One of my first “welcome to the real world” moments came as a young tax intern at a small accounting firm. During that tax period, an elderly man came to the office to drop his tax documents in the shoe box — literally. A shoebox with receipts leaking from under the lid has apparently been reused and re-used for document storage since long ago cars still came with cassette players.
Standing in the file room looking at the trembling chaos of receipts, I wondered loudly, “Who’s going to organize this mess with some kind of available data?” There a company colleague who passed by turned around, smiled, and said, “Why, you too!” I think I got into that myself. Better to work, intern.
For generations, that’s how tax work and your accountant relationship are: find the best code option in your area and drop your proverbial shoe box.
However, it’s 2022 and we have the potential to go further into it. Modern business owners have access to a national spectrum of accountants through the power of technology; they are no longer restricted by entering the borders of the same city or even the same state. Similarly, accountants can group themselves in new ways, specializing and focusing on specific industries and business types in ways that were not possible before.
In this article, I will highlight three areas where technological advances are changing the way our company interacts and does business with our dental clients. Technology is changing so fast that we are constantly exploring new options, but I will focus on some of the specific applications we use today to implement this technology.
A natural place to start our discussion is the cloud. We use Citrix’s ShareFile system to securely store and share documents through the cloud. ShareFile also provides e-signature services on documents, which became a lifesaver during a pandemic. Similarly, we use Intuit Link as a digital tax questionnaire and tax organizer to help clients organize and upload their documents each spring.
In general, clients want a smooth process of submitting their tax documents. They want to take some of the pain out of tax time and file on time without having to extend their returns just for administrative delays. The use of cloud technology helps our company organize the flow of information to provide the best possible results for clients.
Zoom and Loom
Another technology familiar to everyone in recent years is Zoom. We all have positive and negative experiences with virtual meetings, but Zoom is undeniably a useful tool in helping us meet clients remotely. However, a drawback of virtual meeting technology is that it requires synchrony between users — ie, both users have to be signed in and used at the same time to use the service.
One company I’ve experimented with recently that is trying to solve this problem is Loom. Loom provides video recording software designed for asynchronous communication. I can use it to record videos for clients, send them the YouTube style link, and they can watch it on their time. Part of the beauty of Loom is that it streamlines the video production process — no editing software required, no rendering or compression decisions to make, and no confusing array of file extensions (who knows really on the pros and cons of .MKV versus .AVI though?). You just click the button to record a video on your computer, and then, a few seconds after you finish it, your video is in the cloud, ready to be shared with a link.
I’ll admit I’ve only scratched this technology so far, but there are many add-ons — like polls, responses, comments, statistics, etc. — that can be implemented. Applications for our company are endless, from videos on how to use payroll software or electronic funding your IRA, to educational videos like 401 (k) education for new employee or an on-demand tax return video review.
No-code app builders
Finally, the other part of the technology that made me excited about the possibilities was the growing list of no-code app builders. These are applications that enable people with no computer coding knowledge to create, automate, and modify new microapplications.
These platforms allow users to quickly create applications to serve the usual needs of their business in a much reduced time frame than what was available even a few years ago. Even though there are many platforms that serve this space, our company has adopted QuickBase as our main platform.
Over the past few years, we have created many custom applications for our company’s needs, from client billing and data collection to organizational project management, such as tax return tracking and fighting client data 1099/W-9. Looking at my internal dashboard can tell me the bookkeeping status of a client, any outstanding tax returns, a missing invoice, or even the status of their 401 (k) census and allocation.
I can also organize and submit my receipts from a recent business trip, schedule a room for an upcoming client meeting, download my human resources and resources. follow-up forms, or access to my team’s emergency contacts, just to name a few. All of these applications are designed by our company, and I promise that even if we become nerdy, none of us will consider ourselves advanced computer programmers.
Another way QuickBase has been useful to us is during the COVID-19 pandemic, when it helped us get organized as the government launched relief programs at an incredible pace. Our internal apps for PPP1, PPP2, Employee Retention Credit, supercharged unemployment, HRSA Provider Relief Fund, etc. have been lifesavers for the past two years. The apps allow our teams to collaborate to create and update these programs in real time as details change or new knowledge becomes available. Instead, it helps us keep our clients ahead of the line to quickly reap these benefits during a pandemic.
I’m a bit of an innovation and technology junkie, so exploring new options always makes me excited about the opportunities that come my way. But when I think about the way things have been in the past — and how many practices in the field of accounting still feel determined 1980s in their technology — I’m grateful to be able to expand resources in my field. After all, I promised myself a decade ago to stay away from shoe boxes as much as possible!
If your current CPA leaves you feeling frustrated due to a lack of forward -thinking technology options, consider looking for a more progressive accounting firm.
Author’s note: Moss, Luse & Womble, LLC (“MLW”) is a registered investment advisor registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The information contained in this article is intended to provide general information and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide investment advice or a substitute for obtaining accounting, tax, or financial advice from a professional accountant or financial advisor.
Editor’s note: This article came out in the May 2022 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. North American dentists are eligible for a complimentary printing subscription. Sign up here.