Discussion:Emailing pdf returns to client

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Discussion Forum Index --> Business Growth Community --> Emailing pdf returns to client


Natalie (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2006

I noticed in a couple of discussions references to emailing clients copies of their returns in pdf format. I was curious whether those preparers who do that use some form of encryption when they email the returns.

JR1 (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2006
I just send, w/o encryption so far. Indeed, they're created within ProSeries without any option at all. So I wouldn't even know how to do so, IF someone asks. So far, no one has. Been doing this for 4-5years now.

Nat, I enjoyed your comments on the SE thread. If I ever had a partner....you're good, and I like how you think. Happy After.

Mtmckeecpa (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2006
N,

I just started sending the client copy by PDF. I don't encrypt, I asked my computer guy about encryption and he sounded worse than a tax guy talking taxes, my eyes glaze over when he talks computers...Nobody has said anything yet, sending a PDF is just alot cleaner and seems to cut down on time and paper...I like it.

I also started scanning, I use Proseries DMS scanner software, it is great.

Natalie (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2006
Thanks for the input! The reason I brought this up is that Hawaii is currently considering several bills that would limit tax preparers' use of email to transmit personal information, e.g., social security numbers. If the bill becomes law, tax preparers will not be able to email documents with SS#s in them unless the client gives permission or if the document is encrypted. I tried encryption last year but was unable to even send one encrypted document because no one else had the required certificate. (My understanding is that both sides of the communication need to have a valid certificate in order to use encryption.)


Thanks for the vote of confidence, JR. You're in Chicago, right? Or is it Michigan? In any case, I'll be visiting Wisconsin for Christmas. Maybe I can stop by and write off a portion of the trip?

JR1 (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2006
As long as you cheer for the Pack! I'm in Chicago, but deer hunt Up Nort of Green Bay. Uhhh, you know, it's kind of cold around here at Christmas!

Natalie (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2006
Of course! When and where in Green Bay? Yes, I'm aware of the cold. Two days before I moved to Hawaii I slid into a snow bank with my car! That was almost 20 years ago, but I remember it vividly.

JR1 (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2006
Hunt an hour north, near Crivitz, Lake Noquebay..not far from Marinette. Yooper territory.

Beengel (talk|edits) said:

April 18, 2006
So when using the PDF to email the return- do you send that for review to the client, along with the form for signature on the 8789?? I know I did it that way, but could not help but wonder if I would get paid since they now had a return that could be copied....

I'd like to hear what processes others have been using to deliver the returns and get the signatures needed to efile.

JDACPA (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2006
If you are worried about getting paid, perhaps review who your clients are. I rarely will give a bill to a client at the time I give them the return. I just get to busy, so I end up following up with a bill later. And it has been a very very rare case when I have not been paid.

With those clients that like speed of turnaround using e-mail, I PDF them a draft of the return in one file, with the e-file forms in another, that way they get less confused what they should print out and mail/fax/e-mail back. I also follow up with an assembled hard copy of the return for their records via snail mail.

Time to take some time off and relax!

Jdugancpa (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2006
I have been concerned about sending unencrypted emails with tax data. I have been zipping the pdf file into a password protected zip file using the last six digits of the client's SSN as the password. This works, but is somewhat clumsy. I am going to look into a better way this year, now that busy season is behind me.

Tdoyle (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2006
Jdugancpa:

If you're using Intuit's DMS software, I believe you can select to 'password protect all PDF documents sent with this email' option when using the 'Email To' feature.

- Tim Doyle, TaxAlmanac Moderator 13:48, 18 April 2006 (CDT)

Mtmckeecpa (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2006
Tim,

I use Proseries DMS, is that passwork protectavailable too?

Tdoyle (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2006
As far as I am aware, that's the same software. I'm searching for our DMS expert here though, but he's not in his office at the moment. I'll let you know if I learn otherwise.

- Tim Doyle, TaxAlmanac Moderator 13:51, 18 April 2006 (CDT)

Tdoyle (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2006
Here's the scoop - both the ProSeries and Lacerte versions of DMS have this feature. To use it, simply open up a client, select one or more PDF files, and select the Email button from the toolbar. On the window that pops up, simply select the option to password protect the PDF files. Note that this encrypts and password protects the PDF files using the built-in PDF capability to do this, but does not encrypt the email or non-PDF files which might be attached.
- Tim Doyle, TaxAlmanac Moderator 14:00, 18 April 2006 (CDT)

Beengel (talk|edits) said:

April 18, 2006
Does a client need more than the PDF reader to open an encrypted file?

Tdoyle (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2006
No - the standard PDF reader should ask them for the password.

- Tim Doyle, TaxAlmanac Moderator 14:41, 18 April 2006 (CDT)

Natalie (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2006
Jdugan, how do you password protect your zipped files? What program are you using?

Jdugancpa (talk|edits) said:

19 April 2006
Tdoyle, no I don't have DMS. I think I'll start a separate thread on that topic.

Natalie, I am using a licensed version of PKZip. After zipping the files I can add a PW. I don't know if PKZip still provides a shareware version or not, and if they do, I don't know if that version allows PW protection.

Mtmckeecpa (talk|edits) said:

19 April 2006
Tim,

Thanks for the info, I'll take a look at that feature makes sense to use it.

JDACPA (talk|edits) said:

20 April 2006
I think also the Adobe Acrobat - not the reader, but the full version, allows you to easily password protect a PDF file, and the end user only needs the Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Natalie (talk|edits) said:

20 April 2006
Ah, yes, there is a place to put on a password for opening the document! Thanks JDA! Encryption is also available, but only if I have a certificate.

JDcpa (talk|edits) said:

21 February 2011
This is an old topic, but I'm curious to know what people are doing now. Password protecting the pdf file or a client portal on the website are possibilities. Anybody have any suggestions that are reasonably secure and cost effective?

NewYorkEA (talk|edits) said:

February 21, 2011
I can do both. I use FileCabinet CS as my document management system, so I can easily generate a password protected, bookmarked PDF for clients. I can choose to email it directly from the software, or save it to a folder and then upload it to the clients portal on my website. I prefer the portal over email but some clients would just prefer the email.

Natalie (talk|edits) said:

February 21, 2011
I use Leapfile to send a link to my clients so they can download documents.

JDcpa (talk|edits) said:

21 February 2011
Thanks for the replies. You'll have excuse my ignorance when it comes to this kind of thing, but is that more secure than password protecting a pdf file? I assume it must be otherwise people wouldn't be going to the extra cost and time of setting up something like this.

NewYorkEA (talk|edits) said:

February 21, 2011
If you want something cheap try filesanywhere.com. I used them before I had portals on my website. You have to send the client a unique link every time they are going to send you something or download a file from you.

LoneOne (talk|edits) said:

21 February 2011
IT people at firms I've worked for said basically anyone who can intercept an e-mail could easily crack through a password. When I was at PwC, if you got caught sending such an e-mail, you received a direct talking to from the partner that oversaw the group I was in. "We pay for a portal for a reason."

My own IT guy said something similar when I asked him recently while he was installing my new firewall/router. I only use my website's portal to provide a copy of a return electronically, but then I've had that beat into my head.

CrowJD (talk|edits) said:

21 February 2011
The government can unencrypt all this stuff (at least up to 32bits). Anything. I know you guys have to be careful, but frankly my clients consider it a bother on legal work (of course I don't deal with patents or anything). I used to use the old PGP, but I don't follow it anymore. I don't think there is such a thing as privacy anymore.

I need to changed my passwords every 6 months, but I'm afraid I'll forget my new one. Fortunately, my neighbor knows my password and he's saved me on several occasions.

I might look into this Leadpile that Natalie uses. Do they sell anything to save all your passwords or to help you remember what you did yesterday and thought was a good idea? I guess I need to start putting a rubber band around my wrist again.

Fsteincpa (talk|edits) said:

21 February 2011
I used to use sharefile.com. $32.95 a month. Keep in mind the regulations restricting the transmittal of client information electronically.

Sharefile was awesome and easy to use and well worth the money. My new website has a client portal program included and so we have been migrating to that one.

Before going with one I would check their encryption and their compliance with the requirements we must follow.

I will no longer email client information. I will place it in their portal.

JR1 (talk|edits) said:

February 21, 2011
I now encrypt my pdf's. So instead of using the pdf printer in ProSeries, I just print to Bullzip, it separates the state and Fed returns for some reason. I save the first w/o interference, the second I merge onto the first one, secure it with password, print one for me, send to client. Getting used to it now.

CathysTaxes (talk|edits) said:

22 February 2011
The software I am using this year has a password protect feature. I haven't sent any returns in email yet this year.

Death&Taxes (talk|edits) said:

22 February 2011
Been using Sharevantage for portals last year and this; $295 per year. Has an Explorer-like screen which retrieves your created pdfs and will send your client emails with a link.....they create their own password. One or two clients dump their information there also and I retrieve it, as well as signature forms.

Natalie (talk|edits) said:

February 25, 2011
Crow, yes, there is software that will keep track of all of your passwords. There's also biometric stuff out there, too. All you need is a little reader for your thumb, and it gets you into all of the passwords. I can't remember the name of the software though.

Leapfile works well. I get it free as a benefit from my local society, but it is available for purchase as well.

Captcook (talk|edits) said:

25 February 2011
We've been using leapfile for about 6 months now and it works great. I like it most because I can transfer client's QB backups without any hangups for file size. The file size limit is 2GB, which is effectively unlimited. My clients have all said it was very easy and intuitive to use. I'll never go back to just emailing information.

TaxKeeper (talk|edits) said:

25 February 2011
We're using ClientWhys Web Portals for the first time this year. File size was a major factor; clients tell me it has been quite easy for them.

CrowJD (talk|edits) said:

25 February 2011
Natalie someone might try to steal my thumb or my eyes. I might look into that program to store my passwords but I'm worried that it might require a password.

Chris.ofallon.cpa (talk|edits) said:

17 October 2011
My question on this topic is whether CPAs are ALLOWED to email PDF tax returns (with or without a password. Everybody around here (St. Louis, MO) seems to think it is against the law to email returns. Is that true? I can't find anything that says we MUST NOT send emails, just that we SHOULD NOT. Any thoughts?

Please help me by staying on topic as much as possible (sarcastic comments and jokes are fine). I don't want to debate the pro's and con's of sending PDFs via email, at least not right now. Right now I just want to know the actual law. Thanks!

Natalie (talk|edits) said:

October 17, 2011
It might depend are your state's privacy laws. Have you looked there?

Captcook (talk|edits) said:

17 October 2011
I would be impressed if a statute has been passed directly addressing emailing of anything, but I suppose I could be wrong. I just did a quick search of MO state law Chapter 326 governing accountants and there is no word matching "email" and only two instances of "electronic" in the chapter. Neither of these instances refer to the transfer of client information.

Here is the part of the statute relating to client confidentiality: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C300-399/3260000322.HTM

Interestingly enough, there is a section relating to reciprocity for accountants from out of state, which does seem to provide explicitly for work supplied by electronic means: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C300-399/3260000283.HTM

Natalie (talk|edits) said:

October 17, 2011
Neither of these instances refer to the transfer of client information. I would look at the broader picture of businesses and their responsibilities for protecting private information.

Rupert (talk|edits) said:

17 October 2011
Currently, we email returns in PDF format if the client requests them. However, I do have some concerns about security.

We recently switched website vendors and hope to move toward using a "client portal" (http://www.cpasitesolutions.com/youget/cpa-website-tools/vault-file-exchange.php) to exchange documents with clients in the near future.

Yt1300inHtown (talk|edits) said:

17 October 2011
Any PDFs emailed to clients get PW locked using the last 4 of their SSN. It's quick and easy enough to do.

DUCKMAN57 (talk|edits) said:

17 October 2011
I pdf everything to clients and they all go password protected with password sent via another route, if possible. I like the idea of last SSN. I usually pick something that is familiar to them but not to anyone else.

Szptax (talk|edits) said:

17 October 2011
I e-mail returns. The software password encrypts the returns with either the ein or ssn when I indicate the delivery method as electronic delivery in the print screen. The Government & Client copies are separate files. Everything else I pdf with password protection using either the ein or ssn or other password used by the client. That includes the local returns which are not included in the prep software.

Kevin - if you read this and you think PA prep is a bit funky, you should try local. Local EIT (payroll) simplification is mandated for 1/1/11. It still doesn't seem simple enough to me!

Wkstaxprep (talk|edits) said:

18 October 2011
As far as getting paid, why don't you simply let client know as soon as you receive the signed e-file forms and your payment you will go ahead and electronically file your taxes?

Also, if you're really worried about them using the copy themselves and not paying you, isn't there an option on your tax software to have all the pagies print "copy" across it or "file copy" or soemthign like that? it would really be tough to use a return marked copy diagnolly across the pages as a paper filed return.

RobAZCPA (talk|edits) said:

19 October 2011
If any of you are on the other end of this document protection (i.e., you're the one the password is trying to protect against), you can go to Lost Password and buy the password cracking tool. Any password of four digits or less will be hacked almost instantly. You have to wait up to several hours to hack a 10-character password for a PDF. There's a reason people tell you to use a long password with special characters, as a "best practice."

My firm uses this little software to avoid the challenges of tracking down QuickBooks passwords from clients. For 2006 and newer QB files, the program bypasses the password hacking entirely and just reconstructs the file without a password. If you're a QB user, it's just as cheap to buy the QB edition of the software as it is to tell Intuit you lost your password and pay their fee. As a bonus, you can hack other companies' files when you're done.

As Crow mentioned above, don't ever think that using a password makes you safe. There is no such thing as absolute safety.

Jodiebrown (talk|edits) said:

29 October 2011
SZPTAX..what software are you using that does this for you?

I use two pieces of software that you may find useful given this discussion stream. ATTACH PLUS....this is an outlook add in that will allow you to attache one or multiple documents, it will zip if you want, you can give your own password to encrypt and it can also watermark..you get to choose..costs about $50 I'm looking at something more sophisticated, any ideas? ROBOFORM.....this is a password manager program, free for only a few passwords, but worth the $30 or so to get the full version to save multiple passwords. You can run it via web ot resident on your computer.

Szptax (talk|edits) said:

29 October 2011
I use Ultra tax. If you print for electronic delivery, the client copy is pdf'd with the taxpayer ssn or company ein as the password.

I also use the full Adobe Acrobat to password encrypt. I am sure there are better methods & programs.

Sandy L (talk|edits) said:

29 December 2011
Some of the CPAs I work with e-mail tax returns without password protection. Personally, I wouldn't do this. I use a simple program called A-PDF Password Security to password-protect PDF files. Likewise, I manage clients and projects via Basecamp, which is encrypted for file exchange purposes.

Bd cpa (talk|edits) said:

17 April 2012
Anyone using "secure messaging"? I will be moving away from attaching tax returns to emails as I am not comfortable with the technology out there that can crack pdfs. I was also considering a portal or both. Any thoughts to share?

Fsteincpa (talk|edits) said:

17 April 2012
Client portal. Integrated with my website, altho I will be researching new portal solutions over the summer.

Fletch (talk|edits) said:

17 April 2012
Fsteincpa, please share as you get educated

Fletch (talk|edits) said:

17 April 2012
Fsteincpa, please share as you get educated

Bd cpa (talk|edits) said:

17 April 2012
I am leaning towards Sharefile by Citrix. Would appreciate any feedback on experiences.

CathysTaxes (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2012
I use a service for digital downloading of software that I developed (another venture of mine). I'm thinking of using the same service to handle delivery of PDF tax files. It's proven to be very secure for my software.

BrockEA (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2012
I bought a PDF software package for $15.


Not only can I encrypt documents with passwords but I can take PDF to Word or Excel and I can take Word or Excel documents to PDF. It's great when I want to send a copy of a document to a client but do not want them to be able to cut or paste pieces of it from one place to another (or I can restrict printing). It also allows me to do 1,000 other functions that I haven't learned to use just yet.


I would NEVER send a document over email without PDF password encryption. IMHO it is a can of worms waiting when a family member steals information for identity theft. I don't worry AS MUCH about hackers intercepting but you never know.


BrockEA

Bd cpa (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2012
But your "can of worms" can occur as well if you don't set a strong enough password (is there such a thing??). My inner voice says contributory negligence. I just see too many issues emailing sensitive docs. How many precautions do I need to take to protect myself and my clients when I can simply use a secure portal. How many times do you "fat finger" a password and have to re-do it taking valuable time away during filing season?

CathysTaxes (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2012
I've noticed that when clients have sent me their encrypted tax returns from a previous preparer that the password is the last 4 digits of the SSN. My tax package will encrypt the PDF version.

BrockEA (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2012
I usually just make the password someone I know about the person---for instance their dog's name. They seem to like the fact that I remember things like that.


I'm not the least bit worried about the password strength, the password is to just protect from internet hackers although I think that in 90%+ of the identity theft cases it is a person who knows the victim in some capacity. I think instances of true internet hacking via interception of emails is extremely rare. Besides, how would a client be able to prove that my email of their return is the source of the identity theft? Mostly it is either friends/family members or someone at a doctor's office.


BrockEA

Jimi (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2012
I used password PDFs for a number of years. I was looking for a better PDF solution for this season and got more Google results for cracking passwords than solutions. I went with a secure server service that I like better than password PDFs.

Too prevent confusion, I only had the passworded PDFs on my system. It is a hassle to always have to find the password before opening a PDF. I tried Brock's method of passwords but that did not work. Cathy has apparently noticed some of my former clients.

I made it clear to my clients that the secure server was a service I subscribe to and not to contact me about log in issues, etc. My stupider clients reported good customer service for help with their issues.

I told clients to use the secure server to transmit documents to me. It works well for large files like QuickBooks.

Bd cpa (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2012
Jimi-can you explain the secure server service a little more for me? Who do you use, why is it secure, etc.?

Jimi (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2012
Bd, I don't want to raise Trillium's ire by saying a specific name. I found the service I use by Googling something like "secure server CPA". There are a number of services out there. I found one whose price I liked and had the service I wanted. I did not want cloud syncing or a linked portal from my web site.

It is secure because they say it uses 256 bit AES encryption. I have no way to really test it but all the little things in using it make me feel secure.

BTax2010 (talk|edits) said:

April 18, 2012
One issue I noticed with restricted PDF's is that the protection is not very strong. My local library has free access to a Public Records Service. The free access only allows you to download 50 records at a time and only in PDF format. I had used the service last year and manually typed the records into a spreadsheet for a mail merge. Very time consuming but "free" none the less.

I had purchased the full version of Adobe at a discount last year since my wife is a teacher and got a discount. I noticed that if I opened the PDF file from the public records service in Adobe, I could simply turn their restrictions off by disabling the password protection. Surprisingly they don't ask you for the password in order to do this. It is simply a check box.

Once I did this I could print and do whatever else I wanted to do with the document. This year I was able to save the document as a .txt file and then with some Excel/VBA magic I was able to import and manipulate the text much faster than simply typing it in manually.

My point is the protection is not particularly strong in that regard, but using a password just to be able to open the document should be sufficient.

Another problem I have had is with 8879's. It is such a pain to have to get signatures before filing the return. I would like to simply email them out, but I have some squeamish clients who would balk at such a thing even with password protection. Well, another little quirk I just discovered (with ProSeries anyway) is that you can do a right-click on the SS# field on the Form 8879 and override the data. Then you can simply delete the SS# and print the form to a PDF without the SS# being there. I new about the override but I never thought to use it in this particular instance.

I just discovered this yesterday, so I will consider using this trick for next tax season. Now I can just email them the form in a PDF format since the SS# being on the form is typically my client's main concern. It will help me to streamline my process and ensure that I get the signed form before filing the return.

Fsteincpa (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2012
Fletch, I shall share my research. Currently the one I use now is the one that is integrated with my website that I use via CPASitesolutions. I like my website, the portal leaves something to be desired though.

2 new topics I shall be creating.

client code of conduct

and

Client Portals - things it should have and do.

I used sharefile as my starter portal before I signed up for my website service. I am going to review sharefile first as I really liked it and it seemed to do what I wanted.

I will also test dropbox's business version. My old firm's website indicates they use it and they are a pretty large local firm.

My primary complaint is notifications and organizational ability within my current portal. Administration of it takes too much time.

Like the go paperless issue, it isn't the technology or the desire to use, it is the appropriate administration and organizational aspect that creates issues.

gotta run some errands, will create some new threads when I get back.

Szptax (talk|edits) said:

19 April 2012
UltraTax uses the full social security number of the taxpayer or the ein by default. I know you can choose another password.

Noobie (talk|edits) said:

28 October 2013
Anybody have any additions to the companies they use for email encryption/secure file transfer. All of the ones I have been looking at are averaging out to $100.00/mo. for file transfer service. Does anybody have any cheaper options?

BFStax (talk|edits) said:

28 October 2013
SecureFilePro. It is run by Drake and only costs $10 per month for the basic plan. Unlimited client accounts and 250MB of space. This is A LOT of space client documents since you can set documents to expire. This is what I use and it is fantastic. All transfers/storage are encrypted at highest level.

Csg (talk|edits) said:

5 November 2013
Sharefile is only about $30/month and offers a secure site to upload and download client docs.

96lt4 (talk|edits) said:

8 November 2013
You may want to check out CPA SafeMail. I have not used it, but the Webinar was interesting.

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