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Interviewed: Joe Bevevino, CPA, Vice President & Shareholder Core business: Full-service tax, accounting, and business advisory firm Core services: Tax, Audit, Business Valuations, Litigation Support, and Small Business Advisory Services (including QuickBooks Consulting, General Business Consulting, and Outsourced Bookkeeping) Office locations: Beaver, PA Business launch: 1984 Employees: 35 F/T; 10 P/T Technology of Choice: SurePrep 1040SCAN ORGANIZE and 1040SCAN PRO with SPbinder, Thomson Reuters Suite Website: www.cottrillarbutina.com
While Joe Bevevino, CPA, Vice President & Shareholder, was quick to assert that the firm would never go back to a manual, paper-heavy tax process, he also shared that the journey down the paperless trail was not without its bumps. “The first year was challenging. We worked hard at ‘process conformity.’ We knew that everyone needed to follow a uniform workflow, but you always experience some resistance. We did make some personnel changes and dug our heels in on standardizing the paperless tax process.” Within the first year, the team had ironed out workflow wrinkles and succeeded at accomplishing firm-wide conformity. The biggest hurdle was getting complete buy-in from dual offices. “In 2008, we merged two practices, which meant we had to meld two separate tax departments with distinctly different cultures,” recalled Bevevino. “That was an experience because each department was used to doing things their own way. Getting staff to move away from traditional, familiar processes and agree on a uniform procedure created somewhat of a clash. 1040SCAN was a key factor in solidifying the process between the two tax departments—and ultimately reducing tensions.” In time, with the right automated tax workflow technology in place, both departments soon realized the value of a streamlined, digital workflow. Today, the firm’s unified tax division runs like a well-oiled machine, adhering to an end-to-end paperless tax workflow and progressively thinning its paper files. To date, the only paper document in the client’s file is a processing sheet, which houses all reviewer signatures.
Implementation of a new tax process and technology doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly doesn’t happen without the proper planning. “We had a sound plan in place for our transition to the SurePrep solutions [1040SCAN ORGANIZE and 1040SCAN PRO],” said Bevevino. “The first step was to mandate adoption across the board.” Before launch, firm leaders communicated that all staff would adhere to the same process—from partners to administrative staff. Mandating adoption is key in ensuring firm-wide consistency; otherwise, there will always be those that fall back on old ways of doing business. Training was another core element of the firm’s transition plan, according to Bevevino. “We set up training for our entire staff prior to launching 1040SCAN. Everyone attended basic training and preparers attended a second advanced training, which was exceptional. SurePrep offered an advanced module, complete with sample returns. This really helped our preparers grasp the system quickly,” said Bevevino. Ensuring that staff was confident and comfortable using the system and adhering to the new workflow, the firm launched their paperless system in 2010 (for 2009 returns). “We experienced a few issues along the way, but overall, working electronically was far more productive than manual processes,” Bevevino stated. Moving forward, the firm continues to tweak its paperless tax process to ensure the highest level of efficiency. “We continually evaluate the process and implement enhancements when needed. There is always room for improvement,” Bevevino stated.