Even if the servers are physically secure, firms need to have confidence that outsourcers’ servers cannot be hacked into over the internet. To provide this level of assurance, SurePrep hires a company to try to hack into its systems every year. Vulnerabilities found are remediated after which the security consultant provides its unqualified opinion as to the security of the software. Finally, data must be safe while in motion. This can be achieved by ensuring all data transfers between the CPA firm and outsourcing provider are done over an encrypted connection.
Tax outsourcing services can be performed onshore or offshore. Using offshore resources reduces costs but requires the CPA firm to obtain a signed and dated Section 7216 consent letter from the taxpayer before tax return information is disclosed to an offshore tax preparer.
Section 7216 consent letters must include the name of the taxpayer, the name of the tax return preparer, the name of the recipient, the intended purpose of the disclosure, and the specific tax return information to be disclosed. The letter may specify the duration of the consent (e.g., 10 years) eliminating the need to get it signed every year. Every firm we know that has requested 7216 consents from their clients has received them without issue enabling them to enjoy cost advantages over most other firms.
Summer is a great time to test tax outsourcing and see if the process can benefit your firm. In addition to the above considerations, firms will want to ensure the tax outsourcer has the experience necessary to prepare high quality returns, and has technology that can add value beyond the tax outsourcing service. SurePrep, for example, streamlines the onscreen preparation and review of tax returns with its SPbinder paperless tax binder.
SPbinder is a workpaper system that integrates PDF, Excel, Word and e-mail documents into a single electronic tax binder. SPbinder provides a common set of tools that allow workpapers of every format to be cross-referenced, tickmarked, annotated, and signed off. SPbinder tracks open items, review notes, and automatically determines missing documents. And SPbinder enables each worksheet or page in a file to be organized separately, providing the same organizational flexibility as with paper (something that can’t be done with any other document management or workpaper system). Each tax outsourcer provides its own flavor of value-added technology. It is up to firms to decide which will provide the most benefit.
David Wyle is the President and CEO of SurePrep, a leading provider of tax productivity solutions to U.S. public accounting firms. Prior to founding SurePrep, Mr. Wyle founded and was CEO of ePace! Software, creator of the industry leading paperless engagement.