CPA Life Hacks by Susan Bryant, CPA

August 17, 2022

CPA Life Hacks by Susan Bryant, CPA

This is a Guest Blog post by Susan Bryant, CPA, CTC

I love accounting….the work, the people, the challenges, and the profession as a whole.  As a Certified Public Accountant and Certified Tax Coach with a passion for positive change, I thrive on the energy that results from client transformation.  I’ve been feeling especially pushed lately to do more for my clients and we’ve been working like crazy to identify new ways that technology can accelerate our abilities (which led us to LiveFlow!).  My firm, The MB Group, LLC is headquartered out of Plano, Texas, and we are a certified woman-owned business with 34 employees with no time sheets and all fixed-fee billing (and yes, it’s amazing!).

My teenage daughters recently became obsessed with life hacks on TikTok and it really got me thinking about some of the things I have learned over the last few years that have saved me time and energy as a CPA, firm partner and business owner.  We are all looking for ways to be more effective so I thought I’d share my favorites.

Efficient communication

Talk about life-changing, Hubspot is an amazing tool chock-full of features.  One of the things that I love the most is email tracking so anyone within our organization can see the communication between our team and clients.  Creating visibility within our organization ushered in a new era of accountability and productivity.  There are no more excuses about what was communicated to a client or that we’ll have to wait till someone gets back from lunch, vacation, etc.  We did turn off the email tracking between employees since that seemed like overkill…and we are more focused on managing external communications than internal ones.

As if this wasn’t enough, the templates, meetings and snippets features available through the Outlook add-in make repetitive emails or common sentences within emails so efficient.  We also use the Deal Tracker so that we can see what’s in our pipeline and set up tasks to prompt follow-up.

Our marketing team are the real Hubspot masters and use many of the other newsletter, email sequencing and landing page features to keep us looking super hip as CPA’s.

I’m certain that we aren’t even scratching the surface on using this program to its fullest….and will add that to my 2023 goal list.

Instantaneous transaction importer

For all the QB Desktop lovers out there who get bombarded with backwork, Big Red Consulting’s IIF Transaction Importer program is a total game changer.  It’s super easy to use, remarkably inexpensive and literally can allow you to import thousands of bank/credit card transactions within minutes.

Also, check out the Enterprise to Pro conversion tool so you can help all those poor clients who were previously misled to believe that Enterprise was needed for their small business.

Easy S Corp compensation analysis & payroll

I just read an article the other day that the IRS is using more AI and data analytics to identify instances where S Corp officer compensation is omitted or “too low.”  It truly is low-hanging fruit for them to pull a return for examination…and chances are that if the tax preparer missed that basic tax compliance requirement, there are sure to be a bunch of other mistakes.  

The onus is on us to advise on S Corp compensation.  Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be an extremely difficult task thanks to the folks at RC Reports.  The program is web-based and a cinch to use.  Simply set up a client, configure for their industry and geographic region, send them a link to answer some questions and it’s done.  This is seriously a simple solution that could mitigate audit risk for your clients.  

While we are on the subject of payroll, let’s talk about accounting professionals who are still insisting on prepping employment tax returns and W-2’s manually.  Why?  Just why?  We see mistakes and penalties due to manual payroll processes all….the….time.  You don’t have to give up the revenue or torture yourself with busy work when you leverage a payroll processing platform.  My favorite is OnPay.  You can resell the services (in your firm or perhaps in your own, separate non-SSTB payroll company)…and invoice whatever you were billing before with virtually almost no effort on a routine basis.  Bonus – you don’t have to take custody of the funds so the risk is virtually non-existent.

Continuous education & innovation

If you want to learn more about how to transform your firm, create more value for your clients, win more business, improve your life as an accounting professional, and be an innovator in this industry, start listening to podcasts.  There is an incredible amount of information available that is pertinent to our profession, some of which will make you think REAL HARD about how things are operating in your firm and why you haven’t changed them.  And, with Earmark CPE, you get one free CPE credit each week – that’s a total win-win.  

Here are some of my most loved CPA podcasts:

If you are looking for a big way to help your clients (and your own business), start reading all about the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) which is a byproduct of Gino Wickman’s book Traction.  The EOS system gives you a perfectly laid out system to follow to help business owners improve employee engagement, productivity, focus, accountability and profitability.  The costs for helping your clients to learn and perhaps implement pieces of EOS will cost you no money, doesn’t require a fancy software program and there aren’t any massive talent requirements.  This is a nice place to start thinking about what you could be advising your clients on…bonus – you can use your firm as a guinea pig to give it a test run!

Headache-free tax planning

For those accountants that are knee-deep in tax return preparation, the workload seems to pile higher and higher each year while clients become more and more disenfranchised about paying for the service.  We’ve all heard the comments – “it can’t be that hard,” “you just put numbers in a box,” “it won’t take you long to do my return.”  These sentiments are becoming so common and the writing is on the wall that tax return preparation work is not going to be nearly as profitable in the future, especially as machine learning rapidly improves.  Machines, however, are not yet sophisticated enough to think futuristically or holistically about an individual or family’s entire tax situation.  The future of tax is tax planning.  So, it’s game on.  Educate yourself on tax planning, sell these engagements and start thinking bigger (aka use your imagination and knowledge) about how you are going to influence your clients’ financial futures by minimizing their tax obligations. 

Here are some resources that can help get you in the right mindset and fuel this part of your practice:

Being an accountant is not easy, but it can be easier if we help each other.  What are your favorite accounting life hacks?  

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