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Discussion:Paperless office?

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Bbowers (talk|edits) said:

30 May 2007
I'm not sure this is the right forum, but I am looking at moving into the paperless world. My office is a 1-2 person show, so it is confusing on how to do this in a cost effective way (cheap). What are you using for scanners, do you use Adobe for editing & workpapers? I use Ultra Tax software & thier "file cabinet" software is pretty pricy, what are other options? I'm starting from scratch & any guaidance is appreciated!

Barry

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

30 May 2007
I bought E-File Cabinet this year and have implemented it during tax season. It is around $1,300 first year, including support. I don't know what the renewal will be. Our Cannon copier/fax/printer/scanner allows us to high speed (front & back) original documents, and we print tax returns to the E-File cabinet printer. This summer I am having my staff go back and scan in the past 2 years so we can shred and make more office space. You need to have a good backup plan.

I am the only professional in the office, with 1 assistant and 1 part time receptionist during tax season.

Bbowers (talk|edits) said:

30 May 2007
Are you scanning on the front side & electronically tick marking the documents or do you use the originals to work on & scan at completion?

GeoEA1065 (talk|edits) said:

30 May 2007
I use Fujitsu ScanSnap which comes with Adobe software included. About $400. Small and scans real fast.

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

30 May 2007
I input from originals, then scan when the return is being assembled. I print a hard copy of the 1040 page 1 & 2 & state page 1 & 2 for a physical file (not quite paperless yet), print a complete return to PDF e-file cabinet, print a complete client set, plus 1 electronic file page (8879).

I do have the dual moniter setup so that next year I can look at last year's return on the left moniter while inputting this year's on the right miniter. Use a software called ultramon to manage this. Need a second video card in your computer, best if it is the same as the primary one, but not absolutely necessary that it be the same.

DZCPA (talk|edits) said:

30 May 2007
We scan at the last step of our processing. Just like before when you would 2 hole punch it and place in file. We use Lacerte DMS (about $500 wach year). We are very happy with it. Kevin, Can you print the "old" returns to the E-File cabinet and save yourself tons of scanning time? We did that when converting last year and only scanned W-2, documents,organizers,workpapers,etc....not the tax returns.

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

30 May 2007
Thanks, DZ, hadn't thought of that. Will try.

Doug Phillips (talk|edits) said:

31 May 2007
We use CS file cabinet.

It is costly.

The biggest problem we have is getting all the staff to name files, within a drawer, consistently so they can be found.

We have established a naming system, but it is still a big problem.

It was hard to give up the paper in the file. But...it gets easier, the longer you use paperless.


Over all, I like it.

Www.cpa1.biz (talk|edits) said:

1 June 2007
Use a number system. That might work. Use a spreadsheet or database (mS access) to keep track of numbers.

Lmcdon9822 (talk|edits) said:

8 September 2007
I am a sole proprietor, just started my tax business this past tax season. I had 21 clients, 6 returning clients and 15 new clients from my office area. Since I am the only one, I use TaxAct Preparer's version which allows you to save the tax return in pdf format. I also have a Dell multifunction printer that can scan documents in pdf format. I scan the clients documents and save it in a folder (created in the clients name) on a separate external harddrive. This after tax season, I can take the external hard drive with me and work from home if needed. Later I am going to try Remote Desktop Connection so I can access my office computer from home! That way I can work from home or office (or laptop from anywhere)...presto! paperless and virtual office...

OR Taxman (talk|edits) said:

8 December 2007
I did a search for scanners on the site and thought this would be a good discussion to come back to the top as I wanted to provide some feedback on a scanner that I purchased a couple of months ago. It is the Epson GT-2500. It is a desktop flatbed model with a document feeder, and I'm very happy with it so far (though it hasn't been through "the Season" yet!).

Pros:

- One of my concerns with these desktop models is speed, especially with the automatic document feeders (there's nothing worse than watching those pages slowly roll through the feeder when you've got a stack of tax returns to complete - I'm a one-man shop). This model does a nice job. It is quick and hasn't had a problem with jamming so far. I previously was spoiled when we had a leased Xerox multi-function copier here in our office that we used for scanning -- so that's how I got spoiled on a fast document feeder and flatbed!

- I like having a flatbed since there are many small items that won't feed into those models that have only a document feeder, like many charitable contribution receipts.

- It can scan two-sided pages and legal-size pages through the document feeder.

- Setup has been fairly straightforward.

Cons:

- It is a little large and heavy, though not terribly so. It looks essentially like the document feeder part of a small copier.

- It's not truly "networkable" even though there is a network model available. You still have to use the on-screen software interface to run the scans so the scanner has to be near the computer running the software anyway, and you have to hit the software button to start scans. (I also use PaperPort to manage scans, but the basic Epson model does not come with this software.)

- The flatbed is only 8.5x11, not 8.5x14; also the document feeder feeds along the 8.5-inch edge, so it cannot scan 11x17 pages and is a tad slower than a document feeder that feeds along the 11-inch edge.

- It's a little more expensive than some other models, around $600.

I am a sole practioner and scan all client docs for tax prep then prep the returns from an electronically marked PDF file that I keep in my records and return originals to client. I haven't used any of the "electronic file cabinet" products (though I'm a little interested) but just use a network with a standard set of client folders and standard filenames.

Anyway, just thought I would share for those thinking about a scanner, though I'm not sure I would recommend adding a scanner or any other major changes to my configuration this close to the season...unless you are a little adventurous.

(PS - Sorry for the lengthy post...)

MugsyMcGuire (talk|edits) said:

24 December 2007
We just moved to the Thomson CS Accounting suite and love it.

Yeah, it's a little pricey, but once you get used to operating in a paperless environment you will love it.

My biggest recommendation is to invest in an extra monitor. I'm actually about to invest in a 3rd myself.

For File Cabinet, it comes with a software utility that allows you to scan directly to FC.

Go for it....you'll love it.

Bottom Line (talk|edits) said:

23 September 2010
Thought I'd give this a bump.

I'm finally dragging my practice kicking & screaming into the 21st century! This means changing from driving to clients in three counties with a laptop and paper files to remote access, email and a scanner. (Should have done this a few years ago.)

I know it'll be a learning curve but most clients are reacting positively to the change. (I'll be able to help them within a couple of days instead of a couple of weeks.)

I use QuickBooks & ProSeries. Looking at File Cabinet for data storage & Carbonite for backup. I'm pricing scanners and am looking at sheetfed, duplex, desktop and fast.

Any comments and/or recommendations are appreciated.

Tax Writer (talk|edits) said:

23 September 2010
At home, I just print the return to PDF and keep scans of the detail/notes/client originals. I'll admit that I still have paper files, too-- but they are collecting dust. I go to the PDF folder for everything and only dig into the paper records as a last resort-- I hate digging through old paper. I use a scanner for most everything, and I just have the clients fax or e-mail me their signature authorizations.

My trick is simply to save the PDF files with very descriptive file names, so I can find them easily in a search. Like "Smith,Joe-1040-09" or "Smith,Joe-09-W2" it makes it easy. Once you pick a method, just use it consistently.

DZCPA (talk|edits) said:

23 September 2010
I use Fujitsu scanner. It is small and fast.

CathysTaxes (talk|edits) said:

23 September 2010
I print my copy of the return to a pdf file. I have a folder set up for each client with a folder for each year under that. I scan in all documents using a Brother Scanner/FAX/Copier/Inkjet Printer. Any info I get online (ie from IRS any info on rebates received, from the State, estimated payment info, etc), I print to a pdf file.

The folders containing these files are backed up to Carbonite and to my external hard drive.

I've been scanning in my older returns.

My QuickBooks stuff, I print my copies to a PDF.

Bottom Line (talk|edits) said:

7 October 2010
I'm finishing my research and hope to have my final decision by the beginning of next week. Right now it looks like: File Cabinet (any idea on current price?), two monitors, Xerox scanner, Carbonite, and EFAX. The goal is to have everything in place by the end of October so I'll be used to it by tax season.

Does anything have to be kept as an original document (perhaps original signatures?)

Szptax (talk|edits) said:

7 October 2010
I didn't like the carbonite system. I felt it didn't satisfy all of my requirements - among them certifying that your info was in an only US storage site. I just went with ibackup (professional). Its very easy. It took quite a while for the first back-up but since then has only taken a few minutes. I also use e-fax, but I was very disappointed in their initial transfer of my phone number and set-up. I may change services.

Make sure your scanner can scan double sided & different page sizes. I hope it works out for you.

I am semi-paperless. At least the paper portion of my files is smaller than it used to be. I will get there.

Bottom Line (talk|edits) said:

8 October 2010
I'm going to duplicate my backup system by using a cloud-based system and an on-site system. (Don't trust only one backup.) Hadn't considered the US storage but that's a good point. Will look at ibackup. I've heard some good things about myfax.com but don't know if they can transfer my existing phone number.

I'm comparing a couple of different scanners that are double side and take different sizes. Looking at price vs number of pages.

Any particular reason why you're semi-paperless?

Tax Writer (talk|edits) said:

8 October 2010
Just to clarify, I use Carbonite, but I also keep a local (external) back-up at my home. I use Clikfree (it only costs about 100 bucks and you just plug it in and it's totally automatic). The drawback to the Clikfree was (I discovered the hard way) that if you have a complete computer failure, most auto backups will not retain the Lacerte files for your clients. So after a crash I only had the PDFs (which I was thankful for, believe me), but still, I learned my lesson.

Now I use the Clikfree and Carbonite. I don't trust just one system (what if Carbonite has a giant failure or something?). Call me paranoid, but I like to be safe. The files on my computer are more important to my livelihood than any of my physical possessions.

Bottom Line (talk|edits) said:

8 October 2010
Any idea why the Lacerte files weren't on Clikfree? (I use ProSeries. Same manufacturer.) Did you have a problem with anything other than Lacerte?

Tax Writer (talk|edits) said:

8 October 2010
The Clickfree will not automatically save program or system files. I didn't know that at the beginning, but there's a way to force the back-up of those files. I learned that after-the-fact. Most of those external or "portable files" do not save program or system files automatically.

And either will Carbonite, I think. I had to "add" a lot of files to my Carbonite backup that I wanted to save.

Heritage120 (talk|edits) said:

8 October 2010
My office is paperless. We use a Brother all in one laser printer. It works great. My little secret is a program called PDF Converter. It works the same as E-file cabinet at a fraction of the price. I organize the working papers in the way they should be entered on the return and scan them. Then we bookmark all the documents, markup all the pages sort of what you would do in Adobe PDF or e-file. You can move pages so they are in order. Once done with preparation I add the tax return to the working paper file so it is one document. Everything is then stored on an external hard drive. Every client has a folder with the separate tax years as folders. The program is made by nuance & I pd $80 for it. It is better than e-file with.more functions. I've used it for about a year & it is great. Right now I use drop box to send working papers that are scanned to the remote workers who prepare returns. Once they have finished they upload to drop box. I pick it up there and review. I'm able to use my iPad as a second monitor so I can drag and drop working papers to one monitor and I have the tax program on the other monitor. I can't complain. It's cost effective and accurate. All of the clients get all their paperwork back. This procedure is fast. I also scan the disclosure form the clients have to sign off on and add that document to the main one. Everything is neat and tidy. No paper and it is easy to click the bookmarks which makes review a breeze. The program has some other features that are useful. I hope that helps. Feel free to message me if you have any questions.

Szptax (talk|edits) said:

8 October 2010
BL - I am semi paperless because I am Semi-organized that way.... I have not taken the step of scanning the engagement letters, questionnaire, checklists & organizer sheets. Mostly because I just haven't gotten to it. I would like to scan my prior years files as well but that hasn't happened either.

Szptax (talk|edits) said:

8 October 2010
I use a fujitsu 6130 scanner. It scans 2 sided & can accommodate 14" paper too.

Heritage I will look for the Nuance organizing package online. I have never heard of it. I scan to pdf from my scanner. I organize as you do but I just use folder format in a folder called CLIENTS. I have a different folder withing the client folder for each year. My system could use a bit of polish, but i name things consistently.

Davidcpa412 (talk|edits) said:

8 October 2010
I use Drake Document Manager. It comes with Drake tax software so its very affordable! I have a Canon scanner ($400). I am completely paperless. You need to implement an offsite backup plan. I use Mozypro ($5 a month). I have 2 staff members so it works great.

Tax Writer (talk|edits) said:

8 October 2010
I use the full version of Adobe Acrobat for my PDFs, because I can add a highlight and also sign any signature forms with a "wet looking" signature (not just a typed signature) by using their advanced tools. That way, I never have to print anything out and sign it. I just tack my signature to the PDF document, add a highlight and a sticky note where they need to sign, and e-mail it to the client. Saves about 10 steps, and makes it so much easier.

Bbowers (talk|edits) said:

8 October 2010
Hard to believe I started this 3.5 years ago. We use Ultra Tax & the related Filecabinet. We scan alll client documents on the front side, submit them to Copanion GruntWorx for organizing & then use electronic tickmarks & notes through Adobe. Our scanners are all Fujitsu model 6130 & have been flawless in performance so far. We use MoxyPro to back up each night. This past year we added an extra workstattion to act as our server so all of the data for tax, QB's, etc is on one machine. It is much easier to find everything & do the backup. I am going to look into E-file cabinet because of the lower cost & the feature of being able to do what GrutWorx is doing now.

Our paper files are down to just basic client information & notes collected during the year.

We need to do something different with our time & billing and hopefully some sort of due date system software. If anyone has any thoughts or ideas I'd appreciate the information.

Laticiaw (talk|edits) said:

8 October 2010
Time Slips seems to work okay for time and billing...but since by boss is still in the paper days(just got a scanner this past year and we STILL have to print out a copy of everything that we scan)I don't know. We do an external check on our time slips to make sure that the overall totals for billable and non billable are correct. It's interesting.

Bottom Line (talk|edits) said:

9 October 2010
Thanks ya'll. Looks like there's several options available at various price points that are working in different shops. Kind of what I expected and it gives me some different names to investigate to determine what will work best for me. I'll keep you posted.

Nathaniel S (talk|edits) said:

14 October 2010
My first job as a tax professional was at a paperless office. I'm currently at an office that is wanting to go paperless in the next couple of years. I've been looking into open source solutions and found some really great products; however, I've not had the time to really get in-depth in any of them due to studying for the CPA exam.

Here's a link to some open source business software -

http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/osrc/article.php/3898906/50-Open-Source-Replacements-for-Really-Expensive-Software.htm

I've been meaning to try out some of the various workflow software, etc., but haven't had the time. There are also some really good recommendations in the comment sections.

Note: Though most of the software in the link are free, open source software under the GNU GPL,A few of the above software may require a maintenance contract.

Growthguy2 (talk|edits) said:

9 December 2011
I would like to reopen this thread dealing with a paperless office. We currently use Ultratax for tax prep and presently are looking at Gruntworx. I am interested in finding out how Gruntworx is working for other CPAs. Thanks, I appreciate your input.

Bbowers (talk|edits) said:

9 December 2011
I would be curious too. We've used it 2 years but not correctly. Seems cumbersome to open the book marked file, apply tick marks, add/ subtract pages & then save & close back to File Cabinet. We've paid for this tax season but will not do it a 4th unless we figure out how to make it work better. I really like the book marked file concept.

Rpullin (talk|edits) said:

16 December 2011
I work in a small CPA firm and 2011 was our first year at trying to go paperless. With regard to the return work papers, does anyone use anything besides Adobe Acrobat to annotate and make tic marks on work papers (we currently use Acrobat X)? Acrobat can be cumbersome or inflexible at times and I have not found a method for running a tape on a column or group of numbers other than using the typewriter tool. Does anyone have any suggestions for annotating work papers in Acrobat or perhaps a different program? Thanks.

ClutchBurn (talk|edits) said:

16 December 2011
The firm I work at just purchased a smaller firm, and they were surprised to find out that we DON'T use the Add-on "PDFlyer". It's an Add on to Adobe X and I know they said they could run tapes and do a bunch of other things with it. Not sure if our firm is going to start using it now too or not. Might be worth looking into.

Rpullin (talk|edits) said:

16 December 2011
Thanks. Upon further investigation, I discovered that the windows based 10 key calculator program (Auditor Calculator, its free) will allow you to copy and paste your tape into Acrobat as an image. I appreciate the help and will give PDFlyer a look.

Craigums (talk|edits) said:

24 February 2012
To those wondering...GET GRUNTWORX. That thing is no joke. It's like a tax prepare that makes less mistakes than most and is cheaper and faster.

Seriously, get it.

Trillium (talk|edits) said:

22 March 2012
robo post removed....

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