The end of the tax year is nigh and small businesses across Australia are searching for missing receipts and tackling queries that have been stored up for the obligatory annual visit to the accountant.
But it doesn’t need to be this way. A quiet revolution has been taking place in the tax world, with an increasing number of accountancy firms using new technologies to change the way they handle annual returns for their customers.
Mi-fi is one such example. A new breed of web-based accountants, instead of utilising the time-based billing model, users access the services they require for a fixed fee as often as they want. What makes this possible is the smart way Mi-fi is using Zendesk, a cloud-based help desk service, to streamline communications so that it can offer the level of service promised, in a way that is also commercially viable.
Mi-fi co-founder, Campbell King explains, “Business owners shouldn’t be afraid of contacting their advisor for fear of being charged for it. In fact, we believe they should contact us whenever they need to, no matter how big or small the issue they may be facing. This way they can tackle it early and we can help them make better decisions.
When a customer sends an email it is captured in the Zendesk system and sent to the person dealing with that particular customer. Campbell explains,“With Zendesk, the conversations we’ve had with clients via email are easy to find and track, giving us the ability to search and organise customer enquiries for more accurate and timely responses.
“I think it’s well known that taxation and doing tax returns is becoming somewhat of a commodity, and something like Zendesk allows us to deal with clients in a more proactive way and add value that way,” Campbell said. “I think that accounting firms who don’t take this approach will be left behind.”
It’s not just accountancy firms who are changing their approach to year end. Many small businesses are starting to take a more proactive approach to how they manage their accounting. It’s this ‘hands-on’ approach which is driving Xero’s success.
An online accounting software solution, Xero enables small businesses to access the type of enterprise-class solutions in the cloud that up until now have been the preserve of much larger organisations. As a result, small businesses can now access the vast array of functionality previously only found in large corporate environments, with minimal commitment and up-front cost.
Chris Ridd, managing director, Xero Australia, says, “Our customers are often business owners, busy people on the go, so having mobile or tablet access to their accounting system, from wherever they are is vital. Online accounting systems enable small businesses to gain a real time view of their finances and track their cash flow throughout the year, taking the time and financial burden away from the end of financial year.”
For small businesses wanting to make the most out of the cloud and their accounting systems and avoid tax time stress, Ridd has three top tips:
1. Review your accounts regularly:
Keeping a regular check on bills, expenses, receipts and tax payments helps, avoid a mountain of finance paperwork at the end of the financial period.
2. Know your accounting onions:
Ask your accountant to explain what reports mean.You’ll develop a deeper understanding of what is required at the end of the financial year as well as having a forecast to plan for what the future brings.
3. Show your accountant your system:
Invite your accountant into your accounting system and they’ll have greater visibility of your accounts and daily cashflow position to help manage the business more effectively. This means less stress for you, especially when it comes to tax time.