Archive for the ‘Paperless’ Category

Friday, December 29th, 2017

Next Year

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.” – Robert Frost

How many times have you said those two words, “next year”?

Maybe to your kids, “You’ll be old enough to do that next year.”

Maybe to your spouse, “Honey, we’ll take that special vacation trip next year.”

Maybe to yourself, “I’m going to lose 25 pounds next year!”

How about inside your firm?

“We will work on it and become COMPLETELY paperless next year.”

“We can’t do it this year, but next year we will out-place those five clients that drive our staff nuts.”

“We promise to be more timely with our feedback process next year.”

“We will add a few more employee benefits next year.”

“We have to update our website next year.”

“We will look into all this new digital stuff like blockchain and artificial intelligence, next year.”

“I’ll pass the CPA exam next year.”

For all these “next years” relating to your firm: Monday is NEXT YEAR.

For NOW – have a happy and safe New Years’ weekend!

  • It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and the broken promises.
  • Chief Joseph

Monday, November 27th, 2017

Year-End Tax Checklist

“Life is simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius

Well-managed CPA firms have, for a long time, supplied their individual income tax clients with some sort of year-end tax checklist. It is meant to be a helpful tool to encourage the clients to consider significant (and some insignificant) events that might affect their tax return.

At my firm, we used to include the tax checklist with the tax organizer. Many clients, as you can imagine, never bothered to look at their organizer, so they also missed the tax checklist. Then, we stopped providing tax organizers. Our default setting was “No organizer” unless a client specifically requested one. A few did.

Things are so much better now. You can simply send an email to your clients with a link to the annual tax checklist. They can quickly scan through the questions and provide you with information that affects their return.

Last week I received an email from one of my clients that included the year end tax checklist link (just because I am on their mailing list). It was quick to read, easy to review and made me think about pertinent information. That’s exactly how you want your clients to feel about how you provide services – quick, easy and pertinent!

Make 2018 a year when you become a proactive advisor to your clients and get away from always being in reactionary mode.

  • The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.
  • Hans Hofmann

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

Workflow Software

“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” – Albert Einstein

There are still many of you out there, working in CPA firms, without the advantage of workflow software.

Sad but true, I continually interact with CPA firms who are just “sort of” paperless. One of the tools that makes becoming truly a digital firm a reality is workflow software. From your desktop, you know who has what and how projects are flowing through your office.

Last week, Accounting Today featured an article: Software Survey: Workflow solutions in 2017.

Simply put, workflow for tax preparation means tracking all of the paths and operations involved in producing a return and invoice, and making certain all of the tasks are performed on time by concrete due dates.

Workflow software gives you peace of mind. It helps you be sure that no client falls through the cracks when it comes to due dates. Missing a due date is one of a CPA’s biggest worries!

I know, when my firm adopted GoFileRoom for document management many years ago, the most attractive feature was the workflow portion.

If you are one of those firms still without a workflow tool, be sure to read the article – it is full of great insights from various sources/vendors.

  • When you forgive, you in no way change the past - but you sure do change the future.
  • Bernard Meltzer

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

The Old Way Comes Back As The New Way

Many of you can remember when we had paper “in boxes” on our desks. We also had “out boxes”. Mail, memos, and other miscellaneous communication documents were placed in our in-box by our secretary (remember that word?). The same person emptied our out-box and distributed our notes, memos and job assignments to the proper person within the firm.

Often the in-box contained items that we would place in a “do it later pile.” That pile on our desk could attain dangerous heights.

Then, many of us learned how to handle each piece of paper that came into our office mostly via the in-box. The trick was to only handle it once – not to put it in a stack with other things we intended to deal with later. Concerning each document we were to Act, File, Delegate or Trash – no “deal with it later” labels were allowed.

Now we are in the age of handling the multitude of items that appear in our digital in-box. In a recent article via Fast Company, Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit, sums up his email approach as “read, act, file or delete.” By limiting his options he is able to clear his in-box daily without the help of an assistant. Smith notes, “It requires real commitment.”

If the CEO of Intuit can master his in-box, I bet you can do it, too!

Another option is NOT TO SEND many emails and thus, you will receive fewer in reply.

Here’s another email comment from Simon Sinek. “A five minute call replaces the time it takes to read and reply to the original email and read and reply to their reply.. or replies. And I no longer spend 20+ minutes crafting the perfect email – no need to.”

To avoid phone tag, I always make telephone appointments with people who wish to discuss things with me.


  • Social media presents an opportunity for business people to connect and know each other prior to a phone call or email taking place.
  • Jeffrey Gitomer

Monday, November 28th, 2016

Let Your Admin Do the E-file Tracking

sample-form-8879Sometimes, inside busy CPA firms, partners and managers do too much of what the admin team should be doing (led by a qualified firm administrator).

Sometimes, inside busy CPA firms, if you have the right admin team, they can do so much more than mindless, routine duties.

If you do not have the right admin team, that’s your fault.

E-filing (and tracking the e-filing) is a great example. When it is their responsibility, they take it very seriously and are sticklers for following policy.

Here’s what some experienced firm administrators had to say when asked about their e-file tracking process:

Sarah Galley, Firm Administrator, Pohlman & Talmage CPAs, Inc.

Our admin is responsible for this process. They ensure we receive the signed 8879 forms back and then they file the returns. We track these using GoFileRoom. If we are having trouble getting an 8879 form back they track the client down. We try to keep the partner out of it.

Tammy Boring, Firm Administrator, Snyder & Company

Our admin staff does all of our e-filing of both returns & extensions. We use GoFileRoom, so all of our due date monitoring is done through there.

Karen Farino, Firm Administrator, Pasquesi Sheppard, LLC

Efiling the tax returns is done by the partner. Extensions are e-filed by partners and staff. Our admin staff releases tax returns to e-file once 8879s are received, then they check for the acceptance. Extensions are also checked by admin staff for acceptance. Everything is tracked in CCH Practice. We rely on the information in CCH and have never had a problem. We also check the e-file system for rejections and any returns that are in the e-file system but haven’t been released just to make sure.

  • Accuracy builds credibility.
  • Jim Rohn

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Association For Accounting Administration Paperless Survey – Due Friday!

Every year the Association for Accounting Administration conducts a survey assessing the evolving trends in paperless operations inside CPA firms.

Attention, firm administrators and other AAA members – the cut-off for participating in the survey is Friday, December 19th. Here is the link for the survey.

AAA Vice President, Jim Fahey, shares why it is important and has an idea on how to deliver returns in a paperless manner. Be sure to watch until the end!

  • You haven't seen a tree until you have seen its shadow from the sky.
  • Amelia Earhart

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Improving the Culture Inside Your Busy CPA Firm

Gary Boomer, is that you with Rita?Many CPAs ask me, “How can we actually improve our culture?” or “How can we really make things better for our staff while still providing great client service and meeting government deadlines?”

Of course, tax season is one of the most challenging times. If you can make the work environment better during January thru April, you would be a firm where impressive, young talent would stay and build their careers.

That’s why I like a recent article by Gary Boomer in Accounting Today. Well, I like all of Boomer’s articles but this one caused me to reminisce about many of the things I worked on when I was working inside a busy, growing firm.

Boomer talks about the “after tax season review,” assessing what went right and what went wrong. We did it faithfully every April and compiled a list of things to change, improve or tweak. The secret? We made sure that we did actually implement…. we changed, improved and tweaked continually. It was part of our culture.

Here’s Boomer’s 10 Way You Can Make Next Tax Season Better:

  1. Schedule client appointments in advance.
  2. Scan and organize client data into a digital file.
  3. Utilize a digital workflow system.
  4. Implement one-way workflow and avoid loops. You do not have to send work back for training purposes.
  5. Review returns on a timely basis.
  6. Grade preparers on each return to drive out errors at the lowest cost.
  7. Bill and collect with the return.
  8. Reduce cycle time to increase profits.
  9. Utilize portals for aggregation of client data and the delivery of returns.
  10. Utilize a technology surcharge to achieve a return on your IT investment.

How many of the 10 are you doing? Read the entire article here.

  • Providing the right services to the right clients is very important.
  • Gary Boomer

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

The Agony of Decisions Inside Your Accounting Firm

As CPA firms grow, things need to change.

When you have 2 – 5 partners (owners) and a firm administrator involved in the decision-making activities, these people become used to being involved in  every operational/management decision. You have probably heard the old example that has circulated in CPA management conferences for years about it taking 5 partners and several meetings to decide on what copier (or printer) to purchase.

I can even remember when we would form a committee with partners, staff people and administrative people to research and decide on the best copier to purchase!

Did all those people want to be involved?  Yes and no. Some owners want their stamp of approval on everything but most people just don’t want the blame for a poor decision falling on their shoulders alone. It’s almost comical and the old adage, “no decision, is a decision” applies.

Thank goodness those types of routine decisions about the operational side of the firm have been placed in the hands of a professional firm administrator who navigates the partner political waters efficiently.

But, there are an ever-increasing number of more complex decisions that face firms in the current, rapidly-changing business world. Technology is just one example.  There are still many firms, although they say they are a digital firm and all work is reviewed “on screen,” allow one or two partners to continue to operate “the old-fashioned” way.

Performing client engagements has moved so far beyond reviewing on screen (or not). Progressive firms are moving to virtual services. Auditors do not have to travel to a client site and sit in a conference room (or in some cases a store room) to perform the audit.

Going forward, it’s going to take experts in HR, technology and practice growth sitting at the decision-making table and a group of owners who will respect decisions made by others.

Check back tomorrow for more about making decisions.

  • I must have a prodigious amount of mind; it takes me as much as a week, sometimes, to make it up.
  • Mark Twain

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

The MBWA 8

I have written and spoken about Management By Wandering Around for years. It is still such an important message for CPAs. I learned about it from Tom Peters and he says he learned it years ago from a Hewlett-Packard management practice.

This Fall, during my presentations and workshops, I have again been stressing the need for CPA partners (and managers) to get out of their office and BE VISIBLE, BE ACCESSIBLE.

People will ask you questions and actually tell you things (about what’s really going on inside your firm) if you make yourself available.

It doesn’t take a lot of time! Just use the MBWA 8.



  • Do one thing every ay that scares you
  • Eleanor Roosevelt

Monday, November 4th, 2013

A Monday Morning Look At Your Office (Or Cube)

It’s Monday, the week is new, fresh, and full of promise. No pressing due dates this week. Maybe, just maybe, you will have time to CLEAN UP YOUR OFFICE.

I love those signs that the admin team at your CPA firm post in the kitchen or break room: Your mother doesn’t work here. Clean up your own mess!

I’ve heard it for years and years…. “Bonita leaves her lunch trash on the table.” “Bill always slops coffee when he pours it and never cleans it up!” “The partners NEVER wash their own coffee cup, they just dump it in the sink for others to deal with.”

When I visit a new client I enjoy getting an office tour. I can usually identify the office that belongs to the tax partner. Not to pick on tax partners, but I will. Although the firm is “paperless” (sort of), the partner has piles and piles of papers, files, books, booklets, U.S. mail, etc. stacked everywhere. Notice I said “usually” it’s a tax partner, some of you others are guilty, too.

There is hope!  A great example is Bart Haag of Albin, Randall & Bennett in Portland, ME. I received an email from Bart last week with a picture attached that was titled, “No More Mess!”  Check-out Bart’s office below. He also promises to keep it that way (and enlist others to help him keep it that way).

Partners should always set a good example, just like Bart.

photo (1)



  • Sometimes I think that there's a fine line between impressionistic and messy.
  • Lady Gaga