#TechTips: Auto Entry

By Jonathan Rivlin, CPA

Greetings from the lockdown, my fellow practitioners!

Today we’re going to profile an app called AutoEntry. This app provides a unique value proposition to the marketplace and demonstrates how far the cloud has come in such a short while. Yes, it’s true that certain jobs are under threat by the robots, but it’s also true that new jobs are being created.

AutoEntry is a program that seeks to automate certain facets of the data entry process. Specifically, A/P and A/R documents (bills and invoices), expense reports, and also bank statements. In our usage of the app, we focused on the bank statement process.

Before getting into the details, we’ll first give a little context. The situation should be familiar, sadly, to all of us. It was the midst of tax season, the work was piling up, and it was still early enough in the season when, even with years of experience, we still had the naive optimism that this season would be better. Despite the growing backlog, there was still a semblance of order and organization. Ahh, the before times…

And then, the call came. Followed by a series of emails, after hours txt msgs (that’s text messages for the digital illiterati), and more calls. A client was in need of a tax return for a refi and there was an urgent need to get the return done. Missed tax appointments, blown off reschedules, and unreturned phone calls not withstanding, queue needed jumping.

In the haze of overtime, the calculus of making the phone calls stop so we could get back to the work — that is to say the short term win, won out. (This type of thinking is a topic for another column!)

The fact that the client was on Xero helped, but there was still the matter of 12 months of back data to enter. Now, Xero comes with an ability to upload a *.CSV file, and this feature can shrink the data entry time down considerably. Working with *.CSV files is really a topic for its own column – for purposes of this article, just know that some steps needed to happen before we could use the *.CSV file feature. Namely, we had to get the data out of 12 months of PDFd bank statements.

Depending on your version of Adobe, you could potentially copy and paste the text from the PDF into an Excel worksheet, but most likely, you’d spend hours trying to format that data. Unless you’re one of the few that know some of the formulas and formatting tricks to clean up the data. That too is a subject for its own article.

In this case, there just wasn’t time.

Enter AutoEntry. We created our account, sent them the PDFs of the statements and within a few hours we received a properly formatted *.CSV file. At that point, we did a data sort by name, coded the transactions per the G/L account number from the Chart of Accounts and then uploaded the file. Xero’s workflow allowed us to mark these transactions as fully reconciled with the upload. It was a tax season miracle!

Now for some detail: AutoEntry doesn’t price by a monthly subscription like the other apps we’ve profiled. They go strictly by usage. For those old enough to remember those classic arcades where you’d trade in a Lincoln or Washington for some tokens that could be used on the games, you will be familiar with the concept. You purchase some ‘tokens’ through the site; the more you purchase at once, the lower the per token cost is. Each page works out to about $0.33, which goes down depending on how many tokens one purchases at once. In our case, we were just trying it out so we bought about $20 worth. This particular project cost about $6. The time it saved was well worth it.

Comparing this with the other methods like QuickBooks Desktop, One Write Systems, Excel, and there is really no comparison. The algorithm took the data from the statement, rendered in a usable format, we then added the accounting codes and uploaded it to Xero. Done.

With all that said, I’m not ready to switch our entire firm over to the software, but it is a relief to know that such a tool exists when the need arises. Reason for this position is that when a bank feed is available, that is the first choice to use, but when feeds aren’t available, or the volume of data exceeds a feed’s capacity, this app should be next on the list of go to solutions.

We’ve got another project coming up where a different client opened up three new credit cards and forgot to tell us. While we were able to setup feeds for them in their Xero file, the feed could only pull a 90 day history. We’ll be using the rest of those tokens to back fill in the data from when they opened the cards to when the feeds started.

Hope this helps. Stay safe!

We’d like to hear from you: Please submit your tech tips to us! We will award a free subscription to The Tax Book to the person who submits the best tip. Please submit your tips to this email address: techtips@msatp.org

Thanks, and catch you next time!