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Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 27 seconds

Old Software; New Tricks

With the right technology, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

I was a tax professional for most of my public accounting career. I started in tax and still did taxes for my computer consulting clients when I finally made the switch into technology about 10 years ago. Recently I decided to try my hand at doing some tax work during busy season. I knew I would need a skilled reviewer and time to review tax law changes, but I was afraid I wouldn’t know how to work the applications. (You would be surprised how many laws haven’t changed very much, except for that new fangled Single Member LLC concept…)

Imagine my surprise, when after 10 years of being away from tax preparation and working papers, I was able to sit down and get up and going with no training on the software.

I sat down to a copy of CaseWare working papers and with a few instructions about where the files were located on the network, was able to open up this year’s electronic file, import client data from QuickBooks , fix all of the client posting errors, review the financial statement, and then export my data into Lacerte. (And BTW, who came up that the idea to have a new schedule M-3? What a pain in the neck that is. CaseWareM-1 is my friend, M-3, I’m not so sure.) I did a lot of work on QuickBooks supporting schedules using my tool of choice, Microsoft Excel, and CaseWare’s connector let me plug in values from the trial balance into my worksheet so I was always in synch.   

I want to be clear, I am not taking anything away from the reams of smart tax professionals out there. I admire, respect, and in fact hire many of you to do real tax work. I was operating at the level of a first-year staff preparer. I was highly dependent on having a skilled reviewer and access to others for questions about intricacies of tax law. I was also fortunate to have been following people who had taken the time to set up the working papers properly so they were easy to follow. They used mapping to connect accounts to financials and the tax return, created templates  and had already rolled the data forward so I was ready to get started.

But what I realized is that today’s tools have come a long way from earlier tax preparation products and manual working papers. In the old days, we used a separate Trial Balance tool to import data from our client’s accounting packages, made adjustments and then created those manual working paper files. Thankfully, today’s tools are far better integrated and designed with accountants in mind.

Thanks to technology, I managed to stay out of the doghouse for most of tax season. I am confident that a few young pups are in a similar position of gratitude.

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