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May 23, 2017 4 min read

3 Steps to Managing a Virtual Tax Practice

By going virtual, you can save on office and travel expenses, as well as acquire a clientele outside of your immediate location.

3 Steps to Managing a Virtual Tax Practice

Working remotely has become more common in the last few years. While the accounting industry remains traditional in a lot of ways, tax pros who work from home are not unheard of. In fact, working from home (or any other place you park yourself with a laptop and a cup of coffee) can have many benefits for tax pros. You can save on office and travel expenses, as well as acquire a larger clientele outside of your immediate office location. Of course, hiring a few remote employees is much different than turning your practice completely virtual. Take a look at these 3 steps you need to take to begin managing a virtual tax practice.

1. Invest in the right software

Tax software. The first step to making a virtual tax practice possible is using cloud-based accounting software. Cloud-based tax software will allow any team member to access a case, at any time, from anywhere they have internet—if necessary, you can change permissions settings so that not everyone has access to the same information.

Your team will be able to work on the same platform, and information will be updated real-time. You’ll no longer have to wait on the back-and-forth of saving and sending documents. However, before jumping into a new tax software, note that it’s important to choose a software that has proper security measures in place so that sensitive information isn’t vulnerable.

Messaging software. To collaborate efficiently, you should also choose a messaging software that your team can use to keep in communication. Sending a bunch of group emails every day is not the best option. Constantly checking email takes away from doing more meaningful work, and often you just need to ask a quick question.

There are a variety of messaging apps available. At Canopy, we use Slack.

Video chat software. A third software to consider looking into is video chat software. While it’s not as crucial to the running of your virtual practice as tax and messaging software are, it can be a good option for conducting meetings if you aren’t able to meet face-to-face.

Slack offers video calling, as does other software like Skype.  

2. Go completely paperless

The second step to managing a virtual tax practice, related to using cloud-based software, is going completely paperless. Store and manage all of your files, documents, records, etc. (even if they’re not related to casework) in the cloud for easy access. Even case or client-related notes should be kept in a CRM software. Leaving notes on Post-its around the office is not a viable option once you go virtual. You won’t want to halt the progress of a project simply because one or two required documents are still stored in a file cabinet at your office or because you left important information on a sticky note.

Because going paperless is arguably the most time-consuming part of switching to a virtual practice, your system for digitizing documents should be planned out beforehand. There are lot of steps to going paperless such as scanning your documents and implementing e-signatures, so the system you use is up to you and your practice’s needs.

3. Allow for schedule flexibility

The third step to becoming a virtual practice manager is to allow for schedule flexibility. One of the biggest appeals for remote employees is having a flexible schedule, which enables them to enjoy a better work-life balance. If there’s no leeway in which hours an employee works, you might as well keep running a traditional tax practice.

Talk to your team about schedule expectations before going virtual. Get everyone on the same page with deadlines and hours clients can contact them. Set schedule expectations around case deadlines and other quantifiable results. Additionally, use a workflow tool so that there is visibility into deadlines and progress for each step of casework. Team members will be able to manage their time with autonomy, and you can rest easy knowing they are on pace with their work. You’ll want to find the balance between flexibility and productivity that works for your team.

Keep in mind, there are more steps involved in managing a virtual tax practice successfully. But these three steps serve as a good foundation. If you don’t have these steps in place, you can’t move forward with going virtual.

Not sure a virtual practice is for you? Check out 10 Benefits of Managing a Virtual Tax Practice.



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