What Happens When You Change Tax Software?
Tired of complicated professional tax software? Memorizing shortcut keys, counterintuitive workflows—the learning curve for most software is so steep, many of us choose one and stick with it for life. See what happened when I decided to make a change to Wolters Kluwer iTax.
Until recently, the only thing more complicated than tax was tax software. Shortcut keys, hours of data entry, limited support. These challenges and a myriad other counter-intuitive processes and features made learning a new tax software program a lot like learning to play the piano. It took several seasons of pounding out returns to feel proficient with the software. A steep learning curve means many tax professionals choose one program—and in Canada we have few options to pick from—and generally stick with it for life, settling for a poor user experience and inefficiencies just because it’s so difficult and time consuming to swap.
After 30 years of experience working with individuals and enterprises, I—like many other accountants—was resigned to accepting the limitations of tax software… until now. Last tax season I had the opportunity to beta test the new CCH iFirm Tax. I was pleasantly surprised to experience a 70% increase in efficiency, and now I’m gearing up to expand my practice.
Getting Started with CCH iFirm Tax
If you’re like me, the first thing you do when you buy something new is open it up, pull out the manual, and promptly set it aside. Experience, after all, is the best teacher, right? But in the past, this was impossible when it came to tax software. You couldn’t just get to work right away. You needed to put in hours and hours of learning to master the software before being able to complete a tax return.
With CCH iFirm Tax, I jumped in right away and saw how simple this new software really is. One of the first things I noticed was how clean and easy to understand the layout was. The intuitive progression decreased the learning curve by 50% when compared to my previous software. And if I did run into a situation where I needed a little help, there were short videos that explained everything perfectly in about two minutes. Not a lot of time—and time is money.
As Canada’s population is aging, I’m seeing more and more dispositions of property—rental and business—to fund retirement, pass down to children or deemed as in spousal rollovers and final returns—and foreign pension income. These types of situations result in fairly involved returns, which require special forms that must be available within the software in order to EFILE. I emailed Wolters Kluwer support looking for help locating these rarely used forms, but then thought I’d just jump over to the self-service video section to see if I could figure it out on my own. In less than a couple of minutes, the videos showed me how to locate them—all before the rapid support team had a chance to respond to my query. It was that simple.
Increased Efficiency Creates Growth Opportunities
In addition to the videos, one of the main reasons it was so easy to get up and running on CCH iFirm Tax was that I didn’t have to memorize function keys. If you’ve ever worked with a tax software, you know how difficult it can be to just get all the necessary information needed to complete a return. You jump from location to location within the program to collect the correct indicators, and during tax season, these extra minutes spent hunting and gathering really eats into your overall output—costing you time and money.
Plus, in the past there was no way to import information the from Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The various slips that employers and financial institutions have ported into the tax authorities would have to be downloaded, and then that data would be manually entered into the software. With CCH iFirm Tax, I can now download that information and port it directly into the tax return. That doesn’t mean I don’t still manually check these slips against my records. Experience has taught me this extra check is especially important since clients sometimes accidentally miss a slip resulting in reassessments and penalties. And that safeguard saves my clients money and decreases my time spent checking.
The import function from the CRA also provided much more detail than found in the paper copies of the slips; plus, it automatically filled in types of earnings that I would have never picked up from paper slips. That feature is especially important with investment income and carry-forwards. I’ve found that for clients with investment income, I’m completing their returns in about a third of the time it used to take—a time savings of 70%! That’s hours of my day, and now that I have a software I can rely on, I’m looking at taking on new clients and expanding my practice—something that would have been impossible before without hiring more staff.
Speaking of hiring, in the past, looking to bring on a new accountant meant interviewing candidates and asking which tax software they used. Proficiency in any of the big six Canadian professional accounting software takes years of practice to master, so most firms have to filter candidates based on whether or not they use the same software that the firm uses. With the minimal learning curve of CCH iFirm Tax, as I look to expand, I don’t have to pass on a terrific accountant just because they use a different software. I’m confident they can get up and running on CCH iFirm Tax in no time at all.
Security in the Cloud
Malware and ransomware are always a serious concern with desktop installed software. A simple mistake of opening just one email attachment containing malicious content can affect the integrity of sensitive financial information. The security of my clients’ financial information is a top priority for me. They trust me with their data, so when it comes to the tools I use, I look for one that offers layers of protection. CCH iFirm Tax is a cloud-based software securely hosted in Canada, which in itself just adds one more level of safety.
The security of CCH iFirm Tax—plus the simple workflow that allows for huge gains in efficiency—all provide one major benefit not found in any other tax software: the ability to focus. Now, I can concentrate on the work at hand without being distracted by hunting for information or bouncing from screen to screen or form to form. This produces a flow, or rhythm, to my work that wasn’t possible in previous software. It’s so intuitive and easy to use and during the crunch time of tax season, that flow is the difference between completing 20 tax returns and 30 tax returns. It’s the difference between maintaining my business and growing it. After all time is money and money is taxable—so you need to come see us!