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Automations You Can Implement in Your Business Today with Catherine Tindall

A great discussion about the Employee Retention Credit and other ways to save on tax with Jaime Jay at Live with Bottleneck.They also talk about implementing automations in your business that can help improve workflow and fast forward your processes resulting in great client satisfaction. 

01:21 [Music]

02:06 [Jaime]

Oh my goodness! It’s Jaime Jay. This is Live with Bottleneck where we help stop the bottleneck in your business. I am the CEO and founder of Bottleneck Distant Assistance and I’m super stoked to welcome Catherine Tindall. She’s a CPA, entrepreneur, partner at Dominion Enterprise Services and today we’re going to be talking about automations you can implement in your business. That’s what we’re talking about today and why oh why is Catherine able to help you stop the bottleneck in your business. Well let me tell you Catherine’s a CPA specializing in advanced tax reduction, who proactively works with clients to reduce what they pay in tax while supporting their greater wealth building and life goals. Her goal for every client is to provide a return on investment in the first year, usually 15 to 100 000 in tax savings. That’s amazing! With a focus on automation, Catherine and team set themselves apart by utilizing technology whenever possible, streamline their advisory services and to offer those services to anyone, no matter where they’re located. She is especially passionate about providing tools to support entrepreneurs and small business owners in navigating the changing tax landscape.

03:20 I can imagine how challenging that may be. As well as helping them reduce their overall tax burden through proactive strategies and advisory. Most recently Catherine appeared on Radio Entrepreneurs to share some insight on the COVID tax credits. Enabling listeners to take advantage of some of those tax credits that are still available. So without any further ado, please allow me to introduce you to Catherine Tindall. How are you Catherine?

03:46 [Catherine]

Good! How are you Jamie? Thanks for having me. A great intro

03:51 [Jaime]

This is so fantastic! I was supposed to interview Catherine last week. It was one of those technology adventures that I had to get on that day. So thank you for coming back and I understand it was kind of a blessing in disguise because you were able to catch up on a lot of things, right

04:11 [Catherine]

Yeah. We’re in the middle of tax season right now, so it was treasured. But glad to be here thanks for having me.

04:20 [Jaime]

Oh my gosh! Yeah, so thank you. Right in the middle of tax season for being here. I’m excited to get into talking about the topic today. But before we jump into that, can you tell us a little bit more about who you are and your background and why, a certified public accountant?

04:41 [Catherine]

Yeah,so basically my background. I always knew that I wanted to have my daily work life be actively helping people. My parents were both tax practitioners growing up and of course, I resisted that but they told me, take a class and so now you know, where how that ended up with my CPA. I basically have worked through different public accounting firms and started this firm a couple years ago. Because I really wanted to shift the whole model around how tax work was being done. Then also we have a really strong orientation towards technology and automations and so I was able to embed a lot of that into this practice, which has just been wonderful!

05:27 [Jaime]

Well that’s fantastic! So my dad was a CPA. And it put a lot of pressure on me for math. I hate math, to this day and I got to tell you too. When I first went out and tried to get my company in order, it was so freaking embarrassing because I hated doing anything like that. I think partly because I was scared knowing that what I was going to see was going to be really ugly. And I think a lot of people have a challenge like that, especially when you’re young. You know earlier on in the business and you don’t really have all the systems and processes in place and stuff like that. So for me, it was very scary and even to this day, my wife, she handles a lot of the books and stuff like that. And we’re constantly trying to figure out, there’s got to be a better way. There’s got to be a better way than what we’re doing because it takes so much time. She’s on the phone with quickbooks all the flipping time and she goes, Jamie there’s got to be a better way than doing this. 

06:33 [Catherine]

Yeah and that’s a lot of what I’ve seen in my industry and it’s just. My orientation has always been, you have to build systems, right? It’s to find where the pain points are. Where can we automate things? Where can we fix these pain points? And then especially with things like tax credits, my firm does a lot of tax credit work as well and we’ve built a lot of automations around that process. Because I could just see, it’s easy to see where things can fall through the cracks or things get missed. And a lot of these kinds of programs, at least on the IRS side, are very antiquated, so they have to do a lot of manual processing of things. So the more we can automate on our end that really just helps speed up the process as much as possible.

07:20 [Jaime]

That’s cool. I’m a big fan of automation, where it fits and where it’s right. There’s something to be said. Okay, Cath and I really need to talk to you on the phone about this. So I can maybe present some context or something like that. But yeah, the more stuff that we can automate that doesn’t really affect customer service or anything like that, that lessens our load.  I’m a huge fan of that! So it’s nice to hear that you’re on that. What are some of the things that business leaders can do? To start automating this process or reducing. What I don’t even want to say, automating the process, reducing the stress of having to deal with these numbers? 

08:03 [Catherine]

I would say the biggest place to start, it’s kind of that old formula of eliminate, automate, delegate, right? It’s if you can just eliminate certain things off of your plate that’s going to be the most efficient way to deal with that. Very often I see people, especially when it comes to basic bookkeeping or basic accounting functions. Instead of you trying to recreate the wheel and learn how to do that yourself it’s often better just to hire a third party to do that kind of work for you. If you can find a bookkeeper that’s kind of aligned with the platform that you’re on and the kind of company that you have. If they have a specialty with whatever it is that you’re doing that’s probably going to be a better solution for you than trying to come up with some automated system to do it yourself. But if that isn’t the right fit for you, then using some kind of automation technique is going to be more helpful, right? If you can do things like using softwares that’s going to do automatic bank feeds such as Quickbooks online or finding softwares that talk to each other so that you’re not having to do a lot of things manually. I know for a lot of people they use payment processors that automatically import the information over into Quickbooks. Thinking through how the structure is of what you’re doing on the paperwork side of things to help translate that into an automated system, where you’re not going to have to manually enter invoices or manually write checks to people can be really helpful. I think it’s worthwhile to work with somebody that’s an accountant to be able to coordinate that information on the front end and help you set up those systems and usually like an outsourced bookkeeper or an outsourced CFO can be a good person to get you started on those sorts of things, just for a regular business owner.

09:54 But I know for myself, like our practice, our specialty is really more of like tax planning work and then also we do a lot of covid credits still. And what I’ve found internally as a business owner with, what I’ve found automation to be the most helpful with, is really taking a step back and thinking, okay? How is this process a set of steps? How is this already a system of how something needs to happen in order for it to go from where it walks in the door to when it walks out the door?  And taking the time to document what that looks like for your own processes in your business for however it is that you create value. And see okay where is most of the value being created in this chain and how is this process flowing? Where are the places where I could get a piece of technology to do this instead of a person? Or where are the places where, no this is redundant we don’t need to do this. And really think through your system’s design. Just on pen and paper, I think this is the best place to start.

10:57 [Jaime]

Man, you are speaking my language. I literally wrote a book and the subtitle is, “How today’s business leaders are using systems and processes to grow their business the right way.” I agree with you a hundred and ten percent. I think it’s all systems and processes.  That’s perfect. Oh my gosh, yes. If you need an account and go hire Catherine Tindall today! She absolutely knows what’s right. I have a couple questions.

11:34 How do we know if we qualify for the tax credits? I mean, can we work with you independent of our existing accountant or like how does that whole thing work?

11:49 [Catherine]

Yeah so basically,  what we did in the firm is.  I’m a big advocate for where I can have the best and highest use of my ability. And I started to see this opportunity with the COVID tax credits, specifically with the employee retention credit, where I was seeing a lot of other practitioners, either not addressing it or people were getting kind of sidelined and going to their payroll providers for these employee retention credits.  I was seeing a lot of errors. I was seeing a lot of just the ball getting dropped because the credits in particular, it’s a very black and white qualification parameters. If you qualify or not, the calculations themselves are actually very complex. And so I know a lot of tax practitioners who won’t even touch them because it’s kind of a specialty area and it’s a new thing in the tax code just for 2020 and 2021. 

12:42 So what my firm decided to do is we built out, and there’s no software available on the market to help tax professionals handle these either because it’s so new. So what we did is we built a back end ability to process the parts that can be automated in a very automated fashion. And then we do a quality control review that’s done by a CPA to make sure that everything is going through correctly because there’s a lot of nuance in how it’s calculated. We basically do them for other CPA firms because we just found that the otherCPA firms were struggling with the capacity. Because they didn’t have the time to build the automations to deal with it or you know the time to invest in really getting the full expertise of how to do the credits.There’s a lot of interaction with things, like if you got payroll protection loans, if you own multiple businesses there’s these things called aggregation rules that can kick in. So it’s not an easy calculation.

13:42 We were finding like a lot of payroll providers and places that were just doing the credits didn’t really have the specialty expertise to be able to execute them correctly. We built the automations and we work with outside CPA’s basically. We come in, we just do the credit work. We give your existing tax professional the couple of numbers that they need to adjust, what’s needed on your income tax side.  A lot of these credits we’re seeing range anywhere from like fifty thousand dollars, to we’re working on one right now that looks like it’s going to be 2.2 million, so like they can be worth a lot of money. So it’s worth it though to make sure that they’re done correctly. Because  there’s a three year IRS audit window where they can come back after these claims and so it’s important to really do the due diligence of doing it correctly. We built those automations and then we also have an outside, the other pain point that I started to see is that the IRS. Even though we get them filed within two weeks it takes the IRS like 12 months to process these now because they have to do everything manually on their end. 

14:48 We were seeing a huge bottleneck. Okay well now, the client’s waiting for a hundred thousand dollars, four hundred thousand dollars to come back in the mail to them as a check. Can we get some kind of financing relationship in place where we’ve been vetted and so we’re able to get the clients to claim funding up front and so we’ve been able to establish that as well which has been very.

 15:10 [Jaime]

Oh good for you! That’s very forward thinking, holy cow! And then that way you get paid back on the back end whenever it comes through. Yeah!

15:20 [Catherine]

Because it’s always, you want to look for pain points, right? It’s like where the client is experiencing a pain point or where the process has a break or a leak or an inefficiency. And where are those and how do we fix that?  Because it really comes down to systems, right?



15:40 [Catherine]

So that’s what we’ve done and we’ve been doing them for other CPA firms and been having a lot of success. It’s been really validating for me because it’s so high impact. A lot of the dollar figures on these are really high. So it’s really helpful to businesses. Instead of just filling out forms, for me it’s like no you’re actually getting cash back in the mail from the IRS.

15:58 [Jaime]

This is for W-2 employees, correct?

16:03 [Catherine]

 This is for the business owners who have employees, where they kept the employees during the pandemic. It’s only available for 2020 and 2021.

16:14 [Jaime]

What if you’ve already filed?

16:17 [Catherine]

Right now it’s a payroll tax return, so you go back and you amend the payroll taxes and that’s how you get the refund on them. it’s not related to your income tax filing, directly.

16:31 [Jaime]

Okay, fantastic. Well shoot! We might have to talk some more. 

16:39 [Catherine]

Yeah and I’ve just been seeing a lot. This program did not get the press that the payroll protection program did. It didn’t go into the news and a lot of CPA’s have just been so slammed with just the regular tax compliance work. Because so much has changed for us in the past two years that I’ve just been seeing a lot of people like either not aware of the credit at all or the other one that I see a lot is, they think they’re not eligible when they really are. Because there’s a lot of different ways that companies can be eligible for this.  My standard line to anybody who’s a business owner is, if you had employees during the pandemic, have somebody really assess you. Have somebody look at your quarterly profit and loss statements and really do a proper assessment. Because I’ve had people where they made more money year over year but they still qualify under certain rules. It’s pretty black and white who qualifies and who doesn’t. That part of the determination is not usually that difficult to see if they’re/you’re qualified quarter over quarter.

17:39 [Jaime]

Wow! Yeah that’s pretty amazing. So we only have three. My wife, myself and someone else but we didn’t even take all of our paychecks last year. We didn’t take them. We couldn’t afford it. It was pretty crazy, seeing how things transpired because you would think, oh my gosh, you’ve got remote assistance. We’ve got bookkeepers that people hire from us, right? Like, wow! On the contrary, we actually lost a ton of business when it first happened. Because everybody stopped and many of our clients are sole entrepreneurs, you know smaller businesses. Their business went under so they quit. Or if it didn’t go under, they just said complete freeze on spending. And we had to figure out a new way of figuring this whole thing out, just like everybody else did. Kudos to you for figuring something out like this and really drilling down into a niche like that. I think a lot of people can use it.

18:40 I think one of the biggest challenge people have is, well I said it before it was being scared of looking into that. But you nailed it too. I think it’s just not knowing, you don’t know what you don’t know. 

18:55 What would you say to someone out there that may not know? Whether or not they qualify or just don’t know. What’s a good message we can put out there for people. To say, hey there’s some potential opportunity you should explore. 

19:11 [Catherine]

I would say the main lines that I tell people is, if you were an employer during 2020 and 2021, you have employees. People who are related parties don’t count towards the credit. So if you have your kids on payroll or you’re on payroll, those won’t count. But if you employ other people as w2 employees, 1099s also don’t count, and you experienced any kind of government shutdown order, capacity restrictions or you had 

I like to call it revenue discrepancies. If the timing on when you were receiving revenue was more choppy or irregular to what you normally experience it’s worth having somebody do an actual assessment of your situation. Because the credits, like I said I had one not too long ago. Where it was 10 employees and they qualified for like two quarters or a few quarters and they qualified for over a hundred thousand dollars in tax credits. They can be really massive and so it’s important to make sure that you’re really having somebody look at it just in case.

20:20 I’m seeing a lot of people where they just didn’t think they qualified and then as far as, who to talk to about these things. If you think you are eligible, my company we’re always happy to do an assessment to give people the eligibility and then also give them the rough credit range just as a complimentary thing. Because we’re able to at least do the napkin calculation of that pretty quickly.  I would urge people, if you’re considering pursuing this credit, to work with somebody who’s a licensed tax professional. I’ve been seeing a lot of like employee retention credit shops show up there. When you look at the tax code just from a professional standpoint It’s very complex and these credits interact with other things that are going on in your tax life, not just this credit claim. So it’s important to work with somebody who understands all the nuances of that because it is such big dollars at stake. And you don’t want the IRS coming back in a couple years saying, hey, you actually weren’t eligible for all this. We want some back and we want our interest in penalties with it. Then on the other side too, you can have people where  they’re under-claiming. You’re getting less than you are actually entitled to. So it’s important to work with somebody who really knows their stuff and has experience in the tax world. 

21:34 [Jaime]

Yeah, I totally agree but even if it’s not that much and there’s but you have a credit coming back. Why not that opportunity?

21:42 [Catherine]

Yeah and I like to position it to people as, this is the government reimbursing you for the hardship that happened during the pandemic. I think there’s a lot of people who really suffered and they did get the benefit of things like the PPP program.  But it’s when you’ve been shut down for months and months on end and you’re still paying people to be on payroll. Or your revenue has been compromised and you’re still paying people to be on payroll. It’s really kind of the government saying sorry guys, we’ll get you back. Also to help speed the economy back up because we’re still seeing lags in certain areas. With people still out of work or just things are still disrupted. So I think that’s part of the impetus behind this program as well. 

22:33 [Jaime]

I love it!  Well we are coming up towards the end of our time together and I want to be respectful of your time. I can’t thank you enough for stopping by and sharing this with us. It’s something to be thinking about at the very least. Thanks for putting that at the forefront of our thought processes here.  How do people get in touch with you if they want to learn more?

22:54 [Catherine]

Yeah, the easiest way to get in touch with us is visit our website. We have a contact page right there where you can fill out some information. In the show notes will be my email address, so feel welcome to reach out to me directly if this is something that you’re interested in pursuing. And like I said, we have a lot of partnerships with other CPA firms doing this for them. We have a very streamlined process for your existing tax professional for us to just come in. Get the credits done. Get everything filed, it’s less work for your CPA which they’re probably grateful for right now. It’s tax season. And then you get in the queue to get your credit claim or we can help with financing if that’s something that’s needed for you as well. It’s a pretty painless process.

23:38 [Jaime]

How much is it to get something like this service done? 

23:42 [Catherine]

Usually for us, it really depends on the kind of complexity of what’s going on with the claim. So it does vary and we don’t charge a percent but we do basically a flat fee but that’s all communicated up front just before we do any work. I don’t do any hourly billing. We’ll let you know what the credit range is and then you know what our fee would be and we just take it from there. For the most part, most shops that are doing these are charging anywhere from 10,15 to 25 percent. That’s the range that the industry is doing for these, that’s what I would probably put out there as what people should expect if they’re pursuing this from other other providers. At least on the fee, side we tend to be pretty competitive with other people doing these.

24:32 [Jaime]

Yeah that’s fantastic! Well, thank you again. Is there anything you’d like to say before we wrap?

24:40 [Catherine]

I think we pretty much. I always like talking tax and getting to talk about automation. So it’s a fun time to be here. 

24:51 [Jaime]

Catherine, thank you! Thank you so much! I really appreciate it. I learned a couple things. I hope this helps other people out. Do you have just a moment to hang on? And I can wrap us up here.  

25:04 [Catherine] 

Yeah, sounds great!

25:06 [Jaime]

Thank you! There we go. I want to say thank you to Catherine Tindall for joining us today. Let me be the first person to tell you, if you’re afraid of approaching a bookkeeper, a CPA, or an accountant for any reason. Don’t be! Or at least go ahead and do it anyway. You can still be afraid but do it. I know things may be ugly right now but I promise you, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s people like Catherine that can help you figure out different ways. Unique strategies to help you out and get you going and get you caught up there and take advantage of certain opportunities. That maybe you didn’t even know existed out there. I will tell you from a firsthand experience, try different things. You never know what’s going to be beneficial to you. And think of this not only beneficial to you but if your company can be in a better position you can be beneficial to your team members. You can be more beneficial and more of a service to your clients. You’re doing this to build yourself a better company in order to support others. I call it the ripple effect, right? So I highly recommend learning a little bit more about this. 

26:32 If you can visit, learn more about Catherine Tindall. We talked about automations you can implement in your business today and I think what’s really important about that again is you can go check out the website, that’s dominionES.com. If you want to, you can send Catherine an email at ctindall@dominiones.com. She’s also on LinkedIn and she is a CPA entrepreneur and partner at Dominion Enterprise Services.  There we go. If you liked this episode, learn how you can break through the bottleneck in your business today by going to bottleneck.online/btv. Where you can see other videos and learn more about how you can stop the bottleneck in your business.

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