Small businesses should ask these five questions about software when selecting a tax preparer.
Small businesses should be looking to their professional tax preparers for high levels of strategic guidance and specialized attention.
That’s because most small businesses focus on their strength —developing and delivering high-quality goods and services—and utilize financial experts to help them be successful and grow.
Tax preparers have many technology options available that can deliver a wealth of valuable business intelligence from which key business strategies can be developed.

That’s why small businesses must ask questions about technology—particularly the software a potential tax-preparation partner uses—as a crucial component in the vetting process. Partners who operate with the most modern processing capabilities can bring big-business sophistication to small-business operations. Ask these questions about software to find the partner that is best suited for the unique needs of a small business:

How does your software remain current—and keep us compliant with changing regulations?
When tax laws change, financial outcomes often change as well. And this is just as true for small businesses. That’s why preparers who serve small business customers must be operating the most current versions of professional tax software—because the newest software should reflect the most recent tax-law changes.

Even if laws change or forms are updated during tax-preparation season, the preparer’s software should update in almost real-time to reflect those changes—and to keep your tax return compliant.

Is your tax software compatible with my accounting, bookkeeping and other financial systems?
Whether on-site or from a remote location, your tax preparer’s software should, at a minimum, be able to import and export data from your accounting, bookkeeping and other financial systems. This type of system integration automates a number of crucial functions to eliminate manual tasks, save time, improve accuracy—and even boost security because paper forms don’t have to be collected and transported from one location to another. Instead, the majority of the preparation work occurs within a highly secure software environment.

Can your software handle multi-state jurisdiction?
While they may operate on a smaller scale, many small businesses have big footprints stretching across various, often disconnected regions of the country. Ask whether a tax preparer’s software is equipped to help a tax preparer navigate the myriad state-by-state discrepancies and opportunities that exist. Less-sophisticated solutions can leave opportunities—and dollars—on the table.

Does your tax software offer a portal where all document-sharing can occur within a safe environment?
If a potential tax partner mentions the idea of emailing documents back-and-forth, suggest an alternate secure electronic method or opt for printing. Email accounts that are ripe with financial information are a hacker’s playground and can put a small business’s most valuable financial information at risk to third-party and criminal exposure. But tax preparers can now collect documents electronically, through a variety of options, which can eliminate some of the security concerns around email. This capability also expedites the preparation process by alleviating postal delays and reducing in-person meetings. It also gives the small business on-demand access to their archived digital records in the future.

Besides the tax return, what type of intelligent output is available?
Many small businesses approach tax preparers with only one real output in mind—the tax return. But the tax preparation and filing process uncovers a wealth of valuable information that often reveals new financial strategies and untapped business opportunities. So ask your tax preparer about the depth of the software they use—and how their software can enhance their insight and skills to put the business at a competitive advantage.

The software your tax preparer uses has a big impact on small business. By asking the right questions, small businesses can find a tax-preparation partner who is truly equipped with the best technology to help uncover intelligent new strategies and drive new levels of financial sophistication.

Kerri Gibson has over 15 years of tax and accounting industry experience and currently serves as general manager for the ATX professional tax preparation solution. Kerri has been instrumental at Wolters Kluwer, CCH Small Firm Services, where her efforts drive continued improvement in the ATX platform so professional tax preparers can experience a streamlined work flow while meeting the demands of ever-changing tax laws. She has also had product management roles within Small Firm Services and previously served as director of tax development for Drake Software.