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CPA Firm Portals: Good for Firms, but Confusing for Clients

I consider myself reasonably adept at using technology, but I had a big misstep this week when my CPA firm tried to send me my tax return and supporting documents over its portal.

What I thought would be easy was anything but. Let me be clear: I am all for using technology, but please, please, guide your clients on how to use a portal. This one was a CCH product, which I generally like, but again, the portal was cryptic at best.

Step One: I’m on a Mac, so I was prompted to download the latest version of SilverLite. I did that and nothing happened. I went back to the email from the firm admin and it said suggested that if I use Chrome, I may have issues with SilverLite, so instead, I should click on a Chrome link in the email.

Ok – why didn’t the firm ask me what kind of computer I was on to make this easier?

Step Two: I had to recover my password, so the login process took a bit longer. Finally, through recovery emails, I was able to log in.

Step Three: I was presented a screen with documents from 2013 (they did not use the portal last year). I was able to navigate without instruction to current documents, but it was really unclear where they were – and actually, I just happened to find them by happenstance. Once I clicked on 2015, I was presented with six or so links. I clicked on the first and was able to download the eSig form for the IRS. Fine, but when I clicked on the rest of the links, it was unclear, again, how to retrieve the documents.

I gave us and emailed the admin to either snail mail me my return to sign or I would be glad to come by their office to sign it. She replied with this, “The portal is challenging and confusing. LeapFile is so much easier to use.” So, she was going to send me my documents over LeapFile.

Really? Why didn’t you just send them to me over LeapFile from the beginning?

Step Four: I received the LeapFile link and the process went very smoothly. Signed and sent back, albeit she couldn’t open my password-protected PDF even after I gave her the password. I had to send it unlocked, which is a bit unnerving because it had my SSN.

Those of you who know me know I’m not a curmudgeon by any means and I’m very willing to try something new. So, to all the firms using cryptic portals, how about making a simple video explaining how to use the portal or spending a few minutes walking your clients through this over the phone? Look at the time and frustration you could save your clients; it also serves as a great client touch point to show them you really care about their business.

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