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Show Me the Money! A Billing Mindset that Embraces Automated Tax & Accounting Workflow

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2022 by SafeSend

Most firms have either considered new technology or adopted some form of automation but may not have considered how increased efficiency affects firm billing.

While automating manual processes is a step in the right direction for forward-thinking tax and accounting professionals, many firms wonder how they can balance the brisk pace of electronically processing tax returns with traditional billing practices. The more efficient they become, the less time they spend on manual processes, and fewer traditional billable hours are accrued. But continuing to operate in antiquated processes isn’t the answer.

Best Practices to Balance Billing with Enhanced Efficiency

How can embracing automation in your workflow benefit your bottom line? There are several best practices to consider for your firm when it comes to new technologies and billing procedures. It’s clear that automation is shifting and improving the tax and accounting workflow from how it’s “always been done” to new, efficient processes benefits both staff and clients. Consider shifting and improving your process for billing to reflect the same efficient processes and improved service your clients experience as a result of these new technologies.

The saying, “time is money,” doesn’t have to be literally trading hours for dollars. A tactical move to billing for services vs. hours benefits both firm and client. The paperless process is convenient for your clients and saves them time, and who doesn’t appreciate getting time back in their day? Setting your fees for tax returns based on the type of return or complexity can clearly communicate the breakdown of services and pricing, which increases transparency between firm and client. Additionally, both your firm and your clients benefit from being able to budget for the year based on services vs. hours.

Why Firms Can Embrace Automation AND Maintain Profitability

The switch to digital automation across the tax engagement can not only benefit clients, but firms may find it easier to bring on new business with the time that is saved, which ultimately increases profits. A tax and accounting workflow automation platform like the SafeSend Suite™ automates every client touchpoint across the tax engagement and reduces the time spent on manual processing. When procedures are streamlined, staff become more efficient and can take on additional responsibilities as business expands.

Tools in the SafeSend Suite are powerful yet simple to use:

  • SafeSend Signatures™ gives your firm unlimited e-sign capabilities to all document types.
  • SafeSend Organizers™ converts static PDF organizers to a client-friendly, fillable form.
  • SafeSend Returns® automates assembly, delivery and e-signing of completed tax packages.
  • SafeSend Extensions™ allows firms to digitally send clients an extension package in less than three minutes.

Elevate the Client Experience

Digital document experiences are far from foreign. From health care to banking, paperless transactions have become mainstream. In a world of instant access, the convenience of reviewing and signing tax returns from any device and any location is priceless for your clients. Paperless processes drastically improve the experience. All your clients, especially your best clients, deserve electronic vs. paper. Why would you burden your best clients with hundreds of pages of paper that requires them to physically sign, make a copy for their records, find a place to securely file that monstrosity, as well as having to mail it back or scan it so they can return it electronically?

Don’t wait for another pandemic to put a digital tax and accounting workflow automation platform into place. Lisa Goldbecker of Therrien & Associates, P.C., explains how having SafeSend Returns in place set them apart from other firms during COVID, “Our clients knew we’d be getting it done and a lot of our clients’ friends all had to go on extension.”

When your firm makes the process incredibly easy for clients, word spreads! Referrals are golden, so don’t count out word of mouth when the tax return experience is a breeze for your clients.

Value Billing Helps Firms Maintain Profitability While Embracing Tax & Accounting Workflow Automation

The SafeSend Suite tax and accounting workflow automation platform reduces the time spent on manual processes for both your staff and clients across every season of the tax year. Streamlined procedures result in happier clients and more efficient staff, which allows them to take on additional responsibilities as your firm’s business grows.

When tasks only take a fraction of the time to complete with automation, many firms maintain profitability by implementing value billing. Consider this, in the traditional billing model, billing for all time and materials is rare. Why? Because you have a sense of your client’s price point and make adjustments automatically.

When transitioning to a value-billing model, it might be helpful to ask yourself these questions:

  1. If we already know the price point each of our clients will accept, and adjust WIP to get to that amount, aren’t we already fixed-fee billing?
  2. Are we under-valuing our services by billing based on the time it takes vs. our years of experience? Samantha Mansfield, a speaker and consultant with Samantha Mansfield, LLC, said, “Clients value the experience and knowledge of their tax & accounting professional, not the amount of time it took them to do the work.”
  3. Can we avoid scope creep by clearly defining what is included and not included in our services in our engagement letters?
  4. Do we have capacity to serve the clients that value us most? Considering the Pareto Principle, that 80% of revenue is generated by 20% of clients, is it time to let some clients go who don’t rely on our value, aren’t improving our bottom line, and aren’t willing to change? Would it be mutually beneficial to refer them another firm?
  5. Is it time to migrate all the way to subscription pricing where clients subscribe to access to our services?

The shift to tax and accounting workflow automation efficiency warrants a shift from a billing to pricing mindset. Increased efficiency from new technology or automation minimizes a firm’s manual work, but it does not reduce the value of what is provided to clients. The change from billing for time and materials to pricing for the value of firm services is here.

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SafeSend Returns is the flagship solution in the SafeSend Suite and a multi-year winner of the CPA Practice Advisor Technology Innovation Award. SafeSend Returns eliminates the manual, labor-intensive elements many tax departments experience producing client-ready tax returns. 

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