Working with Clients during Lockdown: Challenges and Opportunities

Evolving tax compliance processes in a digital-only world presents many challenges and opportunities. The world of tax can be heavily paper based, until Coronavirus changed everything.

Clients have been engaging more and more with this concept; there are lots of other digital processes and portals in day to day life in banking and financial services applications. The transition from paper to digital has been provoked by lockdown and has opened the door to change, this is a one-off opportunity for evolution.

Challenging the status quo

Although it may seem that lots of individuals are responding positively to the digital transition, as a collective the tax world is still behind. The challenge comes from core values within many practices, like ‘consistency’.

Clients are often cited as a reason to not use digital tools for engagement. In a recent survey T-Tech conducted, it was found that 100% of respondents found the client not to be the challenge.

The main challenges for not using digital toolsets are

  • Resistance to change from the practice
  • Lack of understanding of the benefits
  • Time to implement changes as opposed to the day to day

Lockdown, however, has shown that previous excuses from the resistance have been proven false. Working remotely, digital processes, departmental applications… opinions have changed, and accountants are buying into the processes.

Evidence also lies in the engagement between accountants and their clients. A lot of accountants rely on post and email for client interaction; but post has quickly become far more difficult, with being away from the office, and back-and-forth emails are a thing of the past (we are all on Teams)! Generally, clients are responding faster, and accountants are seeing that data collection has become timely. Clients are sitting at home submitting their tax returns quicker and earlier in the cycle, so are recognising the efficiency of these new-age processes.

The opportunity

It’s quite amazing to look back over the past few months; years of planning and innovation in the making has been accelerated and delivered to end users in just the few months since we’ve been working from home. Technology and digital processes have been thrust upon the accountancy world, and practices are realising they are more paperless than ever before.

Many accountants have confirmed this, saying they have paper files for both personal tax and corporate tax, but with the sudden lockdown and being away from the office, there was an immediate transition from paper to digital processes. Struggles such as sending PDF’s for large files over email have given the realisation that proper electronic file processes are necessary. Paper just won’t cut it anymore.

This has paved the way for a change in mindset; not just in the way that accountants work, but also how they engage and interact with their clients. The crisis has been a great disrupter for recognising the need to move away from inconsistent processes. Resistance is fading away and the buy-in to digital processes is at a much higher level. The opportunity that lies ahead for the tax world, is how to properly integrate with other departments in order that they can feed into the tax return process and abolish legacy and inefficient processes across the board.

In the midst of difficulty lies opportunity

Lockdown has certainly provided a great opportunity to embrace digital and go paperless in the tax world. More and more accountants are certainly breaking barriers for change and the opportunity lies in educating all teams outside of tax to do the same. Technology is widening the tax landscape (who would have thought that even 10 years ago, accounting, invoicing, reporting, auditing submitting tax returns and more would all be done online) meaning new opportunities are arising, setting a new standard for efficiency, productivity, and ultimately a value-adding service to clients.

This is a once in a lifetime change window – don’t miss it!