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Interviewed: Crissie Landry, CPA and Director of Tax Services
Association Membership: RSM US Alliance
Core business: Full-service tax, accounting, and business advisory firm
Core services: Accounting, Tax Planning and Compliance, Audit and Assurance, Business Consulting, Business Valuation, Estate and Financial Planning, Litigation and Forensic Accounting
Office locations: New Orleans, Baton, Rouge, Covington, Houston
Business launch: 1946
Employees: Approximately 150
Technology of Choice: SurePrep 1040SCAN PRO with SPbinder, ProSystem fx Tax
Crissie Landry, CPA and Director of Tax Services at LaPorte CPAs & Business Advisors (LaPorte), has first-hand experience making the transition from a paper-heavy to a completely paperless tax workflow.
“I was originally with a firm that supported a manual, paper-laden tax process. In 2007, that firm merged with LaPorte. When I joined LaPorte, the firm was moving toward a paperless tax practice but had a ways to go,” stated Landry.
Landry was quickly tasked with identifying a new scan solution for the firm, and she was diligent in her search. “Before the team settled on SurePrep’s 1040SCAN PRO product, I talked to several users of the system and a few individuals at SurePrep. I also researched other software. I had to make sure that 1040SCAN could meet our needs and would relieve us of time-consuming manual tasks.”
The firm adopted 1040SCAN PRO (which includes SPbinder) in 2008 and rolled the system out to all of its offices simultaneously. According to Landry, the key to a successful implementation was early planning. “Once we decided to use 1040SCAN, we mandated adoption firmwide, across all offices. We couldn’t have some people following one process and others another. That just wouldn’t work for us because we operate as one firm.”
Within the first year, the transition was complete. Now in the fifth year of using 1040SCAN, the LaPorte team is successfully working within an end-to-end digital workflow and reports significant efficiency gains.
“It was a tough transition at first. Not everyone likes change. But in the end, our employees have been relieved of tedious manual tasks and work at a much more productive rate,” Landry stated.
As Landry and her team rolled out the implementation plan during that first year, core to the success was making the transition mandatory. She made sure all staff members were trained on the solution and following the new standardized tax process.
“I wasn’t the most popular person in the office back then,” Landry recalled. “When you make change mandatory, you tend to get some resistance. I just kept driving home the big picture—the efficiency and ease of working within a completely digital platform. I knew at the end of the transition period that staff would appreciate the new process…and they do.”
Because Landry anticipated some level of resistance, she made sure she was prepared. Championing the cause, she secured buy-in from partners and key staff up front. She and her team also documented the process so staff had a written guide to reference during and after the transition. As champion, she also acted as the go-to person for questions and concerns.
“Having documentation in place and early buy-in is critical,” Landry stated. “You need the partners to back your plan and ensure firmwide adoption.”
While change is difficult for most, staff at LaPorte progressed successfully through the implementation phase. Today, the firm follows a uniform, digital tax return preparation process. Landry states, “1040SCAN PRO is at the core of a highly efficient workflow. It is the elite software in its class.”
Nicole Cronkhite, a tax senior at LaPorte, joined the firm in 2009 after the firm’s transition to 1040SCAN. She quickly embraced the paperless process and today enjoys the value of end-to-end electronic tax preparation.
“I came to LaPorte from a firm that still followed a manual tax process with lots of paper. The process here [at LaPorte] is so productive. 1040SCAN sets us up to work digitally from the start because we are scanning source documents up front.”
Prior to adopting 1040SCAN, the firm handled scanning of source documents on the backend, creating one PDF to use in tax preparation and review. According to Landry, “…this is not really a process at all but actually causes more work. With every new document that comes in, you have to scan and add it to the main PDF, and nothing is bookmarked or organized.”
Cronkhite added, “With 1040SCAN PRO, all we have to do is scan documents directly into the system, and they are bookmarked appropriately and organized in SPbinder. It’s so much easier.”
Cronkhite also loves the ability to work with Excel and Word documents within the system. “We get a lot of Schedule C’s and Schedule E’s that come in without clear financial statements. We put this data into an Excel spreadsheet and import it into SPbinder. When changes need to be made—and they always do—the spreadsheet can be updated directly within SPbinder. I love that Excel documents are editable within the application. This is a huge time saver.”
Offering a concrete example of time savings, Cronkhite explained that the firm has a major client with a tax return comprising more than 400 documents. “Last year, the preparer handled this return using a hybrid process—half manual, half digital. There were a lot of issues, and this one return took up a lot of time. This year, I handled the return using 1040SCAN PRO. I scanned in all source documents, worked with the bookmarked file, and had limited problems. It was so much more efficient.”
Landry could not be happier with the results of the firm’s transition to a paperless 1040 tax process. Efficiency gains have been substantial, and the firm has shaved many hours off the tax preparation process. “We could never go back to the old way,” said Landry. “And why would we want to?”