The effect of the Internet on accounting departments has created new challenges for many CPA firms and their clients. It has forced both dealerships and their CPAs to upgrade their computer systems, software and sometimes their personnel. The new and/or existing personnel need to be trained in Internet use with regards to accessing multiple dealership locations and suppliers, including banks and financial institutions.

Accounting departments have had to buy and install network versions of their accounting software. For example, they may have upgraded their accounting servers to accommodate Microsoft Outlook for e-mail, Microsoft Word for form letters to existing and prospective customers and Microsoft Excel to download various accounting data to produce reports that don’t exist in their current software.

Clients are now able to e-mail accounting information to their CPAs, rather than burn it to a CD or not send it at all. This enables both the client and the CPA to interact more quickly to review and adjust their accounting records. Examples of e-mailed files include QuickBooks and Peachtree data and backups, Excel spreadsheets to help analyze and recap information, text files to import into Excel, and other accounting and sales database files.

Besides upgrading their software, dealers have had to upgrade their printers to laser instead of inkjet, buy network instead of local printers, install scanners and run network cables to every workstation. Many office managers, or other personnel, need to be trained to understand the basics of new programs and hardware. This sometimes results in having to replace personnel who can’t learn or having to hire additional personnel who can do the job.

Many office managers have had to learn how to attach files to send to their accountants. And, they have also had to learn how to download files received by e-mail. Once these files are received, they must be saved to various folders so they can be accessed. Learning how to do this is easier than using the old DOS operating systems, but can still provide challenges to many people who are able to e-mail their friends but have never learned how to attach or download files.

Many office managers and dealers now access their bank accounts online each day to monitor their cash flow. They check to see if they have been funded for their car deals yet. The dealerships can e-mail their floorplan and line-of-credit payments to their lenders. They can download the cleared deposits and checks from their bank’s software and import them into their accounting software for reconciliation.

You, your accounting personnel or your accountant can access your data from any Internet connection using communication software such as PC Anywhere, VPN, VNC and terminal services connections. This enables real-time analysis of your dealership data with your accounting personnel. The Internet also lets you download the data to other software or third-party vendors you have authorized to receive your data.

Some dealerships have learned how to scan their documents into PDF or other types of image files, store them on their servers and/or e-mail them to their accountants for further review. Receiving PDF files by e-mail is an efficient and simple way to transmit data without the cost of a long distance phone call used by your fax machine. For the most part, these documents are also easier to read than faxes. They also do not have to be printed by the recipient; they can be reviewed on the screen and stored electronically on the recipient’s server for future reference. As we all know, paper takes up space and must be dealt with by all of us using various record retention rules eventually.

Hard drive space is much cheaper and easier to deal with than storage buildings, attics, etc. where we have stored all that paper in the past. An easy way to turn your reports and other data you may have printed in the past to electronic files is to use Adobe Distiller (not Adobe Reader, which has the ability to read PDF files but not to create them) or PDF freeware programs from the Internet to turn reports into electronic file formats. Basically, you can print to a PDF file, store them on your server and/or e-mail these documents instead of printing paper.

Has the Internet really improved your accounting department? I hope so. I know it has improved the methods in which we communicate with our dealers, their dealerships, their accounting departments, and the vendors and finance sources they utilize. We receive and send over the Internet on a regular basis various database files, text files, accounting software database files and backups, spreadsheets and word processing files, scanned images of various documents, PDF files, etc. We are able to log directly into many of our dealerships’ computer systems and review their accounting data as may be requested. We are able to print tax returns and financial statements to a PDF file and e-mail them to dealerships and their lenders with our clients’ permission. We are able to receive e-mails on our phones and reply to them without ever sitting in front of a computer.

Frankly, I don’t know how we ever got along without the Internet.

Vol. 6, Issue 5