The ESIGN Act, passed in 2000, grants legal recognition to electronic signatures and records if all parties choose to use electronic documents and sign them electronically. Nineteen years later, many accountants still prefer a ‘print to sign’ mode—that is, printing out a digital document simply to obtain a signature. The hesitation to move to electronic signatures likely stems from comfort with current practices, concerns about compliance, or fear of the unknown.
We get it! And we politely suggest that it’s time to get over it.
What is eSignature?
An eSignature, or electronic signature, is an electronic method of signing a document. Like handwritten signatures created with a pen, an electronic signature is a digital means of capturing the signer’s intent to be bound by the terms of the signed document. It’s highly likely that you’ve used an eSignature application at some point.
AbacusNext includes eSignature management within OfficeTools WorkSpace portal. Accounting firms using OfficeTools eSignature love the convenience, ease of use, and ability to track signature status of letters, agreements, forms and tax returns.
Here are 6 reasons to offer eSignature to your accounting firm clients:
1. eSignature is quick and convenient
With eSignature software, documents can be signed without printing, scanning or faxing. Just open the document on a PC, tablet, or mobile, review the document, and place your signature. The software then allows you to return it digitally to the sender. It is easier, faster, and less expensive than signing with a pen.
2. Deemed valid and legal
Electronic Signature has been recognized by law in the United States and since 1999, when the first states adopted the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act. Canada also recognized eSignatures in 1999, with their passage of the Uniform Electronic Commerce Act.
ESignatures, when combined with an audit trail, tamper-sealing, strong authentication and world-class security are more enforceable than wet signature because they are viewed as containing court-admissible evidence.
3. Allowed by the IRS
In 2008 the IRS issued guidelines on how tax professionals can allowably obtain client consent via specific e-signature methods, and in 2014 approved eSignature use for Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization. Tax preparers are responsible for maintaining a tamper-proof record in a secure, access-controlled storage system for 3 years from the due date of the return or 3 years from the IRS return receipt date. AbacusNext secure eSignature features in OfficeTools meet IRS requirements while streamlining the tax return process for firms and their clients. Read about Electronic Signature Guidance for Forms 8878 and 8879 on the IRS site.
4. Provides a great experience for clients
Business clients use eSignature in other aspects of their business and personal lives – signing mortgages, purchase forms, employment contracts, NDAs and supplier agreements. They increasingly expect their accountant to offer the same convenience. The use of eSignatures eliminates the time it takes for clients to print PDFs, sign them, and then return them by fax or mail. Document signings can be complete within minutes. Client engagements run smoothly, contracts and agreements are confirmed quickly and securely, and taxes and other forms filed more efficiently. Accountants can focus on client work instead of on tracking documents.
5. Secure and private
Clients need to know that documents won’t be shared or stolen and that their signatures can’t be forged. Electronic Signature management lets accountants and clients send documents electronically, instead of leaving them sitting in the mail or on the fax machine.
6. Seamlessly integrated with OfficeTools
If your firm is relying on paper signatures, there are significant savings available through the reduction of printing, postage, and manual document assembly time. Talk to our team about implementing OfficeTools Workspace Client Portal and you’ll soon be sending documents, processing payments, offering online scheduling for tax appointments, and eSignatures processing all in one intuitive work environment.
If your firm has the OfficeTools Workspace, you already have e-signature capability within the portal suite. To activate eSignature, visit the OfficeTools store and log into your account, or reach out to support at OfficeTools.com.