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Businessman fitting accounting workload into briefcase

CPA’s: Top Five Tips To Beat Workload Compression

The Problem of Workload Compression

If you’re an accounting firm, workload compression is probably a big issue. In fact, a study by the tech company Right Networks along with the CPA firm Management Association, surveyed 162 CPA’s after tax season and found that workload compression was the biggest concern for 40 percent of CPA firms as they prepared for tax season.

The reality is, workload compression will always exist to some degree. Therefore, the best thing to do is to figure out ways to manage it effectively.

1) Identify How Workload Compression Affects Your Firm

Every firm is different. So, it stands to reason that workload compression impacts firms differently.

What are the causes of workload compression in your firm?

Is it confusion about new tax laws?

Difficulty with certain returns?

Clients avoiding extensions and demanding their return?

2) Execute a Plan

Once you’ve figured out the “why’s” and the “how’s” you have to focus on the “what.” In other words, now that you know the specifics of your workload problems, what are you going to do about them?

That plan differs considerably if you’re a larger firm as opposed to a smaller firm and vice versa. For example, dropping a few clients mitigate the workload compression but if you’re a smaller practice you probably depend on tax season to generate revenue.

• Hire Temporary accountants or paid interns

Staffing is an important factor in dealing with compression. Hiring temporary or seasonal employees can be a good option for your firm. There are many accountants that choose to work within specific time frames because it fits their lifestyle. Experiencing practitioners don’t always work all year round. Look within this pool to boost your workforce.

Likewise, interns are also viable options during busy periods. Practical work experience gives recent graduates or current students the necessary training to work as CPA’s. Moreover, internships can turn into full time positions if they perform well, benefiting them and your firm.

3) Use Technology To Your Advantage

Many firms in the study mentioned above report that the biggest changes they made before tax season were software improvements. Specifically, firms used e-filing and digital signing technology to go paperless.

Additionally, 72 percent of firms asked about the benefits of hosting tax applications on the cloud said they favored anywhere, anytime access. 67 percent consider the cloud secure and 34 percent noted improved collaboration with personnel and 20 percent saw improved collaboration with clients.

Cloud accounting and workflow software like QuickBooks, which is designed for accountants, reduce staff time, make communication with clients and staff more effective and can optimize staff performance. Learn more about hosting QuickBooks here.

Managed IT support services offering cloud integration allows for the that collaboration and workflow efficiency

4) Schedule Smarter

Don’t work on returns until all the necessary information has been provided by the client. Also, working on complicated tax matters before tax season starts can give you a leg up on other firms and position you to work more efficiently.

This tactic requires communication with your clients before the year ends and instead of waiting for their information to come in.

If you’re a firm with a fair amount of non-tax season work, that’s okay. Schedule days in which you can focus on tax returns only. Then, organize your firms so reviewers can work those client returns.

5) Communicate With clients

Communication is an underrated tool for many CPA firms, however it can facilitate tax processes like you wouldn’t believe.

In an age of social media and instant messaging, clients expect a level of personalized service. That shouldn’t be looked at as negative but rather, as mutually beneficial.

Communicating changes to clients through newsletters, emails, calls, social media, and tax updates will prepare your firm in anticipation of tax season where most firms simply react to it.
This gives your clients the personal touch they appreciate while giving you the information you need ahead of time.

The Takeaway

Your firm shouldn’t wait until tax season to prepare. A proactive approach to workload compression can come a long way when peak season hits and your firm is pressed for time.

Workload compression is the dreadful for everyone and hopefully, the tips reviewed here can alleviate it for your firm. Always plan ahead before tax season and tax season might not get the better of you.
For more tips, check out the Nerd Support blog where we discuss technology, strategies and more CPA’s can use to improve their firm.

Tax Season Accounting Workload Compression Leaderboard

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How CPA’s Can Stay Safe During Tax Season

With Tax Season Comes Cyber Theft

Tax season can be a nerve-wracking, even confusing time as people rush to gather paperwork and file all their documents on time.

It’s a busy time for CPA’s as well. With constantly changing tax forms and regulations, they have to educate their clients on how to file correctly and efficiently.

With that said, it’s important both tax payers and accountants remain vigilant of tax-related cyber-attacks.

Prepare For Ransomware

Ransomware attacks are increasing and sensitive tax information is valuable to a hacker. In many cases, cyber criminals freeze files and data until accounting firms pay a ransom.

However, just because the ransom is payed it doesn’t guarantee they won’t use the stolen data afterward. The most recent tactic employed by hackers is to extort a CPA by threatening to release the data online or sell it to interested parties.

This is done now because companies are backing up their data more frequently and can simply undo the freeze by recovering data from a point before it was infected with malware. In this case, the target can avoid the ransom payment altogether.

In response to properly secured data backed up on the cloud, cyber criminals are instead choosing to use the extracted data itself as leverage.

Some of you might be asking, “If hackers can extort my company by threatening to release client data instead of freezing it, what’s stopping them from doing it indefinitely?”

The answer is: there isn’t. In theory, once your data has been obtained the thieves can use it in any way they deem profitable. There are even instances hackers receiving the payment and continuing to use the data to file false returns.

Once they have the data, hackers rush to file taxes electronically before the victim can. If the victim is too late, when they attempt to file taxes, the IRS will reject their submission. This is because the IRS refuses tax returns when there are filings with duplicate Social Security numbers. Sometimes, scammers will pose as the IRS through phone calls and emails. Here are some facts to consider if you’re ever in this situation:

Tax Season IRS Phishing Hints Stats

Cyber Scams Come in Many Forms

A vast amount of phishing campaigns are conducted by hackers during tax season. Emails, phone calls, SMS and text messaging are all mediums hackers use to manipulate targets. Some quick tips to help avoid a cyber breach are as follows:

Ignore Robocalls and Unfamiliar emails.

Anyone claiming to be the IRS through a phone call is obviously a scammer. But, hackers are getting more sophisticated. Hyper targeted email content is the best way a hacker can manipulate their victim to open an infected attachment or link.

The rule of thumb for safe emailing is not to share information with unconfirmed or unknown email accounts.

Hackers will pose as the IRS emailing clients a “tax transcript” as a way to get them to up social security numbers, passwords, credentials etc. Frauds use this ploy constantly. Any email that requests you provide sensitive data, no matter how legitimate it appears should raise alarm.

Encrypt, store and track all data.

As previously mentioned, Cyber criminals are getting more creative. There have been instances of hackers changing the address of a business so that notifications get redirected to another location.

Luckily, software exists to better vet and evaluate business returns.

This example illustrates the point that a breach might not have immediate red flags. Therefore, keep all data secure and encrypted.

Always send or input data on secure websites when needed. If you have data stored in the cloud, check that the provider follows the appropriate compliance mandates for security. Also, verify that they have a security plan and tools in place to guarantee your data remains in your possession alone.

91 percent of all cyber attacks come in the form of phishing scams.

The reason for this is simple, people will always be any organizations greatest vulnerability.

Taking the steps required to recognize and prevent a phishing attack is the first second and third priority of firms, businesses, and clients alike. All of the security and high-grade protection in the world is useless in the face of a careless user. There is only so much cyber security can do.

In the same tax professionals adapt to changing tax codes and policies, they should adapt to the shifts and changes in cyber attacks.

Tax Season Cyber Security Tech Tips Leaderboard

 

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Tax Security Week: 5 Common Holiday Tax Scams

With December fast approaching, most people are gearing up for the holidays. Some, however, are preparing to steal personal and financial data ahead of tax filing season in 2020. That’s why the IRS announced its 4th annual National Tax Security Awareness Week.

The IRS received five to seven reports weekly from tax firms that experienced data theft in 2018’s tax season. Identity theft is a major issue for small businesses.

In the spirit of everyone’s favorite season (tax season), the IRS and Security Summit partners will remind businesses, tax payers and professionals alike to update their online security. Because of the upcoming holidays, people are vulnerable to all kinds of social engineering scams.

Modern IT solutions for accounting firms can assess emails and flag suspicious activity. However, responsibility falls on individuals, whether executives or employees, to protect themselves against tax related scams too.

IRS tax scams are common because cyber criminals are most effective when they hide behind authority. They typically feature spam emails redirecting users to malware-infected sites. Sometimes they’ll come with a malicious attachment that carries spyware or malware.

These emails contain an image banner or watermark of the IRS to appear legitimate. Furthermore, the emails often come attached with fake W-8BEN forms to reinforce this legitimacy.

1. W-2 Scams

One of the biggest scams employers face are W-2 Scams, especially during tax season.

W-2 phishing scams involve a cybercriminal impersonating a company executive in an email. The email is sent to someone from HR or accounting, someone with access to employee W-2 forms. And of course, it comes with a subject line claiming it is urgent.

The request will look formal and polite as to not raise suspicion. The employee then collects all employee tax information and sends it back to the fake executive.

It’s as simple as that.

2. “Locked Accounts”

Accounting services like TurboTax have also been impersonated by cybercriminals notifying clients that their accounts have been locked. The email will feature a link taking the target to a fraudulent website where they submit their personal information.

3. “Update Information”

It’s not uncommon for an accounting client to receive an email notifying them that because of the incoming tax season, they need to update their tax filing information.

4. “Refunds”

In some cases, emails entice victims with incentives like tax refunds. It isn’t difficult to see why these would be successful. A business owner finds an email claiming the IRS owes them money and they are less likely to raise questions.

5. Holiday Scams

Since over 75 percent of Americans shop online for the holidays. Many of those Americans have full time jobs working in industries containing sensitive data. The greatest cyber security risk in any industry across the board is an employee. An even greater risk is an employee eager to get their holiday shopping out of the way.

Employees and business owners start shopping online for gifts, and cybercriminals are there ready to shoplift sensitive data. Social engineers, hackers and cybercriminals take advantage of the holiday season to send fake invitations and holiday deals from places frequented by their targets.

Shopping Spear Phishing fraud

Advanced spear phishing techniques can come disguised as a great online offer from your favorite online shopping site. I’m not referring to a popular shopping site, I’m talking about the site you specifically shop in. A cybercriminal will mine your social media and online activity until they have everything they need to create a counterfeit email you’re likely to click on.

That’s why it’s important to only use work email for work related matters. Many breaches happen because employees make the simple mistake of subscribing to online sites and programs with their work email.

Tax Security Awareness Fraud Statistics

Protecting Client information is protecting yourself

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 requires all financial services organizations to have an information security plan to ensure the safety of sensitive client data. In other words, all finance organizations have to demonstrate what security measures they have in place to protect client information.

If a financial firm fails to take the proper security measures, independent of a breach, they could face penalties. Therefore, seeking guidance from cyber experts, like Nerds Support, for security-related issues is recommended.

But in the meantime, check out our blog for more articles on phishing, cyber security and compliance.

Os33 Workplace cloud complies with FINRA, SOX, SOX11

Compliance on the Cloud 101

What is Compliance?

Compliance when dealing with cloud computing can be an issue for those using cloud storage or backup services. When you transfer data from your internal storage to a cloud provider’s you must examine how that data is stored so that you stay in compliance with laws and regulations. Financial cloud computing, for example, requires IT sox compliance to ensure quality of service.

In 2002 the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) was implemented as a response to huge accounting scandals. Companies like Enron, Global Crossing and others misled investors and cost shareholders billions of dollars. This, in turn, changed the IT world forever. What does this have to do with IT? It changed how we approach things like storage, data, security and other functions. 

Cloud compliance is, simply put, a principle that states a cloud based system must be compliant with standards that the cloud customer faces.

Compliance departments ensure that businesses conform to established rules and it’s important to understand, when switching over to a cloud service, how and in what ways the cloud meets compliance standards. Luckily, there are cloud providers that ensure compliance with regulations like SOX. 

If you’re in the financial services industry there are a few things to think about when considering an IT solutions cloud provider. 

How Compliance Works 

A global survey conducted by Veritas Technologies, a data management company, revealed that of the 13 countries and 1,200 businesses surveyed, 69 percent of organizations or 828, wrongfully believed that data protection, data privacy and compliance are the responsibility of the cloud service provider.

It isn’t.

When it comes to cloud compliance you need to be aware of the data you should move to the cloud and the data that should remain in house, the questions you need to ask of your cloud provider and what be written in a service-level agreement (SLA) to maintain industry compliance.

When SOX was first written, it explicitly left out how regulations should be met. This ensured that industries could adopt the most recent technology instead of having to wait for lawmakers to catch up to technology. Because of this, the cloud is a viable infrastructure for financial companies that forced to adhere to compliance rules. 

 The way IT departments store records changed due to the implementation of SOX. Regulations state what kind of information needs to be stored that relate to SOX compliance. Things like electronic records and messages, spreadsheets and emails are considered valuable and fall under the regulation.  

It’s important that you not take this for granted, and evaluate your SLA’s with the provider.

The first thing that organizations need to do is be aware of the type of services they use. There may be certain information that’s regarded as highly confidential and a company may decide to keep it on an internal network. Or if it is moved to the cloud, it’ll be a private cloud that will be hosted on the premises.

Nerds Support has a hybrid cloud in a secure location that has military grade security.

Ensuring Cloud Compliance 

Once your company has decided what information is to be transferred over to the cloud look at the contracts you have between with your cloud provider. Depending on whether the cloud is internal or external the approach will be slightly different. If it’s external, you have to make sure both you and the provider are clear about what type of data should reside on their cloud services and how they’ll protect said data. If it’s an internal cloud, are you going to have internal compliance checklist to make sure you’re within the regulatory standards?

With cloud financial services, customers and cloud providers share the responsibility to maintain compliance. It’s the duty of the organization to investigate the security policies of the vendor. 

Important questions to ask include: 

  • Where is data stored?
  • Who has access to the storage areas or data centers?
  • How is my data protected?

Compliance 101 SOX FINRA Cost Statistics

Service Organization Controls 

In some cases, companies can look at providers that certify compliance and chose their services without any further research. There are times, however, where a company will have to be more thorough and get involved in the cloud providers security to make sure it complies with industry standards. When it comes to SOX compliance, however, you should look for a vendor that provides you with Service Organization Controls.

This report enables user auditor to evaluate audit risks associated with the use of a financial cloud provider.   

It’s also important to establish and verify benchmarks that help check the effectiveness of the security around your data on the cloud.  Make sure your provider uses federal government guidelines for cloud security if it’s based in the US.

In order to avoid miscommunications between your cloud provider and your organization, make sure you take the time to classify the data in level of importance, delegating carefully what is suitable for the cloud and what needs to remain internally stored. Have the right contracts and go through them, establishing what will be covered under their services and how they’ll protect and back up your data. A business continuity plan is also imperative, just in case of any hiccups.

Nerds Support has cloud services that comply with financial regulations.

Contact us today to schedule a free IT assessment that can identify gaps in your IT infrastructure.

Cloud Services for CPA Firms

How Cloud Services for CPA Firms in Miami Can Leverage Your Business

Investing in reliable technologies can definitely help your CPA firm grow. In fact, more and more accountants and business owners turn to technology to lower the workload and properly manage their tasks. In recent years, the rise of Quickbooks has given CPA firms the incentive to move their business online and the advantage of building stronger customer relationships. When cloud services for CPA firms have offered CPA firms the chance to move their businesses online, they have reported that:

  • Business has become more efficient
  • Their employees has become mobile and, as a result, more flexible
  • The firms have become more secure

With Nerds Support’s cloud solutions and Quickbooks hosting, you would have all the Cloud Services for CPA firms and the best IT Support Miami team in your hands. It kind of makes you wonder: what other benefits can your CPA firm receive from using cloud solutions?

You get to create a stellar IT infrastructure without worrying about high costs

In fact, if your CPA firm hires the best IT Services Miami, you can get some of the best results on the market fast and easy. Using the cloud allows you to avoid costs like hardware acquisition and maintenance. Not only that, but the power consumption costs are reduced as well. The cloud service provider deals with all of those overhead costs; you just get the desired service!

Transitioning to a paperless office

Another great benefit is that your CPA firm will get to transition to a paperless office experience. You don’t need to print documents all the time, instead documents can easily be transferred and modified online, all thanks to cloud services.

Improved productivity

By using cloud services, you can access your information and files from any location. This helps boost your productivity since you can work from anywhere in the world. You just need to have a constant internet connection, that’s the only requirement. Plus, your data is kept online at any time, and you are the only person to remove it when needed.

Increased security

Security is a major issue for a CPA firm. You get to handle sensitive data, and that’s why you have to rely on high quality IT services that will boost your local security. Doing that can be easy if you use cloud solutions. These are reliable, professional and they help you secure your documents off-site as well. So, there will always be a backup of your data off-site, and no one will be able to access it (nor will they know where it is).

There’s no need to create an entire IT services department

Yes, instead of spending a lot of money on such a department, you just opt for proper business IT support and other services from the cloud solutions provider. The costs are a lot lower, and you still receive the same expertise and professionalism. Plus, this is a complete package that helps your company increase its productivity as a whole.

The best way to plan your company’s growth

Another advantage of Cloud Services for CPA firms comes from the scalability offered by cloud services. If you need to expand your business, then you will not have a problem getting a better technology infrastructure. And the best part is that you know all the costs upfront, there are no hidden fees.

If you want to move your company to the cloud, Nerds Support is here to help. Thanks to our Cloud Services, you will have no problem moving your business to the cloud and optimizing your infrastructure. From here to taking your business to the next level and getting the very best IT services or business IT support it will be one single step!

To find out more information, please fill out a contact form here or call 305-551-2009.