Panbo Ye is a chartered accountant and founder of Tax Ideas, a team of specialists who aim to make tax more meaningful for their clients.
Underpinned by the latest cloud accounting technology, Panbo’s business has built into one with 800 individual and business clients, six staff, and two offices in less than two years – and transformed his firm’s approach to end of financial year.
I was a franchisee of a large global accounting group. I had used the Sage Handi practice management suite on servers for years and, while it was an old way of doing things, I appreciated its comprehensiveness.
But the more I spoke to my peers, the more I came to see it was an outdated and ‘closed-circuit’ approach to business. I loved the concept of cloud accounting, and the idea of working on an open portal with an open API felt much more open-minded.
After much research, I left the franchise and its system, switched to Xero and started to grow. In less than two years, Tax Ideas has expanded to 800 clients, six staff, practices in two locations, and a cloud-based system that works – and grows – for me.
I’m proud of what I’ve learned in such a short period of time and the added value we now offer clients. To explain the shift, you only need to compare my approach to the prime time in the tax calendar: the end of the financial year.
End of financial year: before
I was trained by a traditional accountant, which meant I waited for clients to bring their bank statements to me then start the process of manual reconciliation.
Working through transactions line by line is a very time-consuming process, and creates pressure during busy periods like the end of the financial year. Some people choose to hire temporary staff to relieve the stress, but many take on junior-level support staff who still require some training.
Time sucks aside, there is potential for inaccuracies. The client has a written record, the accountant has a written record, and both records need to mirror each other by the end of the financial year. If your client so much as alters an opening balance or puts a cost in the wrong place, it can cause a huge issue.
It wasn’t unusual for me to spend many hours per client using this method and even then, there was no guarantee it was right.
End of financial year: now
As soon as I switched to cloud accounting on Xero, the need to wait for client bank statements was made redundant by bank feeds, which lets clients automatically import account transactions from their financial institutions into Xero. Transaction data arrives on a daily basis and the once tiresome process of manual reconciliation can be done at the press of a button.
Even when we’ve compared Xero to other cloud solutions, we’ve found we save two hours a month for every $8,000-fee client. Aside from the better interface, Xero makes it easier to reconcile GST, do payroll, find transactions, set up auto journals, and to complete BAS thanks to the Xero Tax integration.
But Xero Tax is just the start of the integrations we use to save us time. We now have an easier and integrated engagement system using Practice Ignition, family trees and file notes with AccountKit, ASIC administration with NowInfinity, smarter document filing with Receipt Bank, and efficient superannuation services with Class Super. All fully integrate into a stack of cloud apps that enable us to run a smooth and efficient firm.
We now collaborate seamlessly from anywhere on a single ledger, which means conversations happen throughout the year instead of during one final crunch period, and everything flows where it needs to. End of financial year has become nothing more than a few clicks, with no nasty surprises.
Once we’ve finished the compliance work, we’re left with time to develop the type of KPIs, benchmarking and CFO work that can really makes a difference to a business. It’s a revenue-
lift opportunity for us, but it also helps justifies our value to the client. We’re not just doing retrospective tax returns, we’re helping business owners plan for their future.
I’m the first to admit that there’s a temptation to stick with what you know, rather than make the effort to move to a new way of working. But I’ve learned first-hand that technology can be transformational for practice owners – and fast.
I now make sure every new client I sign up is happy to work with me using Xero, and I’d suggest any accountant who makes the shift does the same. As a forward-thinking practice, you need to work with future-minded clients.
As I tell anyone who comes to me, Xero is not just a timesaver for small businesses, it’s a lifesaver. I can’t wait to see where it takes us and our clients next.