#TechTips: Doing Well While Doing Good: MVLS and Tax Controversy

By Jonathan Rivlin for MSATP

In a recent edition of our Society’s journal, The Free State Accountant, there was a column that talked about volunteering for the Maryland Volunteer Lawyer’s Service’s (MVLS) Low Income Tax Clinic.

Tech Tips will affirm the benefits of serving the public by taking on pro bono cases into your practice. But the focus of this post, being tech oriented, is on a secure portal app called Canopy Tax.

This is the portal service that we use in our practice. Prior to that, we used SecureDrawer. Before that, we used morse code and carrier pigeons.

CanopyTax — Canopy for short — is an app that is native to the cloud. This feature is critical; this isn’t some antiquated desktop device “reskinned” for a webpage (looking at you QBO!) – this portal’s very design is couched in the cloud.

Canopy was created by CPA’s for CPA’s. It functions as a secure portal, a CRM, a workflow app that syncs with your Outlook for email and calendars, and apropos to today’s post, it has features designed to make tax controversy work more efficiently.

Canopy can link into IRS eServices to download taxpayer transcripts. Think about how efficient this can be! Sensitive docs can be accessed without emailing, stored in the correct client profile without scanning, and the notations can be updated on the fly.

Furthermore, there are templates for common notice replies.

The biggest win for us has been the ability for any staff member to track the status of a particular matter.

Canopy also helps with engagement letters and file storage/organization.

When our clients get new documents, receipts for charitable donations, paystubs they want us to analyze for withholdings, etc – they know by now to automatically upload the document to Canopy.

Canopy sends us an email whenever a client makes an upload. We couch this as a service to our clients and encourage them to use the portal and make it their habit.

Canopy restricts deleting and organizing files to us alone. Under our old portal, clients could make multiple folders, move files around, and delete files — that’s a problem. Canopy puts us in control of the docs.

Canopy is user friendly and intuitive; it’s interface is clean and easy on the eyes. Since we’ve adopted this app, it has become indispensable to us and is the first thing we access after turning our computers on (after turning on the coffee machine of course!)

Between Canopy, SurePrep/TaxCaddy, Xero, Expensify, Bill.com, Gusto, and Futrli, the only reason we still have a server is for Lacerte. Though, the way things are going, we anticipate being able to ditch the server at some point in the next 3 years.

So there you have it, a tour through the Cloud! We’ve covered a lot during this cycle of posts. Future posts will include new apps, as well as deeper dives into these previously covered apps (which are always being updated and improved), as well as other tech related issues facing our industry.


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

Thanks, and catch you next time!