processes, you can make sure you're well equipped to navigate the whirlwind of demands. Read on to find out how.

Key takeaways

  1. Embrace automation and AI: Use technology to handle repetitive tasks, freeing up valuable time for more strategic work. Revenue generation platforms like Ignition can significantly reduce the time spent on creating proposals, engagement letters, and handling scope changes.
  2. Efficient process implementation: With tax season intensifying, it's crucial to adopt efficient workflows now. This approach is not about reducing the workload but about working smarter with the right platforms and integrations.
  3. Time-saving with professional proposals and engagements: Use Ignition for quick, branded digital proposals and streamlined engagement letters. This can save on average over six hours per week, allowing you to focus on high-value tasks. The proposal renewals feature further enhances client relationship management by providing a chance for renewal and expansion of agreements.
  4. Streamlining cash flow: Automate invoicing, billing, and client payments to ensure timely compensation for your services. Ignition's client payments and Instant Bill features facilitate smooth, consistent revenue streams, especially for ad hoc or out-of-scope work that doesn't require a formal proposal.
  5. Combating staff shortages: Address the decline in accounting professionals by optimizing your processes and workflows. This includes managing workflow effectively, delighting customers, supporting your team, prioritizing tasks, and optimizing processes. Leverage Ignition's integration with ProConnect to streamline client engagement during tax season.
  6. Innovative approaches for the new normal: With the changing landscape in the accounting world, it's essential to adapt and innovate. Platforms like Ignition not only automate tasks but also help bridge the gap caused by staff shortages, ensuring you meet client demands efficiently.

Shrinking tax season: The modern approach

‘Shrinking’ tax season isn’t about doing less work – it’s about changing your processes with services that create capacity (read: time) and enable you to work more efficiently. Automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and other technologies are here to help you. They’re the bridge to a future in which you’re not bogged down by repetitive, mundane tasks and can instead act as more strategic advisors to your clients.

With the right tools, integrations, and workflows in place, tax season could just become another day at the office or at home, as the case may be these days.

Among the ways tech can help free up time at tax season – and year-round, for that matter – are by automating everything from proposals, engagement letters, and scope changes to invoicing, billing and payments.

Professional proposals, efficient engagements

Start claiming back your time by automating proposals and engagement letters. Platforms such as Ignition take on the tasks for you, eliminating tedious manual document preparation. 

With Ignition, you can send out sleek, branded digital proposals in mere minutes (one customer even reports sending one in just 14 seconds!). The platform even lets you embed your own videos to add a personalized touch.

Moreover, when you connect Ignition with ProConnect, you can easily engage clients and get paid during tax season. The integration enables you to import ProConnect clients into Ignition and then create and send proposals with your engagement letter in bulk, saving countless hours. You can also filter clients by ProConnect return type to tailor your tax proposals. Find out more.

Plus, the proposal renewals feature in Ignition is specifically designed to manage the life cycle of client engagements. It ensures that client relationships don’t end at the expiry of an agreement but are given a chance for renewal and expansion. This aligns perfectly with the goal of maintaining long-term client relationships and maximizing revenue opportunities.

A recently added Ignition feature aims to save you even more time: bulk proposal creation. This feature will enable you to quickly engage a high volume of clients all at once by creating proposals en masse using a provided or custom proposal template. It's not only an added bonus for existing customers but also a great way for new customers to get started – and reap the time rewards – quickly.

You don’t have to stop there. With automation software, you can similarly save time on engagement letters. Ignition, for example, streamlines the dispatching, tracking, and signing processes, trimming them down to just a few minutes. Again, Ignition customers save on average over 6 hours per week creating proposals and issuing engagement letters – that’s a nice chunk of time that you can now spend on more high-value tasks! 

With today’s automation, you don’t even have to design and create your own documents from scratch; Ignition, for instance, has a library of expert industry-standard proposal templates and engagement letter templates

Automated proposals and engagements also mean saving time when changes occur, as they inevitably do for accounting and tax professionals. Scope creep, anyone? Now, when you have a change in the scope of work you’re doing for your clients, you can make changes flexibly and transparently. With Ignition’s service edits feature, for example, even after a client has accepted your proposal, you could easily edit active services, including description, price, quantity, billing details, and more, with just a few clicks. When you do, the platform can automatically notify your client about what’s changed so you’re always on the same page.

Additionally, with Ignition’s Instant Bill feature, you can now easily invoice clients and automatically collect payment for ad hoc services, protecting your cash flow and boosting profitability. 

Saving time and streamlining cash flow

Next on your time-reclaiming to-do list? Automating invoicing, billing, and client payments. Your time is invaluable, and you deserve timely payment for your hard work. Every minute chasing payments is a minute wasted. And as we’ve said, these days, efficiency isn't just a buzzword – for today's accounting and tax firms, it's a must-have. 

Here, too, Ignition will do all the heavy lifting for you. Consider asking for an upfront payment, so you get paid the minute a client signs your proposal. Giving your clients easy payment options, such as credit card or automated clearing house as part of your proposal, can also ensure that you get paid on time, every time. You won’t have to face awkward money conversations or chase payments. That’s quality time – and revenue – back in your pocket.

Surviving and thriving, despite staff shortages

As if the tax season crunch wasn't intense enough, now firms are also grappling with the significant shortage of professionals entering and remaining in the field.

A recent article from The Wall Street Journal reveals a 17% decline in US accountants and auditors over two years. With more than 300,000 leaving their roles and a reduced influx of graduates, the void is palpable. Companies are grappling with open positions, often filling critical roles with less-experienced individuals, thereby increasing the risk of errors.

Of course, despite the shortages, client expectations remain high. How can firms still deliver exceptional service during such lean times? Again, it’s time to look not only at automation but also at changing your processes.

The current climate further boosts the need for efficiency, especially during tax season. We already know – automation minimizes errors, expedites invoicing, enhances communication, and streamlines data processes. But it’s also necessary to take this a step further, looking inward at how your processes and workflows can better help you stay ahead of the curve.

Dan Gertrudes, CEO and Co-founder of GrowthLab, champions a shift in strategy to better manage capacity and, critically, prevent burnout among already-dwindling staff. “As owners, as general managers, we see the impact that the busy season has on many of our team members,” he says. “So we had to figure out a way to improve mental health and identify some of the bottlenecks – why are we seeing what we’re seeing? And it comes down to those peaks and troughs in the tax season.”

Rather than having those spikes and dips in workload, he takes a flatten-the-curve approach, advocating a more consistent workload.

Highlighting the need to challenge the industry's ingrained status quo of accepting the grueling hours of tax season, he says: 

“Why don’t we try to identify the problem and the drivers of the problem? And, understanding the constraints – I can’t change the tax law, I can’t change the compliance deadlines – what can we do to redesign our own processes, our own go-to-market approach to rethink this?”

Dan’s answer is a five-step approach to flattening the curve:

  1. Effectively manage your workflow by setting expectations, being clear and consistent with communications, mapping your processes and standard operating procedures, and looking at metrics.
  2. Delight your customers by always thinking about how you will keep them successful.
  3. Support your tax team by making sure they’re engaged and not ready to walk out the door come April 15.
  4. Prioritize the workflow, such as your engagement agreements process or document management, and eliminating bottlenecks.
  5. Optimize that workflow by understanding the ebb and flow of each process, eliminating activities that don't add value, using integrations between your software applications, and clearly defining touchpoints in each workflow.

By leveraging automation, strategically redesigning processes, and addressing root problems, accounting and tax professionals can not only navigate these staffing challenges but also emerge stronger, more efficient, and more client-centric.

Embrace innovation to overcome tax season hurdles

Addressing the dual challenge of a demanding tax season and persistent staff shortages demands more than just resilience – it calls for innovation. With Ignition, the leading revenue generation platform at your fingertips, you're not just automating tasks; you're actively freeing up crucial resources – both time and people – to meet client demands and expectations and bridging the gap where staff numbers are falling short. 

Some firms have already begun shifting gears, streamlining everything from accounts receivable to financial reporting to survive and grow in this shifting landscape. So, with this – the ‘new normal’ of the accounting world – what's holding you back? Get a front-row seat by watching an Ignition demo today.

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Matt Kanas

Managing Director, AMER  Ignition

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Published 31 Jan 2024 Last updated 19 Mar 2024