70% of Tax Professionals Scan Tax Documents

And four reasons why you should too.

Perhaps more surprisingly, according to a Copanion survey of 850 accountants, only 10% had no plans to scan tax documents at all, with the remaining 20% are still just considering it.

Converting paper files to digital workpapers has several benefits, Copanion says, including:

  1. Elimination of paper filing and storage.
  2. Facilitates firm-wide access to client documents via network or internet connection during preparation and review.
  3. Provides an electronic record of documents received from clients—making it easier to identify what is missing and quickly find individual documents to fulfill client requests.
  4. Reduces the cost of supplies related to copying, such as paper and toner.

11 Responses to “70% of Tax Professionals Scan Tax Documents”

  1. jody padar

    @SHANE. If you have a good scanner and they don’t bring in everything stapled or on napkins. It will take less then 5 mins to scan upfront. Probably the same time as it would take you to copy same docs. If you dont already copy original docs then yes it will add time to your process. If you do already copy/scan docs then it should take you less time. There might be an exception to the senile client who brings a Rubbermaid tub of useless documents but that is an exception and if all your clients do that you have bigger problems.

  2. Shane Eloe

    @Jason – I think that works if your process is that clients drop off their information, go away, and you call them when the return is done.

    If your process is that the client brings you the info, you meet with them while you organize and input their information (them answering questions for you or making a to-do list during this meeting) then scanning upfront is almost impossible to do efficiently. This type of process is incredibly effective for both limiting preparation time and improving turn around time when you have a high volume of simple returns to do.

    A low volume of complex returns favors scanning upfront for the information that is dropped off by the client and input by data entry staff. That’s my opinion on it anyway.

  3. Ed Jennings

    Great comments! Readers can find free, recorded webinars Copanion created with the AICPA on scanner selection, steps to a paperless workflow, leveraging Adobe for digital workpapers and more. Link is below.


  4. Jason M Blumer, CPA

    It’s true, going paperless and scanning offers MANY more benefits than just no more paper. Finding things is easier, filing client information is easier, the file and search functions become more “granular” in your electronic filing cabinet. Cool stuff.

    @Shane, I think its best to use a system (like Copanion) to manage your scans as you bring them into your system (preferably, up front in the process). Tax automation companies like Copanion pull in pdfs, Excel sheets and more, and then organize that data in a format that is easy for a tax preparer to see and manipulate. And the technology is amazing – now they can populate your tax software (limited), receive some data directly from financial institutions for your clients, etc. And Copanion is cloud-based which makes me a big fan!

    The tax automation process is truly changing before our eyes. This is cool stuff!

  5. Chris Cowland

    I hate to admit that we are among the 20% who are “considering” scanning, but as we are up in the frozen North (Canada) we only recently got electricity in our igloos. Could anyone suggest a good scanner to use, and I would be interested to learn the name of the software that organizes the slips into sequential order. We use ProFile for our Canadian tax preparation.

    • Rick

      Fujitsu and Canon are the two most popular brands in US tax and accounting offices. Personally, I can’t live without my ScanSnap.

  6. Kim Hogan

    To this terrific research by Copanion, I’ll add a fifth benefit of facilitating the onboarding of other key productivity solutions, including workflow management tools. Scanning documents at the beginning streamlines many paper intensive processes and eliminates paper bottlenecks.

  7. David Bergstein CPA

    The question the 70 have to ask themselves is are they doing the scanning effectively because only 21% appear to be doing it before preparation which means someone has taken the time to organize the data for input into the tax return. The best practice or lean six sigma way to make the process efficient is to only touch the paper once. If you scan upfront with a tool that organizes the shoebox of information in the order of a tax return (or way you enter data) you will reduce the time it takes to prepare the return and thus increase realization. Scanning upfront is only part of the process.The question of what you do with the scanned image in the way of being able to digitally mark it up,make notes and add pages needs to be considered. This is why some Tax Professionals scan in the middle or the end. They dont realize that their are easy digital tools to allow them work as they did by hand.

  8. ... mentioned on Twitter by Michelle Robin and paacctspspa ...

    … mentioned on Twitter by Michelle Robin and paacctspspa …

  9. Shane Eloe

    I would be curious to learn more about how firms are structuring their processes around the preparation of returns based on when they scan the documents for the return. I’d also be curious to learn if most firms are organizing the workpapers primarily in PDF’s, or with a document manager that works well with both PDF’s for source files and live files (especially Excel) for workpapers.

  10. ... mentioned on Twitter, Jody Padar said: It should be before.... Not enough in BEFORE! ...

    … mentioned on Twitter by Bill Sheridan, MACPA, Jody Padar and others. Jody Padar said: It should be before….Not enough in BEFORE! RT @MACPA: 70% of tax professionals scan tax documents …