By Ray Barlow

It’s amazing how much extra work and preparation must go into preparing your taxes after adding new employees. Particularly if you were once a sole practitioner and doubled your headcount by hiring just one person, you must now factor in things like payroll taxes, expenses reimbursement and health care benefits. So if you have not handed the responsibilities of managing your company’s finances to a professional accountant, use the looming tax filing deadline as the catalyst for doing so. And if you’re using a desktop accounting software solution, you can help your accountant help you by moving your financial records to the cloud. Doing so will enable your accountant to spend more time identifying opportunities for you to save money and ensure you file your taxes completely, accurately and on-time.

There’s a common misconception that moving financial records and other confidential information from desktop computers and local external hard drives to a cloud service increases the risk of loss or cyber theft.  Actually, just the opposite is true.

If your computer or hard drive crashes or becomes corrupted, recovering all of the stored information is very difficult, if not impossible. Information stored in the cloud is available 24/7 from most Internet-connected devices, which not only eliminates the risk of losing everything if your computer crashes, you and your accountant can quickly and easily access information anytime, anywhere over secure connections.

Another myth is that cyber thieves only set their sights on large multinational companies. While it’s true that a company like Sony Pictures that suffers a data breach garners global news headlines, don’t think you’re flying under a thief’s radar because your business is much smaller. According to a 2015 report from the National Small Business Association (NSBA), more than half of the small business owners surveyed report they’ve suffered a cyber attack, with 61 percent of those attacks taking place in the last 12 months. The attackers created service interruptions, crashed websites, and stole financial records.

The risk increases if you trade records with your accountant by email, dumping information onto a USB thumb drive, or even still hand over a shoebox full of receipts and printed spreadsheets. You’re also wasting both your and your accountant’s valuable time.

Perhaps the biggest frustration for any accountant during season comes from asking a client to provide all necessary records, only to have the client drop off a pile of paper. The accountant has to sift through everything and invariably discovers that some important records are missing. Accountants rarely get everything they need the first time around, that’s a waste of time and effort.

Too many business owners are knee deep in paper. Get out from under that paper mountain, stop searching for receipts, and help your accountant help you by moving the management of your finances from your desktop to a cloud-based solution. This does not mean you have to abandon the familiar desktop interface you may have been using since you started the company. There are hybrid solutions, such as our new Sage 50c product, that offer the desktop user experience and the 24/7 availability and collaboration benefits of cloud computing.

Providing an accountant access to your records in the cloud can also help improve your decision-making processes. The accountant can provide information and advice in real-time at a moment’s notice. No more waiting for email replies or return phone calls, you can both communicate and view information no matter if you’re in your office, working remotely or traveling on the other side of the globe.

Accountants understand taxes and are invaluable allies in the current business environment where taxes are not always easy and straightforward, and rules and regulations continue to change on a regular basis. Aligning with an accountant can help ensure that your business remains compliant and is a critical step in maximizing your tax savings.

Once tax season is behind us, you and your accountant can focus on growing your business throughout the entire year. Accountants can help you interpret and analyze the data that constantly streams into your business, and provide invaluable advice. Accountants know numbers. There is a reason accountants went to school for many years – understanding the financial data of a business and translating that data into insights to guide you into the future is no easy job and requires a great deal of education as well as experience.

When it comes to the numbers, don’t miss all that can be gained by working with a true expert. With information readily available in the cloud, an accountant can help you determine the next steps are for success and provide a new perspective. You’re likely so consumed with running the day-to-day operations of your business that you may lose sight of the big picture.  Step back and look at the bigger picture to gain a fresh new perspective. Sometimes that’s all it takes to come up with the next big idea.

Ray Barlow is the VP of Accountant Solutions at Sage North America. Follow Sage at@SageNAmerica.