As a professional tax preparer, it’s essential to safeguard your business, protect client data, and ensure continuity of service – even during the upheaval of natural disasters. If you live in an area that could be impacted by hurricanes, take advantage of this time before hurricane season to put a robust plan in place. In this post, we explore key strategies to help you prepare your tax office for hurricane season, ensuring your business is ready to bounce back and run smoothly as soon as possible.
Digitalize tax records
Digitalizing tax forms is one of the most effective steps to protect your clients’ sensitive information and ensure seamless operations during a hurricane. By transitioning to digital formats, you eliminate the risk of paper documents being damaged or lost. It’s wise to invest in reliable document scanning equipment to convert paper documents into secure digital files. Better yet, have clients send you their documents electronically using the secure document-sharing features available in the TaxesToGoTM app. When a hurricane approaches, you won’t have the added stress of packing or moving documents. Additionally, consider implementing electronic signature capabilities, enabling your clients to sign documents remotely, further streamlining the process.
Store records on the cloud
Going paperless is an excellent first step to safeguarding your office from the devastation of a hurricane – keeping your files in the cloud is even better. Incorporating cloud-based storage ensures files remain safe, even if your physical office is inaccessible or damaged. Always choose a reputable cloud service provider with robust security measures and data encryption protocols to guarantee the privacy and integrity of your clients’ information. TaxSlayer Pro Web offers industry-leading security features, automatically keeping your files organized and easy to navigate. With cloud-based storage through Pro Web, you won’t even have to worry about backing up your data before a hurricane. Your files are automatically backed up each time you log out.
If you use TaxSlayer Pro Classic or Premium and cloud-based storage isn’t an option, back up your files regularly on an external hard drive. Keep the external hard drive in a safe location (see below) and, if possible, take it with you for any evacuations.
Store critical items in a waterproof lockbox
Even with a paperless document system, you’re bound to have a few essentials in your office that you’ll want to safeguard. A waterproof lock box is a secure repository for critical documents and items like client contracts, identification documents, external hard drives, and other essential paperwork. Ideally, this lock box should be portable and easy to move, enabling you to transport critical documents to a safe location quickly. Of course, this means it won’t be big enough to store all client documents, which is why your digital, cloud-based storage system is still essential.
Ensure remote access capability
Hurricane-related disruptions can render your physical office inaccessible for an extended period. Therefore, having the ability to work remotely is crucial. Set up secure remote access to your business systems, enabling you and your team to continue working even if you cannot access your office. This may involve using virtual private networks (VPNs) to establish encrypted connections or utilizing cloud-based software like Pro Web that can be accessed from any location with an internet connection.
Create a comprehensive disaster recovery plan
In addition to your Data Security Plan (which tax preparers are required to have by law), consider writing out your plans for a natural disaster as well. Your data security plan should already cover the most essential part of your natural disaster plan: safely storing and preserving client data.
Next, you’ll want to consider the steps your office will take before and after a hurricane. If you have multiple employees, how will you communicate or work remotely when your office is inaccessible? If you or your team members need time off to address damage to your own homes, how will you communicate and set expectations with your clients? Your plan should include procedures for client communication, data recovery, equipment protection, remote work, and alternative workspace arrangements. Regularly review and update the plan to account for any changes or lessons learned from previous experiences.
Preparing your tax preparation business for hurricane season requires careful planning and proactive measures. By digitalizing tax forms, storing records on the cloud, preparing to work remotely, and having a natural disaster plan in place, you can protect your clients’ information and ensure uninterrupted operations.