OfficeTools Esignatures — A Must Have for the Digital Firm
Every modern accounting firm needs digital signatures. OfficeTools esignature capability allows you to provide this service to your clients directly from the Documents tab. Whether you want to send out your engagements letters for signatures, IRS compliant 8879’s, or even entire tax returns, OfficeTools integration makes it easy.
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Today, we’re going to be talking about e-signatures, specifically how they are used within OfficeTools. Okay, so, it’s very simple, the process of using them and setting them up is not difficult, but we’re going to go through those steps and talk about some of the value there.
My name is Philip Phares and I’m director of education for Abacus Next. During this presentation, if you have any questions, please feel free to enter those into the questions area of the GoToWebinar Panel. I’ll do my best to answer those during the presentation. However, I’ll make sure I leave a little bit of time at the end to address those as best I can.
Some of the things we’re going to talk about today are really about getting signatures for just a single one-off document. It can be something that you’ve created … A PDF that you’ve created for a very specific purpose, and you just want to send it off real quick, and get a signature back or some other information. We’re also going to talk a little bit about form letters and how you can leverage the e-signature within OfficeTools and these pre-built form letters, and really get a lot of work done very quickly. You can get a lot of signatures, a lot of communication handled with very, very few steps.
Then, I’m going to talk a little bit about the management tool that is provided with these signatures and that’s important, because as you send things out to be signed, you want to know that did the client see it? Did they receive it? When did they get it signed? When did it come back? All of those details are very, very important to make sure that you’re tracking everything accordingly. So, we’re going to talk about those three areas.
I’m going to preface this with the idea that if you have the OfficeTools portal, you already have e-signatures. It’s actually built in as part of the portal suite. That’s important to know, because you may not be using it necessarily, right? It is part of it. However, it does need to be activated. If you’re interested in using e-signatures and you don’t already have it turned on, you can actually go to the OfficeTool store, log into your account, and you can do it there. Or, reach out to support at OfficeTools.com. We’ll be more than happy to help you out with that.
All right. That being said, a couple things you’re going to have to do once e-signature is turned on. First of all, you’re going to want to decide and choose a place to have all of your form letters actually saved. It’s very simple to do. You’re going to navigate to the setup menu at the top, okay? You’re going to go to “My Company”, “Information Settings”. This is the under the hood area for all things OfficeTools. There’s a dedicated area that you’ll see down the bottom specifically for e-signatures. Once you open this up, this is where you actually choose the location, the folder location on your network where you want to store your e-signed docs. Now, this is not where you’re going to be retrieving documents that you’re sending to clients and this is not where those documents are going to be stored once they’re signed and returned. This is simply where your e-signature tool is going to use when you send form letters.
For example, if you have an engagement letter, or you have various other types of documentation that you’re going to commonly use and require signatures on and you want to build a template for that, this is the location that we’re going to want to store those. All right? That’s really about all you got to do. There is another tab at the top for email settings and this is where you can put in header images, you can set up different notifications as far as who receives them and the terminology used, but that’s really about it from a set up point of view when it comes to using e-signatures.
Now, once it’s activated, what you’ll notice, and I’ll cancel out of this stuff here real quick, that when you navigate to the document’s tab, you’ll actually see the e-signatures button here. You can click on it. Now, if you see that button and it’s grayed out, it’s because it has not actually been activated. What you’re going to want to do in that scenario, again, is contact support at OfficeTools.com, or log into your OfficeTools Store and you can go ahead, activate, and sign up for it there. Now, it does require the OfficeTools portal as I said earlier. If you don’t have OfficeTools portal, you’ll obviously have to sign up for that also. If you do have the portal, then you can go through that process to activate it.
Okay. Now, so now let’s talk about actually sending documents and getting some signatures back. There’s two main ways of doing this, and this is what I’ve mentioned in the slide. Single documents and form letters. Let’s start with just a single document. We have something. We need it signed. Now, this could be something like an 8879. This could be an organizer. This could be something that is so specific to a client in a way, or requires specific fields, that it’s a one-off thing. It’s very simple. Simply add in to OfficeTools in the document manager, as you see here. You can choose that item. We’ll just use the first one here just to make it easy. Click on the e-signatures button. Then, you’ll see an option here that says, “Send selected document to be signed”. Okay. I’m going to open that up.
Then, boom, it’s going to show us our PDF with our document. Okay? Now, up in the top left corner, you can see some instructions. Right-click anywhere on the document to add signature fields. All right. We’ll go ahead and do that. I can simply just right-click where I want to add a signature. I can go ahead and put a signature field there. Of course, if I need to resize it to make it look a little better, fit in that box, I can go ahead and do that.
Now, the signatures are going to pull from the contact tab for this client. If there are various people, such as spouses or partners, coworkers, whatever their relationship may be, if they are in the contact information for that entity, for that client, then obviously you can choose their names here.
Really, it’s as simple as that. You right-click where you need information. You choose the appropriate field. You’re done.
Now, to send it to the client, right here on the top right part of the screen, there’s an option to send for signature. Click on that. It’s going to prompt you on whether you want to send or not. I’ll go ahead and hit “Yes” and it’s a done deal. It’s that simple. It’s really that simple.
Obviously, I’m working with demonstration data here, so there it’s necessarily a recipient, at least a real recipient for that. What’s going to end up happening is your client is going to then receive an email. Okay, I’ll just open up an email here real quick. They’ll receive a notification. Okay? That they’ve been requested to sign a specific document with a link to said document. Clicking on that will take them to it, where they can check in the appropriate boxes, sign it, date it, so on, and then submit it back.
Now, once they’ve done that, a couple things happen actually pretty quick. One, the sender of said document … The signee, I guess, in this scenario, will then have access to that signed document. This will include all of the other parties involved. For example, say you’re sending a document to multiple partners in a particular group. Once the last person, once the final signature has been made, everybody involved in that will receive their copy of the signed document, okay? They can click on it. Again, download the file, download the document, have it for their records. That’s one thing that happens.
In addition to that, if we now bounce back into OfficeTools, that document will actually appear in OfficeTools. We have one right down here and show as signed. It’ll automatically bring itself back into OfficeTools, under the appropriate client, and give itself a new name, marking itself as being signed. It’s really, it’s that simple. There’s not much more to it than that.
That’s a single document. We can send it away. They take care of signing it. Everybody gets notified who’s involved. All the people who were involved will receive their version of that file. It’ll automatically be saved in OfficeTools.
Now, although, we kind of went through that process really quickly, there are some management tools that are available to help you track these. If we go back into the “e-signatures” button here at the top, there’s actually an area here to “Manage Request”. This’ll open an all-new screen, where we can now see all of the … This is the one that I just sent a moment ago … Where we can see all of the documents that are out for signatures and it’s current status. Okay? There’s obviously search bars, filters, and on both the left and the right side, you have additional tools to start to manage this differently.
Now, we have one in here so this is very simple. If I had 500, it might be a little trickier to find and know what I’m looking at. These tools come in very, very handy. Okay? You can view things again from date ranges, things sent by specific staff. Maybe you only want to know of signatures that have been completed or that have expired. Okay? You’ve got a lot of tools available to you to start to navigate all of these different signatures and the different statuses of your documents. Okay? This is particularly handy when dealing with the form letter section, which is the next area that we are going.
Okay. Someone asked a question here. How do spouses have to be set up in order to populate the drop-down under more contacts? What they need to be set up as … This is in relation to having multiple names set up within the drop-down menu. What I’m going to do is I’m going to close out of this. Very, very good question. Thank you very much. If we go to the “Contacts” menu, just to clarify a couple things for everybody real quick … In OfficeTools, OfficeTools always focused on the entity themselves, right? The company or the individual entity. That would be Mr. and Mrs. Smith. However, there’s also obviously a main contact and then a spouse or a dependent, those types of things. All of that information is going to be stored under the “More Contacts” area.
Here, we get to that Mike Smith is the main contact for ABC Company. However, if I open up the “More Contacts” area, okay, now I can see any additional contacts that may be part of this client’s list, okay? I can begin to toggle through here and I can have those contacts available on this list.
Now, what we’re looking for when it comes to spouse, and this is a company, so there’s really not a name here, although there is some data, is we want the contact-type to be dependent. I know that’s kind of an odd wording in the scenario. Really what that is signaling is that these two people have that arrangement, okay? We would have their name in here. Good question.
Okay. Another question here real quick. Will we get a notification once the document has been signed? Yes, absolutely. We did show that a moment ago. Once the document is signed, the sender of said document will receive notification that it has been signed and give them a link to actually download that signed document in addition to having it appear within OfficeTools as a signed form, okay? Good questions.
Okay. Now, we’re going to move onto the form letters section. Now, form letters are really fun. I know that sounds kind of weird. If you have a need to have a document signed and it’s the same document, it’s something that can be a template or can be a form letter type of document, this is pretty amazing. Because what it allows you to do is have something like an organizer or an engagement letter. You can now pull from a lot of the contacts fields in OfficeTools and now begin to create and populate this letter with various merge fields. In addition to that, you can have a lot of signatures and print names and dates and things correlated with that.
Now, it does require some set-up so we’re going to walk through that here real quick. We’re going to navigate back up to the “e-signatures” button. We’re actually going to want to go to the area that says “Manage Form Letter Templates”. This is going to open up a screen. Over on the left-hand side, we can see all of the different form letters that we have available currently. These are the files, these are the PDF files, that are going to get saved in that template folder that we created when we first started. You have some basic tools at the top, adding a new one, editing the one that you have selected, trash canning it. You can even copy over, if you have a similar document, you just want to change a couple details. You have all the tools available up here on the top.
Obviously, we can see all the pages. Just like the one-off letter, we simple right-click anywhere on the document, okay? We can choose the appropriate fields that we want to now create. We can create new merge fields or signature fields. If I was going to use a new merge field, for example, I’d say “New Merge Field”. I could place this wherever it may be appropriate. Then, I can choose from all of the different fields available within OfficeTools related to that contact, including custom fields.
Again, as this is a singular document, it’s going to go out to a multitude of contacts, this is very important, because now we can make sure that the letter feels personalized to them, yet it’s being sent out in a bulk fashion. Okay?
Once we create and we add in the appropriate details, we can also right-click, and now add signature fields, okay? Including spouse and including what we call “My Signatures”. Just to clarify that, what we’re looking at here is the three potential different types of individuals that may be involved in signings. There’s the main entity, there is potentially a spouse, but there’s also the staff people involved, so myself. If I need to have my signature available in this document, I can include that also. Once it’s sent, I will actually, as it makes its way around all of the people who are being notified, I will have an opportunity to then see the document and actually sign it with my credentials.
Okay. We create our document, we go ahead and save it, and now we can use it anytime in the future. That’s how we build our template. Again, very easy. Very quick to do. Once it’s saved, it now becomes available to us within the e-signature forms screen.
We navigate back to our “e-signatures” button and we chose the option to send a form letter. All the work that we just did a moment ago is now obviously available here. We choose the letter from the left side that we want to send. That’s really about it. Down at the very bottom corner, there’s a send button. It’s going to say, “Well, are you sure? Would you like to assign this to a form letter group?” This is an important question. I want to talk about this just a little bit.
What you are able to do is you think of this as a batch. We are batch sending signature requests. If I wanted to categorize or track this batch of signatures in a specific way, then this would be my opportunity to that through a form letter group. Okay? I could call this, for example, Quarter One Engagement Letter, individual tax form. Whatever it needs to be. That way, later on, through the management window, filter and search and sort that information based specifically on this group of signatures, right? Because you might be doing this for individuals, you might be doing this for your businesses. You might have monthly clients. Tracking all those one-offs can be tricky. You can if you need to. You can send this batch of form letter signature requests out at once and actually give it a very specific group name. Okay?
Once you’ve done that, it’ll take you to the next screen, which then now allows you to select the contacts. This is something you should get very familiar with. The reason being is because the more you know about what fields you can then filter and sort contacts based off of, the more opportunity I think that you can leverage form letters in different ways. What I mean by that is what we choose here is obviously who’s going to receive our letter. A couple things that I’m able to do is obviously just pick a client, okay? I can do it that way. I can pick groups of clients at once if I need to. Typically, what you’re probably going to do is you’re going to use your contact types, your entity types to filter that down. Maybe this goes to individuals. All right?
I can see down here on the bottom the recipients button, which says I have 19 recipients that fall into this particular group. I can actually click on this and view those people if I want to just double check. All right? You also have titles. You also have professions. You do have custom fields, Custom 1, 2, and 5. If you have information and you’re using those fields, such as let’s say QuickBooks users. Say you’re using Custom 1 as QuickBooks versions for your clients. You want to send all of them something to sign based on services you provide them in the context of QuickBooks and their version of QuickBooks. Perfect. You can choose that filter. Boom. Send their letter, have it signed, and it’s a done deal.
Here’s where it gets really powerful. This is something where if you haven’t been using this particular function yet, you may want to especially if you’re going to be using e-signatures or any kind of form letters for that matter within OfficeTools. That’s contact groups. Now, there’s a lot of ways in OfficeTools to do just that, to group contacts, clients, and entities in various ways, right? The fact that they’re our client and they’re a corporation. Or they’re a prospect and they’re an individual. All that stuff makes perfect sense and you have those tools with entity types and contact types to do that. Contact groups, however, allow you to customize it and build your own groups that you can then add contacts into however you see fit, even multiple groups.
This is where now you can start saying, “Well, what type of accounting client? What type of tax client are they? Are they easy clients? Are they trickier, more complex clients? Do we do other work for them? What other services do we provide?” Now, perhaps the engagement letter that I send, or the documentation I send, needs to take into account that we also do other reports for them or whatever it may be.
Start looking at the contact groups. Again, if you have questions about that, please reach out to email@example.com and we’ll be more than happy to go over some of those things with you. It becomes a very, very powerful tool to narrow this down and make sure that you’re quickly targeting very specific groups of contacts as efficiently as possible.
Okay. We’re going to leave all this blank again. This is fictitious data, so we’re not going to send out a whole bunch of things. We’ve seen enough already to know once I have chosen those groups, I can hit, “Okay” and then go ahead and sent out a blast, basically, to all of the clients that I have selected. That’s it. Then, it’ll begin to function as we did with the single one-off document, where I can view all those in the “Manage” window. The clients receive the documents to sign. Once they have signed it and all the other parties involved have signed it, we all receive our copy of it, and that document is then placed under that client specifically in their documents tab.
Okay. That’s really it in a nutshell. Okay. I told you guys it was going to be simple, it was going to be easy. There is some other little complications I want to bring up real quick. That comes back to various compliance regulations, specifically when we’re talking about the IRS and the types of documents. I definitely caution everybody to figure out in your particular state or region what those may be and what the legality and compliance standards would be when it comes to having electronic signatures for various documentation.
That being said, I can choose a document here and I’ll just grab one randomly to show everybody. If I go to send this document, there is actually an option you’ll see up here on the top part of the screen that says “Use IRS Compliance”. Again, while this does meet the compliance standards set forth by the IRS, this may not apply to your state and your clients and those things. I definitely would like everybody to look into this in their own context as best they can.
Here’s the functionality to clarify it. Once I check this box, when I then go to send this for signature, it’s actually going to go ahead … Oh, I didn’t put a signature on here. Let me do that real quick. When I go to send this, it’s actually going to now, in order to meet that compliance, we have to enable at least one of these knowledge-based verification methods. Okay? Social security number, date of birth, or custom question. If you want to be really secure, use all three. Your clients might not appreciate it, but it’ll be very secure. You have to choose at least one of these. This will pull from the data that you have stored within OfficeTools. Okay? That’s very, very important.
I do have some offices that choose to use this, at least the social security number or date of birth, for every document just as an added layer of security. Again, you can pick your own battles on that one. I definitely would like everybody to do their research in their own state, but we have met the standards for the IRS compliance when it comes to security and those particular documents. Okay.
In review, e-signatures are very easy. It’s built into the portal, however, it does require activation. If you’d like to use e-signatures, you first must obviously subscribe to the OfficeTools portal. If you’re already a portal user, contact us so we can activate the e-signatures function for you. Then, at that point, from a set-up, there’s not much to do other than choose the folder you would like your template saved in and actually being to create some templates if you want to use that. Okay? That’s pretty much it when it comes to actually using the e-signatures, it’s functions, and some of the things you may want to know about it.
At this point, I’ll go ahead and open up to more questions anybody may have regarding e-signatures, regarding the OfficeTools portal, or anything about OfficeTools in general. I’ll make this an open forum for the next five or six minutes. Whatever we have left here on the webinar.
While I’m waiting for some questions to come through, I’ll talk about some other things that are related to the portal and e-signatures that are kind of nice. When you receive back a notification that a document has been signed, this is just to go a little further into the discussion about the communication that happens. Yes, you receive, obviously, an email saying, “Here’s the document. It’s been signed.” When you actually open that up, it’ll take you to a screen where you can view the document. Okay? You can see the signatures. You have the detailed document trail.
We can see when it was sent, who signed it, when it was signed, all these various details that are very important, especially when we are talking compliance. This is all part of, again, what gets submitted back to the sender once a completed document has been received. That’s very handy. Very helpful.
The links do expire. If a client, or anybody who is part of that document, receives a notification that it’s been signed and it’s time to download, that link does expire after 30 days. If you send a document to a client, and they do sign it but they don’t choose to click the button to access that document within 30 days, they will not be able to retrieve that document. They’ll have to get in contact with you. Then, you can send it again via the portal or whatever other method you feel is appropriate. These are some of the little details I wanted to point out. The branding, as far as the logo and everything, again, that’s part of the set-up screens that we saw earlier.
Okay. Some more questions here. Okay. Someone asked … Did I mention that a spouse should be a dependent and not a main contact? Yeah, let’s go back over that a little bit more. I’ll clarify that for everybody as far as the spouses go. I know the word used, “dependent”, can mean a couple different things, but I’ll try to make it a little more straightforward. I’m going to use an actual couple here to maybe clarify it a little bit. The entity that I have in OfficeTools is the Adams family. That includes Arthur and Amy and possibly a couple kids. We’ll know here in a minute. In this example, on whether I want to determine them to be the main contact from a day to day communications point of view or they’re actually the main taxpayer, the entity itself has a main contact. In this example, it’s going to be Arthur. From an e-signature point of view, whenever I say “signature”, it’s going to assume that that’s Arthur. Okay?
Now, if I open up the “More Contacts” area here at the top of the screen, I can see Arthur. He’s right here as the main contact. Okay? We’ve got that. That’s great. I can hit the toggle button over here or come to the summary view and see all of the other family members that are set up within the system, okay? I can actually see Amy Adams right here. I can go ahead and navigate to Amy Adams. We can see under Amy Adams that she is set up as a dependent. Again, that’s just for a delineation of being related to the main contact or to the other contacts versus an acquaintance. I’ll clarify that in just a moment. Because I put Amy as a dependent, I can then actually choose the relationship. In this scenario, it is spouse.
For the spouse signature fields to be available in e-signatures, they do have to be under the entity, which in this case is Adams, Arthur and Amy. They have to be as a contact, the dependent type contact, and as a spouse. For example, I could have children in here, but they would not be a spouse, therefore they would not show up as a spouse for the e-signature field, just to clarify that a little bit more for everybody.
The reason we have dependent is because there’s another type of contact that we actually refer to as an alternate. Okay? Alternate contact. Again, I’ve just got a couple minutes, but I’ll try to wrap this up and clarify it as best I can. If we were talking about a business, a corporation, that type of entity, then there may be obviously multiple people in that entity that we deal with. They are not related to one another. They are not married. That’s not really the thing, but they are still associated in a certain way in the context of that business of that entity. We want to have them in here as alternates, right?
We want the owner. We want the bookkeeper. We want the professionals all in here as alternate contacts, because they all live in that entity, so to speak. When we get down to the individual level, however, typically those other contacts are family members: spouse, children, grandparents, things of that sort. That’s why we have both of those … I’m sorry, all three. We have the main contact. We have potentially an alternate. Then, we also have the dependent level. It really just depends is it a business? Is it individual? What is the actual relationship between all those people involved.
Okay. We’re getting right towards the end. Sorry, I’m looking over these questions here real quick. What if we don’t have an email for the spouse? Can you just use the client’s email and just change the name? No. If you want to send it … Okay, I get what you’re saying here. Yes, you could absolutely go into that “More Contacts” are, swap out the main contact field and make the spouse the main contact. However, it’s still going to require that they have an email address, unless you put in the main person’s email address underneath them.
To clarify, let’s say that you have a family. They have a single email address. The spouse does not have their own email address in OfficeTools. What I would recommend doing is adding that main email address under the spouse’s name. If Amy didn’t have an email address, as far as the officers are concerned would be the same as Arthur’s. Okay? That’s going to be your best bet in that scenario. Again, your mileage may vary depending on your clients and their needs.
Yes, an alternate would not be correct. The spouse fields available in e-signature require that they be set up as a spouse, not as an alternate. Can you have additional email addresses for a client, home and work? No, unfortunately not. Each entity does have a single email address. However, what you are able to do is simply just create more versions of that as alternate contacts if you would like. You can use all their different emails under those alternates.
Okay. We are right towards the end of this. If you have any more questions, please type those in. If I didn’t answer your questions clear enough or you need more details, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be more than happy to go over those questions in more detail with you. You can even schedule some one-on-one training if you’d really like to get down into the nitty-gritty. That being said, I want to thank everybody so much for joining me today. Please go to AbacusNext.com/webinars and sign up for next week’s webinar. You can view this webinar, it’ll be available online on that same site probably within the next couple of days. I imagine by at least Tuesday or so of next week. Again, thank you all very, very much for joining us. Please contact us if there’s anything else we can do. Everybody have a great weekend. Thank you very much.