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Client Portal / Practice Management


#1

Here is a suggestion I sent in a few days ago. Does anyone else see any benefit to us if something like this could be programmed??

Here is an idea that is percolating in my old brain. I am beginning work on a custom designed client portal but the more I create the design in my mind the more I think the portal needs to be software specific meaning TaxCycle or Profile or TaxPrep. TaxCycle already has 90% of what it needs plus you appear to love your job as much as I love mine. Don’t laugh too hard but here is the fleshing out so far.

  1. The client logs into a client portal on the accountant’s internal server or a cloud server. To work for me it has to be a Windows 2008 R2 or newer server inside my practice’s building.
  2. The client types in their Social Insurance Number, a Password they have chosen, and is prompted for the tax year they are uploading forms for.

At this point TaxCycle takes over, finds the SIN and reads the pre-coded directory for the client. You are 99% there with the changes we discussed on the TaxCycle board about creating subdirectories in the PDF print routines. Let’s say it’s me

  1. H:\1Scans\T1\A\Adams, Norman\
  2. Depending on the tax year entered TaxCycle creates or points to a subdirectory
  3. If I enter tax year 2013 and \2013 already exists then TaxCycle creates only a \2013 Uploaded Data in the existing H:\1Scans\T1\A\Adams, Norman\2013\ tree
  4. If I enter 2014 then TaxCycle creates H:\1Scans\T1\A\Adams, Norman\2014\2014 Uploaded Data
  5. If I enter a tax year value that is greater then the current year minus one (1) I am asked if I want to upload files today for use preparing my 2015 return NEXT April

DoxCycle takes over at this point and OCRs the uploaded data and created the DoxCycle file for later import into TaxCycle and places it in the H:\1Scans\T1\A\Adams, Norman\2015\ subdirectory

To make this work really well a couple of things need to be designed.

  1. We need to be able to create SuperClients where the SINs of all related family members are linked to one SIN. As long as the family returns are linked both spouses and all children would be uploaded to the SuperClient subdirectory tree. If a child is dis-associated from the group then the system creates an entirely new tree for them.
  2. Your system will need to allow for context based location and updating of client subdirectory names. For example the subdirectory names need to be the exact SuperUser name from their TaxCycle file so if your current file name is not exactly what is should be TaxCycle will display all existing similar names and ask me to chose which one it is and offer to update the directory names to exactly match the CRA accepted name. For Example. The client name does not exactly match. My CRA name is Norman A Adams. There are 3 Adams files to tax Cycle prompts: Your file name does not match exactly which of the following existing files do you wish to upload to? 1) Adams, Norman 2) Adams, Daniel 3) Adams, Christine 4) create a new subdirectory. If I select 1 then TaxCycle prompts and says (we recommend that you change the subdirectory name to match your clients name of file with CRA. Accept Yes(1) No(2)

This can be massaged to work for all other portions of your software as well. T2 prep wouldn’t need the DoxCycle interface portion.

  1. The client types in their Business Number and are prompted if this is a Corporate, Payroll, HST or Investment Income upload.
  2. TaxCycle can then create and upload to custom locations like H:\1Scans\T2\A\ADAMS and Associates Ltd\2015\Payroll\2015 Uploaded Data
  3. T4/T5 prep could use it if you can make those modules use DoxCycle to OCR T4s created in accounting packages and transfer the data to TaxCycle’s T4 module.
    For me, this in conjunction with ClientTrack would make the perfect Tax Office management system for all portions of my practice and can be used to tax preparation, compliance, consulting and management services.

If this has clicked in any part of your internal design plans, let me know. Always happy to dream and scheme


#2

I would be happy to have this created as a different module, maybe called ClientCycle and would also be happy to pay an annual fee to use it so users who don’t want it don’t have to pay for its development


#3

I like this idea.

We have tried implementing two different versions of portals, but we find that none are particularly embraced by clients. Even though the portals are secure, we find clients downloading tax information (pages to sign etc.), and then emailing them back to us rather than uploading them back to the portal. Our team members also find it easier to get information to clients other ways.

Secure email systems are cumbersome for our clients as well.

I like the apparent simplicity from the client side of this, and the additional integration/automation you describe that is not available in other systems.


#4

Norm, while I personally like your conceptual idea, especially the simplicity of it, my concerns would echo in the first place Matthew’s comment, in that I do not think many of my clients have the IT sophistication to use it effectively.

In the second place, am concerned about the security surrounding this.


#5

My thinking with this is for it to be a one-way upload portal only. Clients cannot recall, modify or delete anything. They only have write capacity and only to their group of sub-directories

The uploaded files would be squeezed through a robust virus/firewall gateway. Most security concerns should be covered by the in only and no out as well as having it SIN based with a user selected password.

For clients who email us 200 picture files everything else would work except for the automation of saving the files to the client subdirectories. I am trying to find a piece of software at the moment that can automate the conversion of 99% of files to pdf. (gif, img, word, and so on)


#6

If Cameron and his group of HiQs could make the interface into a webpage/web app then most of my clients who use a computer or a smart phone could use it.

That’s one of the portal designs we have been working with for an app that looks after tax billings inside my practice. Pretty slick


#7

Is there a reason you would not want to have a two way portal? I can see it being set up so that the upload done by the client is one way and they would not be able to recall, modify or delete. But why not also have an inbox for the client?

I have had an easier time getting clients on board with downloading from portals than I have with uploading. If it is integrated into TaxCycle, a print set could be created that would print the documents you wanted included (we already have this for clients to which we send signing documents) and have it go to the correct path based on the SIN.


#8

If it happens, and Android / Apple app would certainly be a desirable thing as it is our clients with those devices that will be quickest to adopt this.


#9

My oneway thought was only to do with security. I’m not an IT guy so maybe it’s not necessary and can be two way


#10

Conceptually it’s a great idea. Maybe it’s because I haven’t offered this service to my clients in the past but I can’t think of too many who would use this service. On the upload side it is not much different from clients who send me information as email attachments. Yes, security of email is a concern but obviously not to the many people who send me information that way. On the download side, I really can’t think of too many clients who need documents from me after the engagement is done. Most of them would just call/email me with their requests anyways.

Norm and Matthew, you obviously have used this in other setups. Can you give us some kind of data in terms of how many clients use it or what the portals have been used for? I can see ownership of information issues as well. For example, if a client has uploaded information and then transfers their business elsewhere, should they still be able to access their information on your portal? I’m sure there is legal-ease to deal with this but I’m much in the dark about the whole thing.


#11

Kevin, We are now on our second portal system and are considering moving to a third, e-courier. We have tried getting T1 clients on board with them rather than using unsecure email, but in all honesty, the process with the two we have tried have been too cumbersome to really get clients on board. Right now we are using it for a handful of clients, most of whom are bookkeeping or year end clients.

The ones who do use the portal are very happy with it, but for most it is too much hassle.

We know our association (and possibly CRA as well) are going to get on our case soon if we continue to use unsecure email, so we are really looking for a secure process that we can get our clients to adopt.

For T1’s, it is really less about what our clients send us than what we send clients. We have many clients from different communities and many snowbirds that arrange to get us their T1 info, but don’t want to have to be back by the tax deadline. So we need to send them documents to review and sign and send back to us.

We are looking for something simple and secure!

Don’t know if that answers your question,


#12

Thanks Matthew. I agree that sooner or later the security issue will become more in demand, if not legislated. I’ve had a few clients sporadically ask about email security but they deal with it. As it becomes more available and used by the competition, that’s when more clients will require that we individually offer that support. Any solution must be easy-to-use but require sufficient security at both ends. I’ll sit back and follow the discussion. It’s just not a priority in my practice at this time but I’ll have to be prepared for it someday.


#13

I’m with Bert, keep it simple.


#14

What I mean is - and this comes from a lifetime of working in and around the high tech sector - beware of a solution looking for a problem to solve.


#15

OK. The solution is apparently already solved by CCH and DrTax

So my technicolour dream is apparently shared by two of the big 4 Canadian Tax Software companies

DT Client Portal and CCH Portal are already on the market. Intuit is still pushing Office Tools Professional, a truly bad piece of over priced software.

Have you looked at CCH Portal or DT Client Portal Cameron? Any idea if they would they work with TaxCycle?? I have zero interest in changing to DT Max or CCH but would like an accountant centric portal.

I am attending a free CCH webinar on CCH Portal on Thursday the 9th at 2:00PM. Link = http://www.cch.ca/tr/smd.aspx?smid=1077&d=1. No cost mentioned for the service but I’m attending to see what it can do

The DR Tax offering is at http://www.drtax.ca/en/DTMax/software-products/dt-client-portal.aspx

I’m checking on it on Monday as well. Both companies say they are secure and they are already focused on accountants.

If they do not require their own tax software it may be an option


#16

For what it is worth, we have had CCH portal for 18 months. We have had e-courier for 1 month. We have more clients on board with e-courier in that month than we have been able to get on CCH Portal in 18 months. We do not feel that we are losing anything important with the switch.

Everyone’s clients are different and I am not saying CCH portal won’t work for you. But in our office we found it cumbersome for our clients.


#17

Matthew

Thank you for the response. We tried and burned Office Tools Pro as well.

I was afraid of that. I’ll still attend the seminar and try to get a look at DT Client Portal

Thanks again


#18

I use e-courier and I strongly encourage my clients to use it to send me their information. Many do, those that choose to e-mail is up to them. I warn them about the lack of security with e-mail but they are busy and security of their information takes a low priority until there is a problem.

I have been using e-courier for at least 5 years now. It’s simple to use and I have very few if any clients who can’t figure it out.

That said I run a paperless office and my clients tend to be more on the technical side.


#19

I would like to revisit the topic of Client Portal integration.

I use SmartVault which has very strong tax app and bookkeeping integration with fast and easy to use or automated tagging.

The features include Folder Templates, Email Templates, and Document Workflow Templates.

For tax one integration is Auto-File document.
I would love to be able to populate my client folders with the Post Season Letter which includes a “CLIENT ORGANIZER” which we call Tax Checklist.

Another workflow is the send to client document workflow.

I would love you to consider a tight integration with SmartVault.
Contact Sam @ SmartVault.

1-866-674-6785

https://www.smartvault.com/accountants/

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