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Accounting and the Gig Economy: Tech Tools for Accountants in the BPO Landscape

December 1, 2023

Summary

The rise of the gig economy and the growing demand for accounting BPO services have created a unique opportunity for accountants in Africa.

This article explores crucial technological tools designed to help accountants in the BPO industry in Africa to streamline and improve their accounting operations.

In recent years, Africa has become an emerging hub for business process outsourcing (BPO) companies, offering clients in advanced economies high-quality services at an affordable cost. Gig accountants offering offshore accounting services to help firms abroad are among the key roles driving this rise. These professionals are versed in the skills and expertise required in the gig economy and remote employment options.

The number of these freelancers and contract accountants offering remote bookkeeping and accounting services has the potential to rise significantly due to increased internet connection and the widespread adoption of cloud-based solutions. To succeed in this ever-changing environment, they must upskill in modern technology to deliver their services.

The Rise of the Gig Economy

Over the last decade, global companies have steadily led the push for the mass acceptance of the gig economy. As lockdowns spread nationwide in 2020, hundreds of thousands of new gig jobs appeared almost overnight. The epidemic expedited a change already on its way to becoming a prominent employment trend.

But grocery delivery and takeout were not the only sectors of the rapidly expanding gig economy. Professional gig roles also grew as workers were laid off and left their traditional office jobs to manage personal responsibilities.

Accounting careers are not an exception in the gig economy. It has changed from only tax preparation, embracing a wider range of accounting services to assist small and medium-sized businesses with all aspects of their bookkeeping and accounting needs. Freelance accounting gained popularity like never before as accountants pursued fractional accounting jobs at reputable firms beyond borders or went out on their own to offer accounting services.

Accounting Outsourcing Trend

Since the gig economy for bookkeeping and accounting emerged, hiring freelancers is becoming typical with the increasing popularity of outsourced accounting services to Africa. What helps freelance accountants streamline their services is:

Cloud-Based accounting

Bookkeepers and accountants have had an unwavering passion for technology in recent years. With the transition to cloud-based accounting, they now access and share financial data anywhere. These technology tools offer cost savings and improved user experience advantages.

Upgraded skill sets

 Companies are under increasing pressure to translate their ideas into profits, and as a result, accountants are expected to do more than "do the numbers"; instead, they serve as financial advisors. This means that in addition to having a thorough understanding of all applicable laws about accounts and finances, they also need to be able to communicate in person and virtually with authority and confidence. Outsourcing companies are setting the standard for sourcing gig accountants with the current skills and technical know-how to deliver excellent service.

Automation

As artificial intelligence and machine learning become more prevalent in the accounting industry, accountants and bookkeepers now focus more on higher-value activities. By automating routine operations like data entry, invoice capture, and reconciliation, outsourcing providers ensure faster and more accurate services while freeing more time to counsel clients on financial matters.

Tools for Accountants to Effectively Work Remotely

Accountants in Africa require the appropriate combination of technological tools and solutions to operate effectively as gig workers while producing top-notch results for clients globally. The objective is to go beyond levels of work and comply with the offshoring firm's standards.  To improve service delivery in this sector, here are some crucial technological tools that small and medium-scale accounting firms or gig accountants in Africa can utilise:

Cloud Accounting Software

The days of using desktop-only software to manage accounts and finances are long gone. Using a web browser on any Internet-connected device, accountants can access client accounts and work papers remotely with cloud-based accounting platforms such as Wave Financial, Xero, Sage One, and QuickBooks Online.

Working in real-time with clients that are situated overseas is a great advantage. Tasks like bank feeds, invoicing, expenditure tracking, and reporting with built-in automation save much time and increase accuracy. Native platforms such as Sobhia and Nyansa are some platforms for unique compliance needs in African countries.

Document Management Software

Managing correspondence and workflows for foreign clients calls for seamless document management systems. Accountants stay organized using tools like Evernote Business, Dropbox Paper, Microsoft OneDrive, and Google Workspace.

Security and accountability are increased when files, scanned tax documents, payment proof, invoices, and other documents are quickly sent via link or attachment instead of email. For accountants managing several clients, features like version control, annotations, online storage connectors, optical character recognition, and automation triggers are very useful.

Secure Communication Tools

Accountants frequently communicate highly confidential client information, such as bank statements, transaction histories, identity documents, and tax returns. Services like Signal, Telegram, and Wire provide end-to-end encrypted messaging to protect such sensitive data.

Other communication technologies, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Google Meet, make it easier to set up video conferences with clients worldwide at different times to go over workflows, provide reports, respond to inquiries, and obtain approvals. Bookkeeping guidance, compliance advice, and tax preparation may be accessed remotely, thanks to shared screens and recording possibilities.

Online Tax Preparation Software

Tax software choices in Africa are still developing and have limited features, unlike the highly industrialized nations that offer extremely sophisticated web and mobile apps for DIY tax preparation. For gig accountants preparing tax filings for offshore firms, trustworthy tax preparation software such as TurboTax, TaxAct, Credit Karma Tax, TaxSlayer, or H&R Block Tax Software is essential.

Some tools offer additional features like integration and filing choices designed for accountants handling numerous customers' taxes. They also support foreign tax credits and multi-currency transactions.

Payroll Software

Managing payroll processing and compliance for international clients in accounting makes up a sizable amount of the labour. Payroll-related tasks from Africa can be handled easily using softwares. Payroll software can help with non-manual duties such as insurance management, tax form preparation, paycheck deposits, new hire reporting, and other local statutory compliances.

Conversion and Reconciliation Tools

Accounting operations require swift and accurate currency conversion and reconciliation because the job involves managing transactions, paperwork, and cross-border reporting in multiple currencies. Reliable tools include Oanda, TransferWise Multi-currency Account, XE Currency Converter, and CurrencyFair.


Through integrated exchange rate notifications and tracking, accountants can obtain the information to close periods and balance the books. Automatic bank feeds and secure link imports help with reconciliation to a greater extent.

Virtual Mail Forwarding

Serving offshore clients from a distance presents challenges when it comes to managing physical mail and documentation. African accountants can rely on forwarding of customer letters and documents to U.S. addresses provided by virtual mailbox services such as Anytime Mailbox, iPostal1, Earth Class Mail, and Virtual Post Mail.

There are also secure integrations available for smoothly uploading and managing scans and copies inside document management software. Moreover, sending bills or envelopes with a business address in the United States enhances your credibility!

Conclusion

The most significant tip for working remotely in the present era is to employ reliable tools and link services that facilitate daily duties. Maintaining organization and communication with offshore employers is the goal.

A gig accountant must become proficient with his employer's choice of accounting tools. Thus, this "list" offers productivity-boosting accounting practice tools to succeed in a collaborative environment as a talent working onsite would do.

Schedule a free consultation with Workforce Africa to stay ahead in this evolving accounting landscape to succeed globally.

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