A bespoke tax workpaper system to minimize review time

October 16, 2019


A workpaper system that is designed for tax return preparation is one of the 5 Keys to a Successful Scan and Populate Process. Why is it important?

Paper-Based Processing

As the tax and accounting world has shifted away from paper, firms have improved their efficiency, cut costs and gained the flexibility to work remotely. But while we’ve made this leap into the digital age, there is one area where digital 1040 tax return preparation has taken a step backwards: optimizing reviewers’ time.

One of the keys to increasing your 1040 tax return bottom line is optimizing your preparation process to minimize reviewer time and increase collaboration with the preparers.

Despite its limitations, the paper-based workpaper preparation process of yesteryear provided a uniform medium for preparers to create detailed, well-documented tax workpapers. The drawback? It was practically an arts and crafts project. Cutting, pasting, stapling, three hole punching, highlighting, drawing, and scribbling notes were all common practices within the classic physical binders. That said, it was a thorough and effective way to make sure tax workpapers were well documented so reviewers could do their work and sign off as efficiently as possible.

The Limitations of Digital Tax Workpaper Preparation

As firms embraced the paperless office, many opted to use general file management applications, like Adobe Acrobat, for their workpaper preparation needs—even though Adobe Acrobat and generic document management systems were not specifically designed for 1040 tax prep.

Although preparers can bookmark and organize workpapers quickly in Adobe Acrobat, it lacks tax-specific tools for effective documentation and an efficient process. For example, there is no easy way to quickly view all documents signed off by the preparer, or not signed off by the reviewer. This is especially important for returns on extension when you want to quickly pick back up where you left off months ago.

In generic systems like Adobe Acrobat, preparers struggle to document the source for each number without forcing the reviewer to search for separate documents in the document management system, especially when the source is another file type like Microsoft Excel or Word. As a result, reviewers end up spending more time on each return than necessary, which hurts productivity and profitability.

In Adobe Acrobat and generic document management systems, referencing amounts between workpapers is cumbersome, even if the workpapers are in the same PDF. Good luck trying to reference an amount from one PDF to another, or a page in a PDF to a cell in an Excel worksheet. Since these common task are difficult or impossible, reviewers have to spend even more time tracking down the original numbers and relevant information.

The Utility of Paper in a Paperless Setting

Many firms struggle to optimize their bottom line for 1040 tax returns because they use workpaper preparation systems that don’t optimize reviewer time.

That’s why we created SPbinder, a bespoke tax workpaper system that enables efficient collaboration between the tax team. Documents are automatically organized into a standardized index that follows the flow of the tax return and allows for hyperlinked cross-referencing of all file types. Documentation is further enhanced with tick marks and annotations, which help the preparer clearly document all the work performed. SPbinder gives preparers the necessary tools to create a clear, concise, and comprehensive set of tax workpapers that can be reviewed in a fraction of the time.

That’s why a bespoke workpaper system that optimizes reviewer’s time is one of the 5 Keys to a Successful Scan and Populate Process.

It’s just one of the ways SurePrep works with you to standardize your process, streamline your workflow, and maximize efficiency.

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