How to keep your tax season productive and on track while the nation is asking everyone to self-quarantine can sound like it may be impossible. How do you meet with your clients like you always do? Have no fear—modern technologies are here to help you adapt your procedures and workflows into a safe and secure way.
Where do I start?
Well, typically there is a stack of paperwork that the client needs to share with you to get their taxes started. If your current process was to have the client bring or mail in their paperwork, there are other options. Scanning and secure file transfer – are options that are readily available using flatbed scanners/All-in-one printers as well as mobile phone applications.
Taxware staff recently tested the “Dropbox” mobile app for this type of process. Updates to the mobile app have created the ability to create a PDF of a document by selecting the scan document option. Up to ten pictures can be taken of documents, arranged into a specific order, and saved as a single PDF if needed. There are other scanning mobile applications in addition to Dropbox that may also be a good option for you. These newly created PDF documents can be shared with you, the tax professional, in a safe and secure manner that will be discussed in the next step. Of course, Faxing documents is also an option but often the quality of the document is diminished.
How do I securely get the documents?
Safe and secure file transfer continues to be of utmost importance. Just because the world seems to be slowing down doesn’t mean online criminals are. Password protection of documents in emails, as well as secure file transfer, are both options that need to be reviewed and studied by your business to ensure that your business practices are safe. As we reviewed the options that Dropbox provided, a File Transfer Request can be created where you as the tax pro can create a folder specific for an individual client and request that they upload their documents. This process does not require that your client sign up for a Dropbox subscription, so if they have used another application or scanning hardware to create their PDF, they can add them to the folder directly with or without password protection. This is where managing access to these client-specific folders within Dropbox by you and your office is very important. Take the time to read their instructions and subscription level limitations to ensure that you are using the right product for your business. Although free trials are an option, the level of space and security provided most likely comes at a fairly reasonable cost with the professional or business level subscription.
What is the best way to communicate with my client?
Of course, picking up the phone may be all you need to do to review the questions you may have to complete the tax return but other options that will allow you to have more of a face to face virtual meeting might be Google Hangouts, Skype, Facetime or other similar applications. Many of these are free and very user-friendly. Don’t forget that your Wintax software has an optional integration with Textellent that allows for enhanced texting communication for your office that does not require the use of your personal cell phone and includes many other benefits
How do I allow them to view and sign their return?
Again, security is important. If a fax machine is available this is still an option. Taxware Systems has provided the ability for you to email a password protected PDF to your client. This will help you get them the information they need to review the return. At this point, you have a few options to receive the required 8879 form for your records 1. They print, sign and fax or mail it back to you, 2- print, sign, scan, and send it to you through a file transfer application as described above or password protect and email to you, or 3.You can send them the 8879 through a Remote electronic signature application for a seamless signature experience.
This type of subscription for the remote e-signature for many of the big names like Adobe Sign, DocuSign, Citrix, etc. is not included in the free trial or basic annual pricing. It is a higher-level service requirement that you may need to communicate with their sales reps directly to determine if it is a cost-effective solution for you. Your Wintax software has a basic integration that will take you from the summary screen of your client to the login page of the above-named e-signature applications to expedite this process. They are not the only services that provide the KBA remote e-signature option.
How do I get paid?
Bank products with a direct refund transfer to your bank account can be a good option right about now.
If this is not an option for your business and your clients, you may consider applications like Venmo, Paypal, and Credit card processors for small businesses. Each one of these options provides pros and cons and requires some study and experimentation to find the right solution for you. The main goal here is to be able to receive your preparation fees without a hand to hand transfer of cash that could be potentially contaminated. Now is a good time to have a few options for your client to pay for your services without a delay and the need to hunt down the amount owed you for months to come.
All of this change in our daily life can seem overwhelming but knowing that there are strong tools available to work through these challenges can help you keep your business productive. Every new piece of technology has its pros and cons and beginning a new process always takes time and research even if everyone else makes it look simple. Be patient with yourself and with your clients. Read, study and test out the applications and processes you select, and the workflow will surely improve as you learn them. Find the best tools for your office? Please share so that others can learn from your experience.