#4 – Scan and Fill
We previously discussed scan and organize software. Scan and fill takes the concept one very important step further. With this software, the actual data on the scanned tax documents can be recognized and automatically transferred to the tax prep software. That means you can have "hands free" transfer of data directly from an original paper document into the tax software as a result of the scanning process. You can't get much more automated than that.
#5 – Adobe Acrobat
When you are working with electronic tax documents, the last thing you want to do is print them to paper while you process the engagement just so that you can annotate them. Instead, you need to have the tools at your disposal to annotate them electronically with review notes, tick marks, stamps, signatures and more. Adobe Acrobat provides all of this functionality, as well as the ability to secure and encrypt your PDF files to help you comply with the ever-growing list of information privacy regulations.
#6 – Workflow Software
I wrote an article on the nature and purpose of workflow software in last month's issue of CPATA (also available online at www.CPATechAdvisor.com/go/XXXX. The point to make here is that one aspect of tax document processing that will benefit from automation is the ability to automate the movement of those documents throughout your office as it flows through the tax prep engagement. Workflow software is designed to do just that by creating a virtual workpaper binder to manage the routing of engagement files, including direct links to the digital source documents, staff assignments, electronic routing sheets, checklists, review notes and more.
#7 – Electronic Document Management Systems (DMS)
The discussion of tax document automation typically gravitates towards a reference to scanned documents; however, it is important to realize that an increasing proportion of tax documents are based in other types of electronic files. Examples include Excel and Word files, e-mail messages and their PDF file attachments. A DMS solution provides a foundation for managing the storage of all of your electronic tax files to facilitate quick retrieval and consistent organization. The traditional Windows Explorer folder/sub-folder model is being pushed to the limits as we find ourselves navigating ever deeper to get to a single document. A document management system not only provides better organization and retrieval capabilities; it also allows you to secure your files and to integrate with workflow software (#6) and a client portal (#8.)
#8 – Client Portals
An important part of the tax document process is the exchange of documents and files with clients. A client portal automates both sides of the exchange process by publishing documents and other files to a secure website for viewing, printing and downloading by the client. In addition, many portal solutions allow clients the ability to upload files such as scanned documents, QuickBooks files, etc. An effective client portal solution should be integrated directly with the DMS to streamline the file exchange process. There are many alternative portal solutions ranging from simple to complex and cheap to expensive. Client portals have gained significant momentum in the accounting and tax services marketplace. One of the primary drivers for this increase in demand is the role that a client portal can play in helping you comply with the growing array of information privacy regulations.
#9 – Online Faxing
Online faxing systems have been around for more than 20 years, but ironically, most tax practitioner were loathe to embrace this technology and preferred to print documents to paper and transmit them through the fax machine. Ultimately, the rapid rise in the use of e-mail to exchange information substantially reduced the volume of faxing. However, there are still some practitioners who prefer to fax, and many clients who do, as well. Utilizing an online fax system provides a win-win solution for those situations. It allows you to eliminate paper on both sides of the exchange. Your outbound faxes can be sent directly through a fax print driver, similar to the PDF print driver (#3). Inbound faxes can come into your e-mail inbox as PDF attachments, which can then be transferred directly to your DMS. If you are still doing a significant amount of paper faxing, you owe it to yourself to pursue an online faxing solution.