Practice Management

Intuit Picks SmartVault for Tax Document Management

Written by Charlie Russell

Intuit is partnering with SmartVault to integrate the SmartVault document management system (DMS) with Intuit ProSeries and Intuit Lacerte, replacing the Intuit-provided DMS functions that have been a part of those products in the past. This partnership provides users of ProSeries and Lacerte with not only one of the best cloud-based document management systems available, it also provides them with a secure customer portal for exchanging documents.

Intuit has a number of different document management features in various products that it supports. They all work in different ways and keep their documents in separate storage vaults. If you look at the document management features in ProSeries/Lacerte, QuickBooks desktop and QuickBooks Online, you see that each of these systems works very differently and stores data in different ways. I believe that this creates a maintenance issue for Intuit as well as makes it difficult to expand the products to add new features.

In the case of ProSeries and Lacerte, Intuit made the decision to not offer its own document management system starting with the product for Tax Year 2014 and, instead, will be partnering with SmartVault to seamlessly integrate ProSeries and Lacerte with SmartVault.

I’ve had a chance to preview this, so let’s take a look.

SmartVault: Chunkification Personified

One of the significant industry trends that Doug Sleeter has talked about for years is Chunkification, how the accounting software market is being served by large “chunks” that address specific business functions, which can then work together to provide an integrated system to solve the specific needs of a business. Some of these chunks can be considered “core” chunks, horizontal products that can be used to tie a wide variety of other chunks together and provide uniform services across all.  SmartVault is an excellent example of this kind of “core” chunk.

SmartVault is a cloud-based document management system that works with a growing ecosystem of products, providing a single full-featured repository for your (and your client’s) documents. See our reviews of how SmartVault integrates with QuickBooks, QuickBooks Online and Xero.

SmartVault Ecosystem

 

Figure 1: The SmartVault Ecosystem

In addition to document management, SmartVault provides a client portal that can be used to exchange documents securely with your client. You can customize this with our own branding.

Intuit Picks SmartVault

As it has announced to its ProSeries and Lacerte subscribers, Intuit has decided to discontinue its own DMS feature for the 2014 release. The DMS feature was removed from customer renewals, and a notice was sent out to all users. Intuit acknowledged that its customers have asked for a more feature-rich DMS, as well as the ability to create custom-branded portals for secure document exchange.

By integrating with SmartVault, Intuit can now provide:

  • Built-in document management integrated with both Lacerte and ProSeries, which also can work with QuickBooks.
  • An integrated secure client portal for sharing files with clients, which can also be branded.
  • Easy setup using existing client data and templates.
  • The ability to print and share tax returns with staff and clients with one click.
  • The ability to batch email clients.

You can see details on the change at:

SmartVault Integration with ProSeries and Lacerte

The integration is still in beta test status as I write this article, with the intent that it will be rolled out to customers in June. Please note that I have not had the opportunity to test this extensively, so this is just a preview of a few of the features. I’m showing Lacerte here, the features will be very similar with ProSeries.

Conversion/Setup

From your client list in Lacerte or ProSeries, you can easily import your clients into SmartVault. Figure 2 shows the Lacerte customer list, with the SmartVault import window displayed.

Importing the Lacerte client list

Figure 2: Importing Clients into SmartVault

Within SmartVault, you can see that the customer list has been imported, and a separate folder is created for each client (Figure 3).

Folder list created in SmartVault

Figure 3: Folder list created in SmartVault

The structure of the folders is guided by a set of templates. You can modify these templates to fit your needs. Different tax types can be set up to create a different folder structure, so you can (for example) have a different structure for a business client (Figure 4) versus an individual (Figure 5).

Business client folders

Figure 4: Business client folders

Individual tax return folders

Figure 5: Individual tax return folders

Conversion of your existing documents from the Lacerte/ProSeries DMS into SmartVault should also be a part of this integration. That cannot be demonstrated at this point of the beta test, but it is the plan to make this transition as easy as possible. This is an important feature, so I hope that it can get implemented soon. If not, you still have the ability to move documents into SmartVault using the “SmartVault Drive” to drag and drop individual files.

Managing Documents in SmartVault

Once you are set up in SmartVault, you have a number of features for managing the documents. For example, as shown in Figure 6:

  • You can see a list of the documents in any folder. You can view the documents from here very easily.
  • On a folder-by-folder basis, you can control notifications so you can be notified (for example) when a user posts a new file via the customer portal.
  • You have user-by-user control over permissions for the documents in each folder.

SmartVault Documents

Figure 6: Managing documents in SmartVault

Receiving Documents from the Client

It’s always best practice to use a secure method to transmit documents, but clients don’t always follow the rules. SmartVault provides you with multiple ways of receiving and storing documents that your clients want to send to you.

If your client sends files as email attachments, SmartVault has plugins for Outlook and Gmail that make it easy for you to import the files. Figure 7 shows this using Outlook.

SmartVault with Outlook

Figure 7: Importing from Outlook

A better method is to get your clients to use your secure client portal. This is a feature that you didn’t have with Lacerte/ProSeries before, and it’s a great advantage to have the portal interact directly with the DMS.

SmartVault Customer Portal

Figure 8: The SmartVault Customer Portal

Saving to SmartVault from Lacerte and ProSeries

From within Lacerte/ProSeries, saving your tax returns is very simple. You just “print” the return, sending it to PDF, and the document will be posted directly to SmartVault in the appropriate place. You do not have to navigate to the proper folder, SmartVault knows where to save it (Figure 9).

Saving tax return to SmartVault

Figure 9: Saving the tax return to SmartVault

At this time, the integration does not provide support for annotation and bookmarks of the PDF file. This is something that’s being worked on, and they say it will be added as soon as possible.

Pricing and Availability

The current plan is to charge $360.00 a year per firm, which should include the DMS for both Lacerte and ProSeries. Check with SmartVault for details as things could easily change. This will get you two user accounts for your staff and unlimited clients. Your clients don’t have to pay anything to use your portal. You get 500 GB of storage as part of an introductory offer. Additional user accounts for your office are $15.00 per month, per account.

My Thoughts

As I mentioned earlier, this currently is in beta test. I’ve not had an opportunity to exercise this, so I can’t comment on the quality and responsiveness of the integration with Lacerte/ProSeries. However, I have been using SmartVault for a long time now, and it is an excellent product.

There are some important pieces that they plan to implement, but they can’t be demonstrated yet. The ability to convert your existing documents from the Lacerte/ProSeries DMS into SmartVault properly is going to be a key issue. I would wait to convert to this new system until I knew that this was available. However, of all the software developers I have reviewed, SmartVault is the most reliable as far as delivering on features they promise.

Some firms will be concerned because this is moving your documents into a cloud-based solution. SmartVault is very aware of the needs for a high level of security, and I believe SmartVault has addressed this very well. If you aren’t sure of this, I recommend you review SmartVault’s security FAQ for details on how security is addressed.

On the other hand, moving from local storage to a cloud product provides you with many features that you can’t get otherwise. The branded portal will actually increase security for document exchange with your clients.

I think this is a very smart move by Intuit, one I hope is extended to all its products.

SmartVault was a recipient of a 2011 Awesome Add-on award from The Sleeter Group.

Members of The Sleeter Group Consultants Network are eligible for the SmartVault Solution Partner Program.


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About the author

Charlie Russell

Charlie Russell has been involved with the small business software industry since the mid 70's, and remembers releasing his first commercial accounting software product when you had an 8-bit microcomputer with one 8 inch floppy disk drive. He has a special interest in inventory and manufacturing software for small businesses. Charlie is a Certified Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor with additional certifications for QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Enterprise, as well as being a Xero Certified Partner. Charlie started blogging about QuickBooks in 2008 (Practical QuickBooks) and has been the managing editor and primary writer for the Sleeter Report since 2011. Charlie can be reached at charlie@ccrsoftware.com

Visit his CCRSoftware web site for information about his QuickBooks add-on products. He is also the author of the California Wildflower Hikes blog.

19 Comments

  • The move to SmartVault will provide more options than Lacerte DMS, but the one item I’ve not seen addressed by Intuit is the increased costs for those of use who have more than two users. It looks like this will cost me $1,000+. I’m not yet convinced that I’ll get a return on the investment.

    • Hello Hal,

      Probably the biggest advantage over DMS is the integrated client portal with automation and mail merge capabilities to create a highly efficient tax workflow. I encourage you to reach out to sales@smartvault.com directly. We will have volume pricing available for larger firms.

      Best,
      Dania

  • Intuit not in love with SmartVault, it’s only ‘like’. Love would have been reflected in Intuit buying SmartVault. That’s what Intuit does, buy what the love, key components that are long term solutions. This move is about positioning Intuit to compete right now in the mid-market with Thomson Reuters UltraTax CS & File Cabinet CS and the like in streamlining workflow.

    This is cost prohibitive for the small practitioner. In fact in the last few years Intuit has priced out the small practitioner for even Pro Series and you’ll see lots of discussion about this reality all over LinkedIn. Lots of small practices have had to bid Intuit farewell and move to Drake, ATX, etc and the like due to Intuit’s pricing structure that’s designed to squeeze every last penny out of the small practice.

    SmartVault’s a nice tool however they really should update the interface, very 1990’s in look and feel.

    • While this move is promising, I am inclined to agree with Carl. I have used ProSeries for 3 1/2 years with DMS. I have seen my package go from $2000 to now about $2500 with the same add ons. Now I just got an offer from Drake for $1095 with everything that I would be paying $2500 for. I am seriously looking at switching during the off season. I don’t see Intuit keeping their prices in the affordable range for small business anymore. I didn’t mind paying a few hundred dollars more for a product I really like. However $1000 to $1500 more is just not reasonable.

  • I would feel a lot better if the base fee ($360) was part of our Certified ProAdvisor membership with two internal users and then charge us for each client user at $15 a year. Similar to the way remote access worked. It gives me a reason to use it and recommend it.

  • After trying the free trial of Smart Vault, I can say with 100% certainty that our firm will not be using the product. I’m sure the portal is great, but it seems that the product is just that, a portal with data storage. Lacerte DMS had so many tools available that we utilized for tax preparation and Smart Vault does not have these. The scanning function is a huge step down from Lacerte DMS and would cost us a lot of time, the annotation tools are not there (they are looking into it for TY14, but I’m not holding my breath)and the whole process seems bulky and inefficient compared to Lacerte DMS. We are looking into new DMS programs to use for TY14.

    • What other DMS programs are you looking at? I would be interested in looking at those too. SmartVault is also not the way we want to go.

        • CS File Cabinet is a bit clunky but is somewhat fully integrated into UltraTax and its Fixed Asset module as well as a standalone software.

          The problem you’ll face is putting up with UltraTax with its clunky and half-ashed interface.

          Visit the UT support/community forums… there’s still lots of issues with UT in which the company refuses to implement necessary changes into the software to make it User friendly!

  • @Danielle M we have recently moved our entire Intuit DMS to box.com.

    It’s been a great move.

    We’re using CloudZap to print, scan and publish directly to box.com. Box does it all, and has a huge selection of add-ons. If you have less than 11 users and 100 gig of data,the starter account is only $5 per user/month.

  • For all of you that think that online storage is a good idea I have one word for you:

    Heartbleed

    Tax returns are the richest source of information ever, any company/government would benefit tremendously by harvesting it.

    Think about it, hackers could solely focus on attacking one server, which could result in compromising the taxpayers’ information whose returns were prepared by the leading software company. Remember Anonymous? one more US unethical invasion and get them on our case…

    IT professionals know that allowing internet data flow through a local server is not wise, but willingly upload data automatically to an online server for storage is downright stupid.

    • Julia, Heartbleed was a dangerous situation for awhile, but not the best argument that you can make. Note that researchers point out that there were minimal problems from heartbleed because of the nature of the hack AND the quick response from vulnerable sites. And the banking-level protected sites didn’t have the issue. SmartVault wasn’t vulnerable.

      Online or cloud storage is a fact of life, all the banks and credit card companies are doing it. I would be more concerned about protecting my banking accounts and debit cards than I would worry about document storage online.

      Add to that the issue of being vulnerable even if you aren’t online. I had a customer back in the early 80’s whose server system, not connected to the Internet (there wasn’t a universally accessible Internet then) had a security breach, worse than anything that any of my current customers have had to deal with. And then, do you still write checks, or use your debit card? Bigger vulnerabilities there.

      You do have to be careful with online storage, you have to protect your assets by choosing the proper partners to work with, and pay attention to your business processes.

      • Dear Charly,

        Allow me to spell out the nature of my “heartbleed” one-word example of why uploading data into the cloud is not a wise desition:
        – Heartbleed was a vulnerability that was persistent for over 2 years before it was caught.
        – 18% of “secure servers” were vulnerable to it.
        – its prime vulnerability was on TLS protocol which was at fault and at the most risk. Do you know that such protocol is used for uploading things into any server? So by definition any online backup system that relies on uploading info to a remote server was at risk.

        But again, it’s just an example of online vulnerability, and if Google and Yahoo were at serious risk with literally thousands of computer engineers working on their network security, what makes you think that a company such as SmartVault with just a handful of IT professionals is any better at preventing this type of threats? Because their marketing material says so? Because they claim to have banking-level security? Are we seriously that naive?!

        As a SmartVault evangelist that you have become in the industry, I’m not sure if you are just passionate about the web storage option or if intuit is cutting you a check for endorsing this quite honestly poorly thought product. If you are truly enthusiastic about an online backup solution, and you don’t mind putting clients social security numbers at risk, why don’t you at least go with a smoother and speedier solution like efileCabinet? SmartVault is Lacerte integrated yet substantially slower/inferior product. So unless you get a check…

        I know that online life is everywhere. I’m a millenian so I use an app for almost everything, literally. I swipe my card and pay with my cellphone daily for most transactions, as quite honestly I think that cash is rather dirty and full of bacteria. I upload my pictures, texts and adventures online constantly, and my best friend is twitter. However, I don’t think I disclose EVER my social security number, nor my AGI in any of my online activities! And even if I were to put myself in a vulnerable position, risking my own information and making myself a victim of identity theft, it would serve me right and I would have no one to blame but myself.

        But that’s far from having your CPA making a rather naive and big-corporate-driven desition to upload thousands of Tax returns to the cloud, which most likely will be without the taxpayer authorization to do so (assuming we don’t cowardly snick that into the engagement letter).

        So as an educated tax professional, with strong Silicon Valley industry background, in both marketing and IT, I can honestly stand by my assesment and call it for what it is: a greedy move from Lacerte with a conceptual product that is downright stupid.

        • Julia, I had to laugh when I read your comment asking if “Intuit is cutting you a check” on this. Very funny! Intuit doesn’t do things like that – although in full disclosure I’ll point out that I did do some writing for Intuit a few years ago for some articles that they posted in one of their own blogs (not related to any product reviews). I don’t get any compensation from any vendors that I write about.

          Web security is a serious issue. However, you ignore the security issues of storing documents in local servers, which also is a serious issue. And, identity theft isn’t limited to storing your information online, as I can attest to based on my own issue with that which involved an employment database that was stored on an offline system at a local University.

          I do like SmartVault. I know the people there, I know the product, and the product is integrated with a wide number of other products that I use. efileCabinet looks to be a good, competitive product, but I don’t come across it with as many products that I work with, and integration is a key issue for me. As far as how well it works with Lacerte, I can’t speak to that as I’m not a Lacerte user myself. This article was primarily aimed at reporting what Intuit has chosen to do. If Intuit had picked efileCabinet then I would have reported on that instead.

          • Charlie,

            – integration is good when fluid. So far SmartVault takes 1 to 2 minutes processing each return. So no, it is not worth it when compared to a 15 second alternative option.

            – Not ignoring local server security, in fact in my original post I advocate blocking any internet access at all in those servers (small command prom commands will ensure that even stations connected to the web won’t carry any web traffic into those servers)

            – If you are not a Lacerte user and Intuit does not cut you a check…

            Peace out.

            Julia

  • Practitioner with 25 clients, happy with Pro-Series & Intuit DMS. Inability to move prior yr. data to Smart Vault without a lot of help from Smart Vault (at a cost)should tell you something. Scanning function (without special scanners) sounds like a duct tape solution.

  • eFileCabinet continues to see a lot of accountants who use Lacerte and ProSeries switching over to our DMS solution. Most of them are concerned about the volatility of Intuit’s attitude toward supporting a DMS to work with those two software programs. They want something they can use now and expect to have available in the future without having to re-vamp how their existing document storage and management processes work.

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