Scaling Tax Management: How CCH iFirm Tax Systematized 80% of Our Tax Operations
With an integrated approach to building and managing corporate and personal finances, Ivory Planning Group is built around efficient processes. But when we were struggling to systematize the tax management side of our business, we looked to new technology to provide a replicable, scalable solution. What we found was a way to decrease our efforts by 75 percent, while systematizing 80 percent of corporate tax operations.
Years before I co-founded Ivory Wealth Management, I noticed a disparity between what most professionals would consider typical roles of a financial planner and those of a general accountant. It’s this gap that fueled my initial vision. Ultimately, my goal was to be a resource and service provider that could unify, link, and integrate all the different fiscal tenants a client needs under a single, shared roof.
We’re Our Clients’ Personal CFO
Even though our company name is a nod to one of the largest mammals on the planet, by design, we’re small. We manage less than 100 families, and 70% of our clients are business owners. A good portion of these business owners are multi-business owners. Because of this, a fair amount of our clients’ wealth is being held in a corporate environment. It’s also why we do T1s and T2s. So, even though from an accounting firm’s perspective we’re small, the role of tax management is key to our integrated approach—and is treated as such.
Compared to asset management, which is more fluid, tax was always different from our other processes, and as a process-driven entrepreneur, I couldn’t simplify it enough to create a repeatable system around it. So, while it’s a key service we offer, tax has always been a challenge to systemize.
We’ve tried various types of professional accounting software in the past, but every one of them only complicated the situation further. None offered client management built in, and they all fell short of simplifying the process to a point that we could hand off the tax preparation side of the business to a junior employee. They required the expertise—and subsequently, the salary—of a high-level employee who, due to the complex nature of tax software, was well-versed in tax preparation. This resource constraint meant our small firm would continue to be small, specifically in the tax management side of our business.
Then Wolters Kluwer invited us to beta-test CCH® iFirm Tax.
Repeatable, Scalable Processes
Finally! We had a way to get the information we needed from our clients. Even better, for me, obsessed as I am with methodology and prescribed courses of action, we had the ability to integrate our tax division into our existing corporate processes.
One major timesaving difference between CCH iFirm Tax and our old software is that CCH iFirm Tax allows us to directly import information from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). This is important because the majority of CRA reviews happen when there’s a disparity between the information CRA has and what is submitted. Since clients may occasionally forget to give their tax professional their T-slips or other necessary forms, the import function ensures we are privy to any missing information, without having to rely solely on our clients’ records, meaning fewer stressful reviews. We can be certain we have all the data we need to do our job, and we can complete our work in 75% less time. That’s right: due to the import function alone, we spent 75% less time on each file, and in a small firm with a staff of four, including myself, that time savings had a huge impact.
Let’s face it, even data entry people hate data entry. Now, instead of being hampered by time consuming tax return data “input,” we can easily manage the tax process efficiently, with the majority of the work being systematized and no longer requiring a hands-on approach from senior staff. As a result, instead of tax management just being a value-add for our existing clients, we are actively looking to expand that aspect of our business.
In addition to the burden lifted by the CRA function, CCH iFirm Tax has a built-in client management system. This functionality allows us to import our clients into CCH iFirm Tax, augment the status of the return, and resolve any issues while documenting exactly where in the process the return is, giving me (as the manager) a bird’s-eye view of my entire client roster with just one click of a button. With this perspective and embedded process, I have been able to systematize 80% of the corporate tax operations through CCH iFirm Tax. The nightmare of manual oversight has finally ended.
Our experience during the beta phase was decisive. Thanks to CCH iFirm Tax, rather than draining our infrastructure with inefficient processes, our tax division now has a repeatable process that could evolve into a profit-generator. Ivory Wealth Management is now equipped to evolve from simply maintaining an integrated, high-touch approach to finances to building a business that’s scalable and extremely valuable—to both our clients and stakeholders.