Filing income and property taxes have always been laborious tasks for businesses of any size, even when everything is organized. Collecting information and filling out forms is time-consuming, and even if you choose to use an outside tax filing service, you must meet with a tax preparer in person to walk through documents and answer questions.
But as online corporate tax filing has evolved—and gained popularity—team dynamics and filing processes have, too. Below we walk through some interesting changes in these areas with insights from two tax experts: Jordan Perri, tax director at Allyn International, and Crystal Stranger, enrolled agent, author of The Small Business Tax Guide, and international tax director at GBS Tax.
Online Corporate Tax Filing: Shifting Team Dynamics
Perri says the typical tax team consists of four key roles, each with their own areas of responsibility that keep the tax wheel turning throughout the year. Online corporate tax filing has not only expanded the scope of these roles to include more technical elements, but even created an entirely new role.
Note: Exact job titles may differ between organizations.
As you would expect of any administrative team member, the admin specialist plays a support role, often handling interdepartmental communication, scheduling meetings, prepping for presentations, and more. The specialist also receives and processes tax documents such as valuation notices and tax bills from assessors, and mails completed tax documents after receiving approval from the tax analyst or tax manager.
The tax analyst reviews processed tax documents, and uses their knowledge to prepare returns. “Analysts not only have to have tax domain knowledge, they also have to know the business well so they know who to turn to in the organization to get the information they need for the returns,” says Perri.
Senior Tax Analyst
The senior tax analyst typically focuses on reviewing what the tax analyst has prepared, adding input based on their in-depth knowledge and tenured tax experience. This senior role may also prepare tax documents in an analyst’s stead, but their focus is more on reviewing and ensuring accuracy, and applying their expertise to identify savings opportunities.
Leading the tax team is the tax manager, who Perri says mainly focuses on setting direction and providing oversight for the team, training new staff members, measuring team performance, and ensuring tax compliance. “The tax manager may also review prepared taxes in certain cases, but their focus is typically strategic.”
The tax technologist is a newer role on the tax team that has arisen in response to online corporate tax filing and other digital transformation initiatives.
With both a tax and technology background, the tax technologist combines tax and technology knowledge to identify areas of improvement in the tax department and achieve greater efficiencies.
Technologists are typically tax professionals who gravitate to technology, or work in an environment that has required them to tackle projects and solve problems using technology. In small and mid-sized organizations, they often take on a senior, strategic role. Larger organizations tend to support this role with junior-level counterparts.
“As technology has evolved and trickled its way down into the tax department, the debate has always been whether to take technology specialists and impart upon them tax knowledge or take tax analysts and develop their tech skills,” says Perri.
“Thankfully, we’re seeing tax analysts naturally become more tech savvy as their teams implement new solutions,” Perri explains. “Or in the case of new analysts joining the organization who have already honed their tech skills through unique tech projects, they’re birthing the tax technologist role on teams that didn’t have one before.”
Beyond the role, Perri notes that it’s important for more traditional tax professionals to not assume technology is bad for job security. “Tax technology is not eliminating tax jobs—it’s actually creating more opportunities for new roles like the tax technologist to exist, and for everyone on the team to add value to the organization.”
Online Corporate Tax Filing: Evolving Processes
“Traditionally, tax processes have long been paper-based because the tax function and broader industry have been slow to adopt technology,” says Perri.
Stranger agrees, noting that these traditional processes often lead to “fragmented” tasks. In preparing her small business clients’ income taxes, she finds that many times multiple people have worked on different sections of tax documents. This results in a lack of cohesion when compiling everything together. “Then clients are forced to spend hours going over documents to ensure our team has what’s needed to wholly and accurately prepare their taxes.”
Still, Perri says the tech-adoption pace has picked up dramatically in recent years, with teams implementing online business tax software to streamline tax-related efforts and some states and localities building digital portals to enable electronic filing.
“For example, South Carolina allows you to submit taxes electronically,” Perri explains. “But all portals are not built equally—newer portal entrants such as the one from Indiana are challenging to navigate, making the traditional approach seem like an acceptable alternative.”
Stranger seconds the reality of challenges in certain technology. On the tax preparation front, she notes how many companies invest in solutions marketed as “fully automated” but are more like 80% automated—and they wind up producing results that are less than ideal in terms of accuracy. Every year, she finds errors in tax returns prepared by business tax filing software, especially when they’re used to fill out less common forms.
“That’s why it’s important to remember that technology is a tool—whether you’re using software to file business taxes or just to prepare for filing, don’t rely on it so heavily you skip rational judgment checks,” Stranger explains. “When choosing new technology, demo it thoroughly. Then roll it out carefully and with lots of human review until you can verify its applicability and accuracy.”
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