With COVID-19 once again compounding the usual hustle of tax-filing season, the coming weeks loom large for tax preparers. For the first time since 2019, the individual tax deadline in the US will return to its usual mid-April date this year—giving tax preparers less time to work under many of the same conditions as the past two years.
Ionuț Sas is Vice President of Tax, Payroll and Equity at UiPath. Previously, he worked for 13 years at PwC, including as a Partner in PwC’s Tax Advisory Services, Corporate Tax Department. Within UiPath, Sas coordinates the global activities of UiPath group in the tax, payroll and equity areas, being part of the global leadership team of UiPath. Sas also is involved in various global initiatives related to technology and intelligent automation implementation in the areas he coordinates. He is a member of the Silicon Valley Tax Directors Group, one of the most tax prestigious organisations in the world, with members representing the most prestigious software, innovation and technology US corporations. In Romania, Sas is the Vice President and Board Member of Amcham Romania and is the leader of the Amcham Education working committee.
Speaking to The Fintech Times, Sas explains how automation can make tax filing more efficient and effective:
As Omicron keeps workers largely remote, tax preparers are entering the busiest time of the year without the usual space, support, and resources of pre-pandemic years. Moreover, many agencies are currently operating with smaller workforces as tax preparation companies feel the impact of the Great Resignation. Consequently, labour shortages exacerbate the pressure on remaining employees to perform and keep pace, which fuels ongoing cycles of burnout and resignation.
To mitigate these burdens, tax preparation firms can leverage automation technology. By deploying software robots to fulfil many of the back-office tasks that oftentimes slow tax preparers down and pull them away from engaging with clients, tax agencies can move quickly and dynamically throughout the tax season. As a result, they will be able to reduce costs, complete and file tax returns faster, and focus on more value-add or higher priority tasks like customer service or ensuring compliance with the latest regulations. Here’s how automation can solve for this tax season’s top challenges.
Automation enables tax preparers to work more efficiently and effectively
The IRS advises citizens to submit their 2021 tax returns as soon as possible, which adds immediacy to tax preparers’ workloads. Even in the best of times, tax preparers face their fair share of drudgery that slows their performance. For instance, once clients submit their tax forms, tax preparers must sort through a variety of documents before they can calculate and file the returns. This organising can be incredibly time-consuming, which delays return preparation and, therefore, delays clients receiving their return funds.
Automated software robots can cut down on these backlogs by expediting the prep work for tax preparers. With the ability to complete rule-based tasks like copying and pasting information and moving files and folders, robots compile all the information tax professionals need to analyse it sooner. More advanced automation programs armed with AI-powered document understanding can even scan tax forms to pull out relevant data, including structured data sets, and communicate it to other systems so that employees don’t have to spend time manually extracting information.
Having automation’s support also leads to more accurate tax documents, as the technology avoids common human errors that can occur when overwhelmed tax preparers complete the paperwork themselves. When tax preparers don’t have to spend as much time manually processing returns, they can focus more on finding clients the right tax deductions and credits for their circumstances, without feeling overwhelmed by manual steps. This mitigates the need for corrections later that can slow down processing further (an ongoing issue; in December of 2021, the IRS faced 2.3 million unprocessed amended individual tax returns). Likewise, tax preparers have more capacity to stay up to date on changing tax legislation, so that they can act quickly and efficiently when it goes into effect to ensure clients’ taxes meet current federal standards.
With automation’s support, tax preparers can offer stronger customer service
Tax preparers don’t need to be reminded that long backlogs of work are also frustrating for clients who want their returns in a timely manner. Moreover, when clients contact agencies for filing support, they don’t want to wait a long time for support. Fortunately, with automation, tax preparers can focus more of their bandwidth on offering superior customer service.
In addition to executing back-office tasks, software robots can support agency employees during client interactions. When clients call an agency, software robots can work in the background to pull necessary information like the individual’s filing history or current return status, instead of the employee wasting time sourcing these details themselves. This way, tax agencies can resolve client inquiries much faster, allowing employees to serve a greater number of employees or work on other activities. Likewise, tax professionals can offer more thoughtful service during those interactions, which has the power to differentiate their business during a time that can easily become stressful on both sides.
Automated robots can also be deployed as a first point of contact for customers. Chatbots equipped with automation capabilities can guide website visitors through self-service processes, directing them towards the information they need without employee intervention and only elevating the conversation to a worker when needed. Critically, agencies should confirm that their chosen automation vendor complies with strict security standards so that their technology can securely handle sensitive tax information, like social security numbers, when clients submit it.
Even though the IRS has made headway in reducing its backlog of 2020 returns, many roadblocks lie ahead for the upcoming tax season, from ongoing challenges caused by Omicron to persistent staffing shortages. With a busy season ahead, tax preparers are under increased pressure to work as efficiently as possible in the lead up to returns filing, which risks burning them out fast. By leveraging automation technology, tax preparation firms will be able to handle the upcoming surge in business more adeptly, optimising their tax professionals’ bandwidth to deliver an unprecedented level of service without overwhelming staff.
UiPath has a vision to deliver the Fully Automated Enterprise, one where companies use automation to unlock their greatest potential. UiPath offers an end-to-end platform for automation, combining the leading Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solution with a full suite of capabilities that enable every organisation to rapidly scale digital business operations.
Ionut Sas, VP of Tax, UiPath: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ionut-sas/?originalSubdomain=ro