Teach Your Clients to Send Info Digitally

Concept of sending e-mails from your computer

Email is comfortable, but not always secure.

By Roman H. Kepczyk
Quantum of Paperless: Technology Guide & Checklist

One of the most critical steps in transitioning a firm to a paperless environment is capturing information in a digital format at its root source as that information enters the firm.

At the base level, this means having clients provide you information in a digital format, which can be done via email, digital fax or through a portal rather than with a physical document. While email is currently the most prevalent tool utilized by clients, it is anticipated the security concerns will help clients transition toward portals.

Email has been the most frequent tool used as most clients are comfortable attaching a spreadsheet or document and sending it to the firm. This method allows the digital file to be easily accessed and saved into the firm’s file storage applications.

“82% of firms request audit documents prepared by clients be delivered in a digital format.” – AAA 2013 Survey

While clients are usually comfortable with sending files to the firm via email, there are often times when the information is confidential. For privacy and confidentiality, firms need to use email passwords, email encryption or a firm-controlled portal. Applications that encrypt email such as Citrix ShareFile and cPaperless SafeSend were the most commonly selected solutions according to the 2020 CPAFMA IT Survey. The cost of a secured connection with a client can be somewhat expensive but can be justified for the overall gains in efficiency and security.

While secured email or a portal would be the preferred delivery solution, some clients will not have adequate internet access and opt to bring in documents (such as their QuickBooks files) on a USB flash drive. Firms should make a concerted effort to discourage client use of thumb drives as they carry the risk of introducing malware into the firm’s network. When personnel do receive physical media, there should be a procedure to thoroughly scan it before loading any files to the network and then return the media to the client immediately, so the firm is not tasked with disposing of the media.

The key to successful adoption of this Quantum Leap is to provide proactive training and reminders to clients on how data should be digitally transferred to the firm. Some firms have begun documenting this information on the firm’s website as well as using remote screen control tools to assist clients. According to the 2020 CPAFMA IT survey, the top three products selected were LogMeIn/Join.me, TeamViewer and GoToMyPC/GoToAssist.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Formalize process to have clients transfer files electronically.

Optimize Your Scanning Procedures

Woman in business attire with papers flying around behind her backBONUS: Specific tool suggestions.

By Roman H. Kepczyk
Quantum of Paperless: Technology Guide & Checklist

For the next few years it is anticipated that accounting firm clients will continue to deliver a significant amount of their organizers and supporting tax documents to the firm in a physical format. To utilize this information in a paperless environment, it must be effectively scanned and managed at the lowest possible cost.

MORE: Why You Want a Digital Tax Workflow System | Retaining Documents: How Long and Who Decides? | The Case for Wireless Broadband Access | Maximize Your Office 365 ROI | How the Cloud Impacts Server Replacement | Capturing Documents at the Source
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Early paperless adopters scanned the tax return and the supporting documents at the back end of the process when a return was complete. This is still usually the first step when firms transition from a completely manual environment.
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Why You Want a Digital Tax Workflow System

Pixelated blue text "workflow" on binary code backgroundWorkflow fails when admins are the only ones updating status.

By Roman H. Kepczyk
Quantum of Paperless: Technology Guide & Checklist

The most important aspect of transitioning the firm’s tax process to a digital environment is managing electronic files that are no longer physically viewable in assorted stacks around the office. This requires a digital tax workflow system that lets everyone know the status of every return and easily connects that person to digital copies of the return and the source documents.

MORE: Retaining Documents: How Long and Who Decides? | The 4 Buckets of Firm Knowledge | Internet Bandwidth: How Much Is Enough? | Why You Need Windows 10 with Automatic Updates | Laptops vs. Desktops
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Under traditional manual tax systems, firms utilized due date tracking databases that identified when a return was due, but not what information was missing, or the preparation, review or extension status, which was often recorded manually on a physical routing sheet.
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Retaining Documents: How Long and Who Decides?

Finger pressing delete keyRepeat as necessary: You don’t have to keep everything.

By Roman H. Kepczyk
Quantum of Paperless: Technology Guide & Checklist

Managing digital files is in many ways similar to managing paper files in that the firm must have standards for who can create a document, add to or edit a document, file it, and eventually purge the file. Unfortunately, as digital files are on the network and “out of sight,” many firms are not really aware of what files are stored, the most current versions and whether or not they should be deleted.

MORE: The 4 Buckets of Firm Knowledge | Why Digital Communications Matter | The Right Tech Tools for COVID Work-from-Home | It’s 10 p.m. Do You Know Where Your Backups Are?
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As firms transition to the “less paper” environment, it is recommended that they implement a digital document retention policy and make users accountable for adhering to this policy.
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Document Management? Automate It

Illustration of manila folders dropping from laptop screenSolutions for firms of all sizes.

By Roman H. Kepczyk
Quantum of Paperless: Technology Guide & Checklist

The network drive in most firms is not very well organized and requires the most cleanup. This happens because it is usually managed with Microsoft Windows Explorer, which allows almost anyone to create or access a file anywhere on the drive.

MORE: The 4 Buckets of Firm Knowledge | Why Digital Communications Matter | The Right Tech Tools for COVID Work-from-Home | It’s 10 p.m. Do You Know Where Your Backups Are?
GoProCPA.comExclusively for PRO Members. Log in here or upgrade to PRO today.

Unfortunately, there is seldom a firm standard that is adhered to, allowing users to create files with any naming convention they want and store it anywhere they choose. The result can be files that are hard to find and slow to search across the network.
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The 4 Buckets of Firm Knowledge

Four empty metal bucketsPower BI is gaining on Excel for dashboards.

By Roman H. Kepczyk
Quantum of Paperless: Technology Guide & Checklist

Firm knowledge and information is usually stored in one of four “buckets.” The most obvious is within the accounting applications themselves where tax, audit and accounting programs store client files in a format that can only be accessed with that program. Files are usually indexed and accessed in designated directories so there is not much the firm can do about moving these files.

MORE: Why Digital Communications Matter | The Case for Wireless Broadband Access | Maximize Your Office 365 ROI | How the Cloud Impacts Server Replacement | Capturing Documents at the Source
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The second bucket for more advanced firms is a document management application where final documents can be archived in alignment with a comprehensive document retention plan and easily searched. The 2019 CPAFMA survey pointed to 30 percent of firms utilizing their document management application for intranet purposes.
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Why Digital Communications Matter

Voicemail word cloud… but don’t forget security.

By Roman H. Kepczyk
Quantum of Paperless: Technology Guide & Checklist

We’ve said that firms should strive to capture all data in a digital format at its “root” source. This goes for services such as the firm’s fax and voice mail systems as well.

MORE: The Case for Wireless Broadband Access | Internet Bandwidth: How Much Is Enough? | The Right Tech Tools for COVID Work-from-Home | Maximize Your Office 365 ROI | Why You Need Windows 10 with Automatic Updates | It’s 10 p.m. Do You Know Where Your Backups Are? | How the Cloud Impacts Server Replacement | Laptops vs. Desktops | The Best Scanners to Buy Today | Capturing Documents at the Source | The More Monitors, the Better
GoProCPA.comExclusively for PRO Members. Log in here or upgrade to PRO today.

Traditional inbound faxes are usually printed from a fax machine and then hand-delivered to the recipient’s desk. In some cases, this fax image is actually rescanned and emailed to the recipient. While this is a step toward digital delivery, today’s digital fax systems deliver a digital image to the recipient via email, so they can access them within their email.
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The Case for Wireless Broadband Access

Illustration of network with city backgroundDon’t rely on whatever your client provides.

By Roman H. Kepczyk
Quantum of Paperless: Technology Guide & Checklist

One of the revolutions in remote connectivity is found within your cell phone as digital cellular providers have beefed up and expanded their networks to provide reliable internet access to remote devices. Today, the vast majority of the United States and Canada has access to the internet through the 4G digital cellular network at speeds of 1Mpbs or more, which is adequate for remote access to most applications, particularly those hosted by cloud providers.

MORE: Internet Bandwidth: How Much Is Enough? | The Right Tech Tools for COVID Work-from-Home | It’s 10 p.m. Do You Know Where Your Backups Are?
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The key today is to determine which service provider is the best in your firm’s specific area of operations.
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Internet Bandwidth: How Much Is Enough?

Illustration of bandwidth useWhat about redundancy?

By Roman H. Kepczyk
Quantum of Paperless: Technology Guide & Checklist

The internet has undoubtedly had a profound impact on firm communications. It has become the primary driver toward the next generation of accounting applications that run entirely on the web through “cloud” computing.

MORE: The Right Tech Tools for COVID Work-from-Home | Maximize Your Office 365 ROI | How the Cloud Impacts Server Replacement | Capturing Documents at the Source
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Before we get ahead of ourselves discussing cloud opportunities, we have to assess how the internet is used within your firm today. Most likely the internet is

  • a digital pipeline,
  • a conduit for communications, updates, research and backups, and
  • a platform for exchanging files with clients.

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