Tips for Helping Them See, Know and Understand Their Numbers
CPAs, it’s that time again … when your business clients bring you their manila envelopes stuffed with statements and shoe boxes crammed with wrinkled receipts so you can piece together their financial statements. You sigh and accept the task of taking their messy data (or mess of data), at your busiest and most stressful time of year, and start making sense of the paperwork to prepare to file their tax returns.
Obviously, getting business owners to provide accurate, up-to-date information is key to efficient tax planning and a streamlined tax return process. However, many small businesses don’t have a bookkeeper on staff who can input numbers into accounting software, pull relevant reports or analyze the data in front of them. Nor do busy business owners have time to clean up their general ledger, reconcile bank and credit card statements, keep track of all accounts receivable or payable, or compare budget versus actual figures periodically throughout the year. (Don’t we all wish they did?)
If you’ve been working with these clients for a few years, you already have a good sense of their business operations — the income streams, typical controllable expenses and perhaps capital improvements they’ve budgeted for. But this doesn’t really help when you are forced to recreate an entire year’s worth of income and expenses in order to do their tax returns — and help them plan not only for the tax season but for ongoing profitability.
Swap the Shoe Box for a Fractional Bookkeeping Service
For clients that are not ready to take on a staff accountant or full-time controller, partnering with a fractional financial services professional can be a good solution — for both business owners and their CPAs. For many small-business owners, contracting with a bookkeeper for a certain number of hours a week will help empty out that shoe box and clean up the books for you, the CPA, to use for tax planning and profitability consulting.
For example, with a team of bookkeepers available to work on a variety of clients from different industries, fractional practices can embellish your accounting practice (without adding staff), make your life easier during tax season and help with year-end tax planning or figurative belt-tightening while there’s still time during the fourth quarter.
There’s no question that you need visibility into the business’s numbers and financial status throughout the year. Once a bookkeeper or controller digs into the books, updates the general ledger and squares away all the numbers, the benefits are invaluable for business owners and you bring greater value to your client/CPA relationship with:
- Accurate, up-to-date financial information that is always on hand for tax planning purposes.
- Monthly and quarterly financial statements that enable you to immediately identify changes — both positive and negative — in your client’s business. This, in turn, enables you to advise the business owner, who can make timely decisions about where and how to trim or expand operations.
- More efficient tax return preparation (for both parties) with no nasty surprises on tax day.
Build a Stronger Value-Add Client Relationship
Your clients rely on you for sound financial guidance, tax planning and tax filing. Bringing in a fractional controller or bookkeeper will help you show them their accurate numbers on a regular basis — and help them understand the story those numbers are telling about the company’s financial health. Having that support provides tremendous value to business owners and to you as the CPA providing expert tax and business advice. Your client will quickly see the benefits of timely advice based on actual, up-to-date data, enabling them to develop a tighter operation with knowledge — not guesswork — about their areas of profitability and opportunity.
By putting these protocols in place before the end of the year, you’ll be able to guide them with real data in the coming year and beyond.