The New Face of the American Accountant
With economic pressures continuing to wreak havoc on the small business owner, many are cutting corners in the most unlikely – and most concerning – areas: their accountants and bookkeepers. Instead of the personal and accurate service they have come to rely on, many small business owners are taking their chances with any of the endless number of accounting programs that easily install onto their computers. But is this a safe option or are many small businesses playing with fire? And what happens when good accounting programs go bad?
The number one factor a business owner considers when he is contemplating replacing his accountant with a computer program is its size. If the client feels he can easily manage 20, 30 or 50 clients on an accounting program, that’s what he runs with. “The problem with these programs is many, if not most, cannot tailor its dynamics to ensure the proper taxes are being figured according to the business structure. Even the most obvious things, such as which state the business exists in, can sometimes go unchecked. This, of course, leads to incredible problems for the business owner” says one accounting professor. Even those programs that are capable of keeping up with all the details are only as good as the human keying the information.
So what can an accountant do to ensure he’s not replaced by a computer program? Many accountants are now taking a proactive approach versus a reactive approach. Instead of waiting for the client to drop the ax, so to speak, they’re approaching their clients, especially those who might be struggling, and are seeking to find a solution that will result in cost savings for the client while not jeopardizing the contract between accountant and client. Sometimes that might mean a reduced fee for a period of time, provided the client signs a contract to remain with him for a year. Other times, it might be that accountant will approach the client and say, “I know the economy’s tough, I am more than happy to scale things back a bit until things getter better”. The benefit of this approach is the accountant doesn’t spend three months after the client has annihilated his financial records with a computer program that defeated its purpose. Still, other accountants are offering discounts for clients who send new clients. They can easily provide their established relationships considerable discounts if they have new clients coming in. It’s a win-win.
Regardless of which approach works best for any accounting office, the goal is to keep the lines of communication open and not take it personal when a client opts to forego his personal service for the short term and try his hand at a computer program. After all, tax season is rapidly approaching and someone has to pick up the pieces. Remember it’s the economy and the client’s desire to ensure his business remains profitable; without it, he goes under – just as you will. Finding a compromise is by far the best solution all the way around – both in the short and long term.