When it comes to software for tax practitioners, there are well-known tools that a majority of tax practitioners already use. Legal practice management tools like PracticePanther for tax lawyers, or robust accounting software like Intuit, for example.
However, the tech world moves fast and new, innovative tools are constantly emerging. Knowing about these tools, their benefits, and how to use them can ultimately make you a more productive, efficient tax practitioner with the ability to provide an improved, sophisticated experience for clients. Adopting the right tools early on can provide you with a distinct, competitive edge as well.
Let’s take a look at 7 tools that you should consider adding to your techstack because of the impact they can have on your tax practice.
Blue J Tax is the leading provider of predictive analytics tools in North America for tax outcomes. The platform hosts a suite of AI-powered tools that help tax practitioners with tax planning, research, and analysis. The platform optimizes the tax practitioner’s workflow by boosting their research efficiency, providing data-driven insights to validate their instincts, and significantly reducing non-billable research time. Let’s take a quick look at those individual features.
One of Blue J’s most impressive features is Predictions, an AI-powered tool that enables users to predict the outcome of their case if it were to go to court. Based on a dynamic questionnaire filled out with a particular fact scenario, the tool makes a prediction with a precise confidence level, which allows users to scenario-test by changing individual factors and observe how the confidence level of the outcome changes.
Predictions utilizes a machine learning algorithm trained on all relevant cases, carefully assembled by an in-house team and categorized by factors. In the hands of a tax planner, this feature helps craft a tax strategy with precisely quantifiable risk. A litigator, on the other hand, gains valuable insights into where to focus their arguments the most.
Decision Search works hand in hand with Predictions. Decision Search elevates case law research to an entirely new level, eliminating the need for tedious boolean searches in that area of law. Blue J structures data derived from cases pertaining to a particular tax issue in such a way that the case law body can be filtered by outcome and the presence of any relevant factor, providing the researcher with a swift and effortless way to find the precedent they need. Hours of research are literally reduced to minutes.
For statute-driven tax questions, Blue J has two additional tools. The platform hosts the Internal Revenue Code as well as Regulations with the innovative ability to save selected sections in a workspace, hiding, highlighting, and annotating them to draw out the passages that are relevant to a particular case. The team has also curated Blue J Folios, which are workspaces that are pre-populated with relevant sections on common tax issues, as well as the most relevant case law and IRS guidance.
In 2021, Blue J Tax launched its diagramming tool for tax practitioners, providing an easy, intuitive way for tax practitioners to create their diagrams. Blue J Diagramming eliminates the painstaking process, usually undertaken in PowerPoint, of showing complex entity structures and a plethora of steps in one transaction in a way that looks clear, professional, and ready to share with clients.
The necessary shapes, labels, and headings for tax practitioners are all available within the platform. It cuts out the manual effort of adding and placing text and information, and avoids any design inconsistencies across the team. A tax practitioner can record all the important information pertaining to the entities right there in the tool, with the additional option to export all of the information into a PDF. With these neat features, Blue J Diagramming allows tax practitioners to create their diagrams several times faster than any other current solution.
TaxSlayer Pro launched a mobile app in 2017, TaxesToGo, that allows tax professionals to connect with their clients on the go. Taxpayers can upload their documents by taking a picture of the document with their mobile device. When they photograph and upload their driver’s license, the app can autofill documents with the client’s personal information. The app also facilitates asking and answering questions regarding tax documents, and once everything is sorted out and the tax practitioner has prepared the return, the client can add their signature right there in the app.
SecurelyID is a monitoring software that can be integrated with TaxSlayer Pro and which supports taxpayers in a variety of ways regarding identity theft, something that is particularly concerning in the context of tax. Tax-related identity theft is when a third party obtains a taxpayer’s social security number or other identifying information in order to file a tax return, claiming a fraudulent refund. SecurelyID monitors the internet for sensitive client information, alerting clients when suspicious activity is detected, and offers restoration expertise and a $1 million insurance in instances where identity theft occurred despite all precautions, to name only a few of its services. Tax practitioners who can offer the services of SecurelyID along with their own expertise may well stand out and attract more clients.
AgileLaw has been around for a decade, helping litigators keep their exhibits organized and making them accessible to all parties involved in a deposition. When prepping for a deposition, the system can be used to generate exhibit stamps, automatically keeping the correct order and the numbering up to date. The deposing attorney can bookmark and annotate the document inserting questions on passages that need further attention. These annotations will remain hidden when the document is presented to the witness.
During the deposition itself, the litigator doesn’t need to sift through hundreds of pages in a brief, performed simultaneously by all parties attempting to get to the same exhibit. AgileLaw allows the lead attorney to securely share the documents with all parties, including the witnesses. The system allows syncing with the view of the witness, so that the attorney knows at all times what the witness is looking at. The witness can also be granted permission to annotate a document, like marking a particular passage on a key document. However, the clean version of the exhibit is not lost, as the system automatically generates a clean and an annotated copy. AgileLaw is a cloud-based system, which means that new documents can be added to the deposition ad hoc, which just one click, if it turns out a document the attorney had not planned to use needs to be included.
Less sophisticated than some of the AI-powered tools mentioned, enQ is a practical tool. It’s a legitimate game-changer for anyone who cannot be bothered to wait for hours in a telephone queue (basically, every tax practitioner). enQ allows their clients to call an IRS agent and reduce their hold time by 90 percent!
Here’s how enQ works: The user would call the enQ number, enter a PIN and take the spot in line that the service was holding for them, waiting for only a few minutes. Time is money and waiting on hold seems to drain mental resources as much as, if not more than, financial ones. It can therefore be worthwhile to spend an extra buck to consistently avoid this experience, particularly if contacting the IRS is a regular part of your practice.
Corvee, formerly AccountingTax.com, rebranded in 2020 and now incorporates tax practice management services, client collaboration, and tax planning. Most recently, in March of 2022, Corvee added State and Local Tax Planning to its software, allowing its clients to calculate estimated tax savings on both federal and state level.
The platform is now a one-stop-shop for tax practitioners packed with intelligent AI features. Corvee allows tax practitioners to send clients engagement letters, including template questionnaires, to obtain all of the relevant information from them; access AI tools that extract relevant information from scanned tax documents and render automated calculations; and send and receive alerts for when deadlines are approaching – just to name a few of the perks.
Embracing Technological Innovation
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but a spotlight on some impressive tools that can really support your tax practice. Especially with the emergence of AI, a great deal of manual work can now be automated. This allows you to focus less on repetitive or time-consuming tasks, and more on retrieving and analyzing valuable data, and providing even more meaningful insights to clients.
There is also a competitive advantage to keeping up with the latest tools and adopting the right ones. When you can work more efficiently, deliver sharper insights to clients, save yourself hours of effort and stress, clients notice. They see that you provide the most sophisticated level of service that they can expect to find, while competing firms lag behind. That can mean more return clients and more referrals to support your firm’s growth.