Checklist: 7 Steps to Take Your CPA Firm Paperless

While most CPA firms report satisfaction after the decision to go paperless, it can often be a daunting task that many firms avoid because of the hassle. In light of new COVID-19 work from home regulations, and a shift towards remote work and remote access to information, many firms are deciding to pull the trigger on going paperless. This begs the questions: where to begin? The checklist in this blog provides helpful tools and solutions to help your firm go paperless. 

With this checklist, consider the 7 key areas your firm will need to go paperless: 

1. Document Management System (DMS)

  • A DMS is a repository where your documents will be housed and organized. The structure is critical for scalability (e.g., folder names are consistent). If you don’t have one already, you need to analyze and choose a DMS ASAP. 
  • You’ll want a DMS that integrates with your core applications in some way. Syncing client names is a minimum, in our opinion. We run into far too many CPA firms who have to maintain two or more separate ecosystems of client databases. Think about how much time you’ll waste if your DMS doesn’t talk to your practice management and/or tax software whenever you add or fire a client.

2. Document Annotation Solution

  • When you put all the PDF files in your DMS, you need to have a solution for manipulating and annotating them. 
  • Some DMS solutions come with a proprietary editing application that will do this.
  • The majority of DMS solutions rely on Adobe Acrobat, which costs a small fortune. It’s a necessary evil, unfortunately. There are three ways to buy and/or rent Adobe Acrobat, choose wisely. We’re Adobe partners, reach out if you want to have this conversation.

3. Scanners

  • One of your first steps in going paperless is to invest in a high-quality scanner: this will be a vital initial step in moving all existing documents to an electronic version. Key features to look for: two-sided ability, multi-page scanning, fast automatic sheet feeder, automatic paper size detection, color detection, and cropping. 
  • Another deciding factor is the type of scanner — TWAIN or not TWAIN compatible. What the heck is TWAIN? It’s a technology applications use to talk to your scanner directly and trigger a scan. Not-TWAIN scanners require a button press or a 3rd party application to initiate the scan. Why do you care? Lots of DMS require TWAIN. TWAIN scanners cost more, as they are built with business-needs in minds. Non-TWAIN scanners generally cost less, as they’re built for a hybrid of home and business use in mind. We also have a ton of experience in this and resell both options.

4. Client Portal

  • You’ll want to have a robust solution for your clients to upload and retrieve data securely from your firm.
  • In the perfect world, your portal integrates with your core applications. If not, this is ANOTHER ecosystem of clients you have to maintain. 
  • Unfortunately, the best solutions typically do not talk to most proprietary tax applications, and you’ll have to maintain it separately. However, the benefits of a modern client portal pays for itself, and it’s worth the overhead of maintaining a second ecosystem (when you have <1000 clients).

5. Paperless Billing

  • Your practice management system (PMS) should be able to create PDFs of your bills. If you’re lucky, it can also automatically or semi-automatically email them to clients. Now would be a great time to STOP MAILING BILLS!
  • In the perfect world, your bills post to your client portal automatically. If a client asks for the bill, you point to the portal and prevent future requests.

6. Paperless Fax

  • Implement an electronic fax solution so that fax messages can be received via email. Examples: MyFax, RapidFast, RingCentral, etc.
  • The ideal paperless fax solution is integrated into your DMS in some way. When clients fax you, that document needs to be filed into the DMS. If you can auto-feed faxes into an “Incoming” folder in the DMS and train staff to check there for faxes, you eliminate paper and the typical inefficiencies related to how eFax is implemented out of the box.

7. eSignatures

  • Implement an electronic signature service so that documents can be securely and easily signed without sending paper documents, or emailing large PDF’s back and forth for signatures. Generic examples: DocuSign, HelloSign, etc..
  • Your DMS and/or client portal should tightly integrate with this solution. It’s likely they have eSignature add-ons — check with them before buying a generic example.

If your business or firm is attempting a move towards paperless solutions, PK Tech is always available for consultations or to offer best in practice solutions recommendations to best fit your business needs. We were born inside of a CPA firm and have deep knowledge in this sector. Contact us here