Cullari Carrico Cpas & Advisors

Darrell Layman, CPA

Published: July 16, 2016
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Darrell Layman made a bold move this year…and at the riskiest time—tax season. With a vision to significantly increase workflow efficiency, Layman transitioned his firm from a desktop document management system (Lacerte DMS) to the cloud.

“I had two goals in mind,” Layman explained. “I wanted anytime-anywhere access for both firm locations, and I wanted to reduce technology costs. Moving to SmartVault for Intuit® Lacerte® allowed me to achieve both.”

Prior to adopting this new SmartVault integration for Lacerte customers, the firm used Lacerte DMS as its document management system. Layman has also been a SmartVault customer for the past three years, primarily using the solution to share tax returns and other documents securely with his clients. And then in December of 2013, he was notified about a pilot program for Lacerte customers to test a new integration between Lacerte and SmartVault—delivering integrated online document storage plus a client portal for securely sharing tax returns with clients directly from Lacerte software.

“I found out about the SmartVault-Lacerte integration because I sit on an Accountants Council, which is an advisory board run by Intuit. It was the integration I had been waiting for, so I agreed to be a beta tester. I transitioned about 80 clients to the new online process this past tax season. It was very successful; the entire tax preparation process was so much more efficient.”

Layman approached the transition from desktop to the cloud very thoughtfully. As one of the first beta testers for SmartVault’s integration with Lacerte, he worked with a small sub-set of his client base and also collaborated with the SmartVault team periodically during tax season to ensure a successful process And, it was. In fact, it was so successful that Layman plans to transition his entire client base.

And while SmartVault prides itself on ease-of-use that makes implementation a cinch for self-starters and DIY-ers, SmartVault employs a dedicated staff of Customer Heroes who work exclusively with accountants to help them get the most out of the transition to the cloud.

“I could not have been more impressed with SmartVault’s team. They were so helpful during the entire transition. They really listen to their clients and address needs quickly,” Layman said.

A Winning Season

Layman’s core goal was to improve efficiency with the tax workflow, and with SmartVault, it turned out to be a winning tax season.

“The idea was to develop a streamlined process. Working with our desktop document management system, there were many extra steps. However, after adopting SmartVault, many of these steps were eliminated. We no longer had to print the preparer copy to the DMS, print a separate client copy for upload to the portal, or create a long list of instructions to communicate to clients the steps required to complete the filing process,” Layman explained.

With the addition of a cloud-based DMS integrated directly with Lacerte and a client portal, the extra steps to deliver client documents were eliminated. Today, the broad process is as follows:

  • Client source documents are scanned in, indexed, and then uploaded to the tax software.
  • Data is seamlessly imported into the tax return.
  • After review, a copy of the final tax return is printed to SmartVault and automatically routed into the client’s folder in the portal.

“We literally just hit the ‘print’ button to deliver the tax return in the client portal. It’s so much more efficient than the old way,” stated Layman.

SmartVault’s automated email alerts further enhanced the tax process.

“The new mail merge capability in SmartVault allowed us to send totally customizable batch email notifications to clients, alerting them that their returns were available in their portals. This shaved even more time off of our process.”

[Note: In addition to SmartVault’s native email alerts from the client portal, SmartVault also offers an integrated plug-in for Microsoft Outlook that makes it easy to send secure links right from inside Outlook.]

With the combined boost in workflow efficiency and the convenience of working within a digital tax workflow, Layman can already quantify the time savings—in dollars.

“In terms of the technology investment, we save about $3,000 a year. It’s much more cost-effective to use a subscription-based service. In terms of reduction in staff hours based on increased workflow efficiency, I estimate that we’ve saved an additional $7,000 per year”

With about $10,000 in annual savings, Layman has already realized an impressive return on investment.

“SmartVault has been worth every cent. We’ve more than gotten back what we’ve invested.”

The Future of the Game

Layman’s paperless vision isn’t yet complete. He wants to take the process through to final client signature and payment.

“The next big step is to add electronic signature and payment features in the portal…that way clients could sign Form 8879 and pay their invoice online for a completely electronic process. Adding these features would be huge,” said Layman.

Layman indicated that he has already had discussions with key people at SmartVault regarding these features. “I’m not sure when this might happen, but I’m confident that it will.”

The grand vision, according to Darrell Layman, is to continue the transition until a completely end-to-end paperless work environment is achieved. Thanks to SmartVault, he is closer than ever to making his paperless dreams a reality.

“It’s the future of the profession,” Layman stated confidently. “All digital is where firms should be. It’s certainly where we want to be.”