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Digital fax: the future of modern accounting

Digital fax: the future of modern accounting

What does being an accountant mean these days?

Critics would argue that accounting is nothing more than money-grabbing mathematics and exploiting legal loopholes, but according to the CEO of the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, Lee White:

“Accounting has changed, and it’s not just about numbers… The profession continues to evolve. Following the GFC, the role of accountants changed once again, with many Chartered Accountants now providing business strategic advice as well as the financials. Little wonder client conversations with accountants almost invariably touch on personal aspirations, hopes and fears. In a complex world, it can be reassuring to have an accountant in your corner.”

Number-crunching aside, it seems the role of the accountant has evolved into one that must provide clients with pastoral as well as financial advice in order to be at the top of their game. This is all well and good, but if, like many accountants, you’re already feeling the strain of too little downtime, this kind of client hand-holding might seem like a stretch too far.

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Streamlining your accounting business, especially admin management, is a great way to buy back some client-focussed time (and still have some left over for you). Likewise, updating your means of client communication ensures they get the reliable support, timely advice and up-to-the-minute expertise they’re looking for in a proactive firm.

Does this describe your firm’s approach to accounting? More to the point, does this describe your firm’s fax machine?

It may sound ridiculous, but that defective, expensive and out-dated machine in the corner of your office could be costing you more than just paper and toner.

It could be costing you clients.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link and while faxing is a necessary evil of such a document-heavy business like accounting, thankfully, fax machines are no longer required.

Welcome to the world of online fax.

What is online fax?

Online faxing (aka ‘digital faxing’) is a way of sending and receiving faxes via the internet, without the use (or inconvenience) of a traditional fax machine. You will still have a normal fax number and you can even keep your old one. Everyone can still use their clunky old machines to send faxes back and forth without fail. The only difference is that, on your end, everything is digital.

Instead of using a fax machine to send and receive faxes, you can use your mobile or computer. Depending on your online fax provider, there are a few ways you might do it: by email, using a website or with an app on your mobile, tablet or computer.

A good online fax provider will give you the option of all three methods.

In other words, with online fax, you can send and receive faxes in much the same way you send an email. All you need is an internet connection and you’re good to go. Just as you don’t need an email machine to send emails, you don’t need a fax machine to send faxes.

Fast, efficient document management

There’s no getting away from the fact that accounting is paperwork. Signatures, countersignatures and duplicate documents for multiple clients and every precious scrap must be filed and stored meticulously for years to ensure all those crucial AASB boxes are ticked. It all adds up to a mountain of admin and a mammoth task in curating it, not to mention the physical space those files take up.

Impeccable records and good organisation mean more efficient time management. Chances are you’re already making good use of cloud storage, but online fax enables you to take your cloud-based document management a step further.

No more frantic searches for lost faxes or stacks of paperwork to sort, scan, and upload. Internet faxing allows you to send, receive and store faxes digitally. You can even search archived documents in the same way you search your email, so you can lay your hands on the exact piece of ‘paperwork’ you need at the touch of a button. How’s that for organised?

Needless to say, slicker document management also frees up time to focus on other things, whether that’s growing and nurturing your client base or addressing your work/life balance – it’s a win-win.

Increased security

Not only are digital fax documents easier to find than loose fax pages, but they’re also harder for anyone else to pick up. Faxes come directly to your fax inbox (or to your office manager, or whoever else you want), just like an email.

However, unlike email, online fax uses a more complex up-to-date encryption method (TLS), ensuring documents cannot be hacked or tampered with. This, along with the time-and-date stamp that’s applied to all digital faxes to confirm transmission and receipt of the document, means that online faxing is compliant with all the rules and regs satisfied by traditional fax, without all the fuss.

If you want to ensure even greater client privacy, look for a provider that offers a service using multiple online fax numbers. This way, each accountant in your practice has their own private fax number and faxes can be sent directly to the intended recipient.

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Sign documents online

There’s a good reason accounting calls for so much paperwork. There are just some things that have to be done in hardcopy, black and white – either for legal reasons, like signing documents and lodgement of forms with the ATO, or because of long-standing convention.

The tedious process of printing, signing, scanning, storing, and sending signed documents is all too familiar, never mind the frustration and time wasted when something, somewhere, goes wrong. What should be a simple t-crossing, i-dotting task becomes a farcical ordeal.

Opting for an online fax provider who offers the ability to sign and fax online, in a mobile app, avoids all this hassle. Faxes can be received, signed, saved, and returned online in just a couple of clicks, using either the signature app or your touchscreen. There’s no need to print, and documents can be signed on the go, so there’s no hanging around the fax machine either.

And yes, those signatures are legal. According to Australian and international law, electronic signatures are legally binding in the exact same way as signing a hardcopy document. The only differences are the time, effort, expense and trees you’ll save doing it digitally.

Digital faxing, the internet, and the nbnTM

You may already be experiencing some of the joys that come with trying to use your old-school analog fax alongside nbnTM. If not, and the nbnTM is yet to reach your premises, brace yourself: traditional fax machines don’t work with nbnTM. Full-stop.

There are a few workarounds that work for some people, but they’re time-consuming, require technical expertise and are very unreliable. Overall, the success rate of adapting a fax machine to work with the nbn is about 50%. At best, it’s a headache; at worst, deadlines are missed, deals don’t close, and furious clients are left red-faced with rage while yours is red with embarrassment. All this screams ‘incompetence’ – a very dirty word in accounting.

The beauty of online faxing is how it works alongside other technologies. Because it uses digital technology, like email, you can send and receive faxes anytime, anywhere, so long as your device of choice has connectivity – whether through the nbnTM or any other sort of connection. Online faxing works every time, all the time. Something that cannot be said for traditional fax machines.

But what if your internet goes down? Fear not! Simply switch your device to mobile data or set up an internet hotspot from your phone and connect to your computer. Whatever happens, you’ll be able to send and receive faxes to your heart’s content, be it in the office or at the cricket – no more loitering around the fax machine on a Friday night for that all-important contract to come through.

Cost-effective faxing

Maintaining a traditional fax machine is a costly business – for any business, but an accountancy practice especially. Paper, toner, line rental, paper, servicing, electricity, more paper – the list of consumables is endless. In fact, it costs around $600 a year to run a traditional fax machine. As accountants, is that an expense you can justify?

With online faxing, there are no hidden expenses or pricey maintenance costs, just a low monthly fee that can be tailored to suit your faxing needs. You only pay for what you send, and if you need to top up your plan, you can.

While we’re back on the subject of numbers, it might interest you to know that eFax alone handled over 18 million successful digital fax transmissions in 2017 – that’s equivalent to 36M smiles, if we’re counting sender and recipient. 36 million people who got to close that deal, sign that document, and go home on time. In this day and age, and in a business that relies so heavily on faxing, shouldn’t that be the norm in your firm, too?

Still have questions?

Give us a call on 1800 283 361 to chat about how eFax will benefit your accounting business.

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