When properly executed, Client Accounting Services (CAS) can lay the groundwork for smooth, seamless tax preparation. However, if CAS and Tax teams are not able to collaborate and align on projects, efficiency and profitability suffer — and so does the client experience.
So how do firms that offer clients both CAS and tax services overcome these obstacles to provide a high level of coordinated client service? I’ve broken down below four common CAS-to-Tax pain points, with tips on how to reduce the friction, below.
Lack of visibility to task status.
Think about your current process when a client requests an update on their tax return, or when a tax preparer needs the status of a year-end close. Does this trigger a scramble to determine the task status through calls, emails, or meetings? For many firms, the answer is yes, but it doesn’t need to be.
You can reduce the scramble, and its associated impact on efficiency and performance, by streamlining your workflow. Make a conscious decision to move away from using team members’ email as a communication hub. An automated workflow solution will allow you to track engagement status on-demand, and answer clients when they ask, rather than tell them, “I’ll call you back.”
Limited access to historical documentation.
Tax work often is non-linear. Preparation and review processes tend to happen in stops and starts based on available resources and receipt of the client documents required to complete their year-end close and, ultimately, tax returns. Because these projects aren’t worked continuously, each time the file is reopened, staff have to reorient themselves with the processes, tasks, and documents that came before.
The review process itself isn’t inherently wrong. However, it becomes a problem when staff are unable to find all of the documents and have to go on a scavenger hunt to locate the necessary information. This search eats up valuable time that could be better spent working on revenue-generating tasks. So how does your firm reduce the scavenger hunts?
Technology is the answer, allowing you to store information and provide access to the client information that your staff needs when they need it. Your workflow software should be storing all of the necessary information in a central hub so that with one-click staff can review the work in progress and remove the need for scavenger hunts.
Incomplete trial balances.
The majority of work required to complete an entity’s tax return usually is accomplished in the trial balance phase, which the CAS team often handles. The faster the CAS team closes the books, the quicker the firm can move on to the tax return. Is it any surprise that, in this context, incomplete trial balances present a significant obstacle?
Firms that can quickly coordinate between Tax and CAS to identify the information required to complete the trial balance benefit from a more direct path to completion. Using checklists to reinforce processes can be of significant help to communicate missing documents between groups.
Bottlenecks between departments.
Different departments, different processes, different timelines — these are the most pernicious (and common) obstacles to timely, efficient, and high-quality tax preparation. In firms where the CAS and Tax teams are not using the same shared tools, technologies, and processes, bottlenecks are often the rule rather than the exception.
Greater visibility and communication between CAS and Tax can make all the difference. However, for many firms still relying heavily on spreadsheets with individual owners, or on generic project management tools, this level of coordination has remained out of reach.
The good news is that the right productivity enablement and workflow technology can virtually erase the divide between CAS and Tax departments to offer sensible, flexible, and intuitive connection points that facilitate greater coordination and collaboration.
The result: smoother handoffs, 1-click visibility into status and task-related information, higher client and employee satisfaction — and the efficiency and performance gains that help firms achieve greater profitability.