Changing Workflows and Processes: Electronic Signatures for CPAs

 In Letters from Steve, Tax Preparation

Changing Workflows and Processes: What we learned by being the first-mover of E-signatures for CPAs

It’s a challenge and an opportunity to have a revolutionary solution for the accounting profession. Do we feel the pressure? A little. Does that stop us? Absolutely not. For cPaperless, getting the accounting profession out from  under stacks and stacks of paper has been a challenge we’re thrilled to tackle and an opportunity to take firms to the next level by helping streamline outdated processes.

As the first company to release e-signatures specifically for the accounting profession, we learned a lot about what matters to accountants, and how to make it simple for the taxpayer. In customizing, tweaking, and reiterating the e-signature technology for CPA firms, we received a firm first-mover advantage; being first has allowed us to  understand the challenges around e-Signing, and especially around the signing of 8879s.

Listen and Iterate

At first, our customers would send a tax return through our SafeSend file sharing system. Once it was reviewed and approved, they would send the 8879, and get it signed electronically; but it was still two separate transactions, making it more complicated for the taxpayer than it really needed to be. Having the advantage of testing these processes early on gave us a clearer picture of what iterations were needed.

We also quickly realized all of the major e-sign providers do one thing really really well — they allow you to get a signature quickly on a document. But in learning from early adopters, we realized the true opportunity was not simply using electronic signatures, but automating the workflow around the entire process.

 

The Value of Automation

Think about it this way: if you are using electronic signatures to buy a house, and someone needs to send you mortgage or escrow instructions, they have to drag and drop “who signs where.” The true need here is improved automation. If a software could create those escrow instructions, and they were automatically marked with the correct designations because they are standard forms, the user doesn’t have to drag and drop on each line.

The same thing holds true with tax returns; in that we needed to collate the document, extract the information, and automatically  identify and place all signatures go on the e-file forms.

 

How to Revolutionize the Process

E-signature solutions are an incredible technology, but for us, the real opportunity is in improving the workflow around sending a tax return to the taxpayer. It’s about automating the setup and collation, getting it prepared, extracting all the meaningful information and setting the document up for signing so that the tax professional can go through it in just three or four minutes. Enter SafeSend Returns.

SafeSend Returns allows reporting and tracking to be accessible across the firm for increased productivity. In sending tax returns, our automated e-signing process is easy, saves time, and it’s compliant; the IRS having officially approved the use of e-signatures on 8879s in 2014.

Today, automation is everything, and SafeSend Returns is at the forefront of revolutionizing the tax return process to make the lives of our customers and their clients easier and less cumbersome. We’ve had success by iterating and reiterating what we see happening in the profession, and really taking a deep dive into what areas of each process can be improved upon through automation.

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