SurePrep Outsourcing Review: Taking the Fear Out of Offshore Tax Prep
As a focused consultant to the accounting profession, every year I see the struggles of a CPA firm around the many different tax deadlines, in keeping up with demand and scaling their practice to meet the clients expectations. I have had the great pleasure to get to know many clients over the years that utilize different outsourcing solutions to assist in the tax prep process. As a non-CPA myself, I could never quite grasp why all firms didn’t implement this model. The ones who do seemed so much less stressed and overall happy in their profession. The vendors who provide the service are all top notch and are dedicated to servicing their clients; so what’s the problem? Well, it’s that sticky word offshore (and even outsource to a certain extent). Notice, I didn’t say dirty word, I said sticky. Offshore has evolved in the last five years and it will only continue to become more mainstream. Similar to Cloud. At some point, if you aren’t using it you will be considered a laggard that is working harder, not smarter.
In my travels to the many different industry conferences, I realized that it’s really just about education. Once people understand, the fear is removed and the firms will generally give it a try. Perhaps starting with an outsourcing service that is 100% based in the US and then once they are comfortable, researching the options of offshore to save some money.
Case in point: Crippen CPA. I have known Managing Partner Mike Torres for years and decided to pick his brain on how outsourcing the tax prep function has worked for his firm. Torres explained, “The biggest benefit to our firm in implementing SurePrep is the ability to outsource the tax preparation process. We no longer have to hire seasonal staff and that has been a huge time and money savings.”
One caveat to note, the firm still handles all review and filing internally. It is the timely tax preparation process that is no longer in-house.
Sounds great right, well what about the clients? As a CPA firm, the IRS regulation 7216 states you must notify your clients if anyone outside the US will be doing work or accessing their information (Note – if you utilize US based outsourcing, no consent is necessary). Crippen CPA had the same concern, and was surprised at how irrelevant the issue was to their clients. They prepared the authorization waiver regarding a 3rd party software and sent it out to about 800 clients for consent. They estimate 5% of clients had questions, and fewer than 10 refused to sign.
Now that we understand the who, what and why, let’s dig into the how. The process of outsourcing is not an exact science as every firm has their own way of doing things.
Scanned source documents and a proforma tax file are submitted to SurePrep through their secure FileRoom. Once the return is prepared by SurePrep staff the CPA firm downloads the workpapers in SPbinder.The SPbinder is where the magic really happens and makes the process for the reviewer easier. It holds the source documents, the return, lead sheets and is not just a PDF but workable documents that allow for direct export to the tax software which is proprietary to SurePrep.
SurePrep has completely streamlined the way tax returns are processed, allowing the firm to focus more time on review and any tax issues that may arise. The ease at which they continue to create processing tax returns gives the firm the ability to increase the number of returns that can be completed each year.
Onshore vs. Offshore
The biggest difference between outsourcing to a US based service versus offshore is cost. SurePrep offers both, as does main competitor XCM, and the offshore model is just a more cost effective solution. Both services have assigned teams to your account and deploy the same protocols as well as security measures. There are standard prep procedures but both can customize based on the specific needs of a firm. To give you an example of the price difference, a standard 1040 return prepared through an offshore service will cost on average $120. The same exact service prepared onshore will be upwards of $280-300. The only real difference for the firm is that in the onshore model, you don’t have to get the client consent for outsourcing.
Product Type: Outsourced Tax Prep
Best Fit: Mid to Enterprise CPA firms seeking an automated work paper solution, clients who often have large numbers of source documents, and firms that continually have to hire seasonal employees to keep up with tax prep.
By far my favorite features of the SurePrep outsourcing solutions are:
- Document Automation
- Exporting directly to tax software for automatic population
- Patented technology at an element level. No other product allows for the editing and linking to specific fields the way the SPbinder enables.
- Built-in active Word, Excel and Adobe docs
- 3 business day turnaround during peak season
- Availability of Onshore and Offshore
- 94% of outsource returns were delivered back to the customer before the due date.
- The ability to Organize, Annotate and Communicate all from within the SPbinder:
Room for Improvement
In the way with cons of this product/service the pros really outweigh them significantly. But there is always room for improvement and from interviewing a client that uses it regularly I found these opportunities:
- Some best practices and training could really help the firms with a more seamless implementation. In the case above, the firm has found that it is not easy to understand when to send to outsourcing. Clients don’t submit all the forms and documentation at the same time and there is no ability to put a hold on the workpapers until everything is received.
- The way in which the firm sends/receives the workpapers is a good process, but the process of getting the file back could be a little smoother with fewer steps. The upload/restore process when operating in a cloud environment could be improved.
- CCH Axcess Tax
- CCH Global fx Tax
- CCH ProSystem fx Tax
- Intuit Lacerte
- Thomson GoSystem Tax RS
- Thomson UltraTax
- Thomson Virtual UltraTax
Pricing varies depending on which products you choose and the level of complexity on the return. An average 1040 will cost about $120 for offshore outsourcing and onshore goes up to on average $300 per return. With the SurePrep outsourcing services, the SPbinder software is free of charge. Think of it this way, if you bill at least $700 per return, the move is a no-brainer.
Learn More…Free Webinar
Want to learn more? There is a free webinar on the SurePrep Outsourcing services this Thursday, October 29th at 11am Pacific Time, click here to register. Or contact them directly if you have specific questions:
17890 Sky Park Cir, Irvine, CA 92614