Client Portal helps Larking Gowen handle tax time with ease

Needed a Client Portal system to help them during tax time, decrease turnaround delays, track correspondence and increase security.

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Larking Gowen, accountant and business advisory specialists
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"We can publish a tax return on a client’s personal portal, let them know it is there, request their digital signature - and the system will tell us if the client has looked at it and how many times."

Martin Bugg
Larking Gowen

Accountants are turning to cloud Client Portals to establish secure two-way client communication with GDPR in force, and to speed up the approval process of documents and returns, especially at tax time which is the busiest time of the year. The use of the portals is resulting in improved service delivery, a quicker turnaround and lower administration costs as well as a more secure alternative to email.

"Sending a return by post to a client can result in long delays and can cause serious problems."

- Martin Bugg, Supervisor, Larking Gowen

Following an initial trial of Virtual Cabinet Portal, Larking Gowen, a leading accountancy firm with offices throughout Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex took on 100 portal licences with plans to extend to 250 licences in a move that will allow the team to scale up their paperless document flow to clients as they wish. The firm has seen the speed with which returns are approved improve dramatically, which leads to other efficiencies too.

"We can publish a tax return on a client’s personal portal, let them know it is there, request their digital signature - and the system will tell us if the client has looked at it and how many times. If the client has a query, we can resolve it quickly and in practice, we are finding that documents are reviewed more quickly and some have been returned to us within 45 minutes."

- Martin Bugg, Supervisor, Larking Gowen

The streamlining of the process has distinct advantages for the practice including being able to finish a job on the day it is started. This represents a major breakthrough in terms of efficiency savings. Formerly, the accountant would have to go through a series of processes including password protecting the document and saving it as a PDF before emailing it to the client. When it reached the client, the return would have to be printed, signed and scanned before returning it to the accountant. The portal cuts out all of these processes and enables fast digital authorisation and counters the problems they used to encounter with the post.

"A client had experienced ongoing difficulties with the postal system. We resolved the matter by setting up a portal and within the hour, the return had been signed and returned to us so we could file ahead of the deadline."

- Martin Bugg, Supervisor, Larking Gowen

Looking for a more secure alternative to email

A cloud Client Portal provides the added security professional firms require when communicating confidential financial information. This was an important consideration for Larking Gowen in their decision to implement the Virtual Cabinet Client Portal. With GDPR laws in force, a secure Client Portal becomes even more important as businesses that adequately protect clients sensitive data risk big fines from ICO. To safeguard against potential data breaches, documents sent via the Client Portal are secured with end-to-end encryption.

The majority of clients have bought into the process wholeheartedly.

"At the outset when we invite them to use the portal, we tell them that sending documents via the cloud provides another layer of protection. The feedback from clients is very positive and they like the process. They also like the fact that the firm can set up the portal as a document library where their documents can be stored. They no longer have to contact us and ask us to send them copies of their accounts and returns if they have lost them; they just need to look at the portal."

- Martin Bugg, Supervisor, Larking Gowen

Client Portal helps with GDPR compliance

In addition to the end-to-end encryption, client recipients (portal users) must be invited, and the identity of clients using e-signatures is determined by email and IP address. All actions in the Portal are also audited which provides an extra measure of security.

The added value lies in the fact that clients can also upload their documents and send them to their accountant in two way document exchange. As each user has the ability to upload up to 100mb of documents per time, it overcomes the problems of sending large attachments by email and instead of adding another system to the chain, such as Dropbox, the files go straight from the Client Portal into the firms Virtual Cabinet Document Management system from the in-tray, with intelligent suggestions for filing.

Larking Gowen sees cloud Client Portals as an important differentiator.

"It is all about adding value and providing clients with new services. We are using cloud technology to set us apart from the competition and at the same time, we are benefiting from speed of approval of documents, which leads to other efficiencies."

- Martin Bugg, Supervisor, Larking Gowen