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Convert Your Clients: Move Their Records Out of the Shoebox

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Feb 23rd 2015
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Solving the shoebox problem is the accounting equivalent of curing a disease, says accounting technology writer and lecturer Brian Tankersley, referring to technologically challenged clients who keep their records in shoeboxes. “Somebody will eventually solve it and it will get better and better. If they find the cure, they think they will change the world.” The questions is, are there tools out there to help convert the shoebox clients?

Tankersley made his comments after seeing a new cloud add-in program called Hubdoc. But in the midst of the current tax season, FileThis.com, LedgerSync and other data collection and expense capture applications such as Receipt Bank are also targeting the "great shoebox accounting challenge."

Accountants may want to do it this season or start experimenting in the downtime after April 15. Said Tankersley, “Try it out with 3-4 clients. You’re probably going to fire your shoebox clients because you can’t make any money. Why wouldn’t you try this to try and save the client relationship?”

Hubdoc founder Jamie Shulman told AccountingWEB the application was designed to “automate bookkeeping and accounting” by going out to bank websites and using image scanning technology to collect bank records, document images, receipts and so on. It then collates collate the raw data and delivers it to other accounting applications:

When accessing on-screen transactions, Hubdoc can also download check images and attach them as files to that transaction. The technology to do this was developed internally and gives Hubdoc the edge in providing a full data capture solution, Shulman said. If there is no electronic data source, Hubdoc can also run optical character recognition on a PDF file and feed it into the accounts.

Even with the combination of bank feeds and OCR, Hubdoc isn’t going to be 100 percent, Tankersley said, “But it will be a good college try that you can work with,” he said.

FileThis.com is another app worth an experiment or two, according to Tankersley. It has been around longer than Hubdoc and is an interesting tool for gathering accounting data. “It works with 3,000 different data sources including banks, Amazon, Amex, Charter, Verizon and different cloud storage tools,” he said.

If you are faced with a shoebox person, FileThis.com will let you go out and gather basic data from credit cards, banks and the client’s online documentation. It’s also a good time-shifting tool ahead of busy season as you can collect data electronically that you can process at less busy times.

FileThis.com CEO Brian Berson told AccountingWEB the company started as a consumer electronic document management service but has been “pulled into” the tax market.

“For the accounting world it’s critical to have the source documents delivered,” he said.

Sole proprietors who have a shoebox of stuff they bring to their accountant every year should be on a cloud accounting solution, Tankersley advised: “Pick one:  SageOne, FreshBooks, QuickBooks Online, Wave, Kashoo, etc.  This makes it easier for the client to track and report on revenue and expenses, and lets the accountant practice accounting rather than being an overpaid data entry clerk.”

Even if it’s too late to use the apps to gather 2014 information, practitioners should be looking to put a strategy in place to work with digital information for the 2015 return, he said.

“The accountant relationship for shoebox clients is usually once or twice a year, so if they don’t work with the shoebox clients on the 2015 data now, it will be too late to gather the data automatically needed for next tax season.”

What successes have you had with automating the shoebox challenge? Have any of these new tools helped you crack it yet? Feel free to share your experiences by posting a comment below.

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