When the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed in 2017, it was the first major federal tax overhaul in more than 30 years. Just four years later, we are now on the cusp of another major tax overhaul with President Joe Biden’s tax proposals.
The potential for another major change in tax policy – and the disruption it brings to business owners and individual taxpayers – is emblematic of the rapid pace of change we are facing these days.
From tax legislation to technology to the ‘new normal’ stemming from COVID-19, American businesses can no longer afford to be satisfied with doing things “the way we’ve always done it.” Agility and adaptability are the keys to navigating a rapidly changing world.
How does that rapid pace of change impact businesses and individuals?
As we work with clients throughout the year, we see the transformation in the business landscape happening in real time. We advise our clients and help them evaluate opportunities to become more agile, more competitive, and more profitable. Taking advantage of changing opportunities often involves risk. While we help clients assess the risk involved in any change, ultimately, they must decide whether the potential benefits of any change outweigh the risks.
Technology is a good example. There are new apps and integrations coming to market almost daily. There is blockchain and cryptocurrency. There are robotics and the potential for efficiency they bring to the manufacturing floor. But to benefit from these technological changes, you need to be willing to make changes in the way you do business, adapt to new workflows, train employees, and to make the necessary investments.
Then there are the changes COVID-19 has wrought, most notably in the employment market. Suddenly, “virtual” and “remote” are household words, and many job postings include an option for working from home – even if you live hundreds of miles away from your employer’s office. Offering the flexibility of remote work benefits employees who prefer to work from home, but it also benefits employers who now can seek talented recruits from a much broader geographic region than before.
Don’t get me wrong. Flexibility is not the easy way; it’s a lot more work. It’s much easier for a CEO to put out a blanket order that everyone has to come back into the office next Monday. The hard work is communicating with everyone and working out a plan that everyone is happy with.
One thing that has been gratifying to us is the ability to speak from experience as we guide our clients through the many changes in the marketplace. We’ve adapted to some of these changes ourselves and we know the challenges involved.
For instance, when we came back to the office after the COVID-19 threat began to lift, we offered all our employees the flexibility to continue working remotely, and we intend to make that a permanent policy at HW&Co. In fact, one accountant who recently joined our staff asked if he could work remotely for his first year as he accompanies his fiancé, a nurse, around the country as she helps hospitals in COVID-19 hotspots. We could not think of a better reason to work remotely.
We have also added technology like SafeSend Returns, a secure cloud-based tax return application that allows our clients to digitally sign their returns and send them back to us without visiting our office, keeping everyone safe and saving a lot of time for our clients.
Of course, as an accounting firm, we are always dealing with the changes in accounting standards and tax policy that seem to fly at us at a dizzying pace. Communicating those changes to clients and explaining the impact on their operations, financial reporting, and tax planning is one of the most important things we do.
Again, technology is a key factor in our communication efforts, providing multiple channels such as our website, social media, webinars, and email to keep our clients informed.
Of course, given the rapid pace of change, we sometimes trip over our preconceived notions. I recently had an 11 a.m. meeting scheduled with one of our associates. A minute ahead of time, I logged in to our videoconference software to get the meeting started. At that point, there was a knock on my door and the associate walked in and sat down for our meeting. I laughed and said, “You know, we could have done this on Teams!”
It was a moment that showed us how the importance of clear communication and flexibility has grown in today’s business world.
The rapid pace of change has changed us, and it’s changed our assumptions and expectations. Whether the changes are for the good depends on how well they are managed and embraced in each organization.
Stay informed. Stay agile.