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Electronic signatures available for Australian tax returns

Posted 6 years ago in Product by Matthew Prouse
Posted by Matthew Prouse

Before I joined Xero almost three years ago, I spent eight years in practice in Western Australia. In that time, I literally entered, prepared and printed thousands of client income tax returns.

In a typical week, I would have wasted five–seven minutes per client waiting for the black-and-white laser printer under my desk to finish making strange noises, curling pages, running out of paper or toner, and smearing blobs of ink randomly, in order for my clients to review their tax returns and sign the necessary lodgement declarations.

Even more time would be lost if I had to post the returns to the client or email them and wait for them to print their copies, sign the declarations and email scanned copies back to me.

Go paperless with eSign for Xero Tax powered by Adobe

Matthew Prouse at Xerocon Melbourne 2015

At Xerocon last month, I stood up on the stage with Craig Little and Mel Power and announced an exciting new partnership with Adobe Document Cloud and then demonstrated electronic signatures for income tax returns prepared using Xero Tax.

The launch of eSign represents almost 12 months of hard work and negotiation with leading technology providers, professional bodies, insurers and government agencies to deliver a world class solution for Registered Tax Agents and BAS Agents. With over 40 million users of eSign services, Adobe Document Cloud is a global leader in e-signature and cloud document storage.

From today, Xero partners can go paperless and sign up for eSign from within Xero Tax and Practice Manager. Clients can now electronically sign their income tax returns safely and securely on any device.

Bondi Blue Accounting – esign

For $300 – less than the cost of a typical workplace toner cartridge – a tax agent can purchase a bundle of up to 3000 signatures from within Xero Tax and Practice Manager. Once a tax return has been approved, it can be safely sent to the client via the eSign portal for review and secure signing.

If your client is already on Xero, they just need to login with their username and password to view their tax returns. If they’re a non-business client – or haven’t yet upgraded to Xero – they’ll only need to create a password and provide a phone number in order to view their tax return and sign the lodgement declaration.

A full audit trail is saved with every signature and automatically retained within Xero Tax for future reference. E-signatures can be used on all 2014 and 2015 income tax returns and will be added to activity statements and FBT returns later this year.

Environmental impact – green Xero in more ways than one

Since 1 July, more than 1000 accounting practices have used Xero Practice Tools to lodge income tax returns and activity statements with the ATO.

If a typical practice prepares 1,500 tax returns per annum and each return is between 8 and 10 pages then, assuming no errors, typos or reprints, a total of 13,500 pages are used per practice just to print hard copies of returns for clients to sign.

That totals more than 13 million pages per year (more than 27,000 reams of A4 paper), excluding envelopes, reprints and additional client copies. This means that for less than the cost of a typical workplace toner cartridge per practice, more than 64 tonnes of paper will be saved.

Paperless working in the cloud

What’s next?

In the coming months, we plan to introduce electronic signatures to activity statements, bank feed forms, practice reports, and New Zealand GST and income tax returns. Engagement letters, quotes and other custom documents produced by Xero Practice Manager and WorkflowMax will be supported at a later stage.

Get started

If you have financial privileges within Xero Tax or Practice Manager then you will be able to purchase eSign within the app. If you would like to learn more about electronic signatures, please refer to the Practice Studio Help Centre, speak to your dedicated account manager or register for a Xero Tax in Action webinar next week to see eSign for yourself.

If you are new to Xero Tax, check out the Getting Started video, visit the new dedicated Xero Tax page or sign up for a free trial of Xero Tax and see for yourself.

Like all of Practice Studio, Xero Tax is a benefit of the partner program for silver partners and above. Alternatively, it can be purchased for a small monthly fee.


John Curley
September 24, 2015 at 7.37 pm

Fantastic, cannot wait to try it

Peter Glanz
September 30, 2015 at 2.25 pm

So, as I understand it, the program will be available for Australian Activity Statements lodged by BAS Agents in time for the December BAS returns, and NZ GST and Income Tax will be soon thereafter? Can’t wait to be able to get Declarations electronically signed for the December BAS returns.

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