Accounting & Tax
"It was easy to see how using SmartVault would allow us to take the next step in improving our internal processes while also providing our clients with an easy-to-use portal and secure document exchange platform."Nate VandenBerg
Building a Future-Ready, Client-Friendly Tax Tech Stack
Growing firm uses SmartVault to advance its tax workflow and document management capabilities
Nate VandenBerg, Tax Partner at RVG & Company, started the Fort Lauderdale, Florida firm with Accounting Partner, Lawrence Rice, CPA, CGMA, in 2012. Over the past four years, the firm has grown from “ground zero” to a thriving practice of 20 staff providing outsourced accounting, bookkeeping, payroll, audit and tax services to domestic and international clients.
The partners attribute their growth to hiring the right people, including International Tax Partner, João Gomes, CPA, MTX, and continually looking forward to make the necessary investments in the future of the firm. One of the key areas of the partners’ future focus, Nate explained, is the firm’s technology infrastructure. “We are constantly evaluating our technology to make sure we have the right tools not only for internal use, but for our clients, too.”
In 2016, the firm’s document management and collaborative workflow needs were part of its ongoing technology review.
“We originally used ShareFile, but our operations director, Norman Boileau, starting looking at SmartVault,” Nate said. “Norman was impressed with both the functionality and value it offered. Once he recommended it to us, it was easy to see how using SmartVault would allow us to take the next step in improving our internal processes while also providing our clients with an easy-to-use portal and secure document exchange platform.”
RVG & Company’s tax practice is rapidly growing with its team preparing approximately 800 annual tax returns. “It’s about a 60-40 split between corporate and individual returns,” explained Nate. “We started our firm with zero clients. One of the benefits of starting in that position was being able to set clients up with the workflow we wanted from day one, instead of having to change an existing process.”
The firm’s tax workflow includes Thomonson Reuter’s UltraTax and Practice CS products. Their tax technology stack also integrates CaseWare and SmartVault.
According to Nate, having SmartVault as a building block of their tax workflow has allowed the firm to advance its efficiency, document retention capabilities and client collaboration significantly over the past two years.
“We use SmartVault as our client portal. Each client has a folder within SmartVault to which we designate appropriate access levels. Within the main client folder we have our firm’s internal files and a client-facing subfolder which is clearly labeled “Upload Your Files Here,” explained Nate. “We receive automatic notifications when clients upload their files and then we click and drag those files over to CaseWare which is where the tax return preparation begins.”
Once a tax return is prepared and reviewed, Nate and his tax team hand it off to an administrative staff member. “They make an exact copy of the PDF file we send to the IRS directly from UltraTax to our internal folder within the main client file folder in SmartVault. Then they also print a copy to the client-facing folder after we do any necessary clean up,” Nate said.
From there, the firm sends the client-ready file in a password-protected email using Microsoft Outlook. To save even more time, Nate’s team has developed email templates in Outlook for different return types which can be customized for each client. Once the email is ready, the return is sent along with Form 8879 to the client for approval.
According to the firm’s timekeeping records, Nate confirmed that an administrative team member at RVG & Company can send a reviewed tax return to a client in five minutes or less. The firm plans to reduce this time even more by utilizing SmartVault’s client email notifications and e-signature capabilities in the future.
One of the challenges that RVG & Company faces is client adoption, which is part of a client education process that the firm also plans to undertake in the future.
“Some of our clients still want us to send files directly,” admitted Nate. “But for clients who are tech savvy, they find SmartVault intuitive and convenient to use. Plus, they appreciate the higher level of security that using SmartVault provides beyond that of even a password protected email.”
Internally, the RVG & Company team also appreciates the benefits SmartVault offers, not only from an efficient workflow standpoint, but in terms of work-life balance as well. “It’s great to be able to access all of our files from anywhere anytime, especially when people need to work from home or are traveling,” Nate noted.
A central part of RVG & Company’s plan for future growth is further leveraging technology to achieve their goals and better serve their client base. RVG & Company is confident that SmartVault will be there to scale with them every step of the way.
“We are constantly looking at what we can do from a technology perspective to advance our operations and the experience we deliver to our clients,” Nate concluded. “SmartVault is one of the tools we are counting on to help us shape our future.”