Online form lodgment service GovReports has added the ability to receive from clients on digital signatures to activity statements, tax returns and other legal documents.
The digital signing process uses a security pattern and a secret question to verify users’ identities. Known as two-factor authentication, GovReports is looking at adding a third factor to increase security further.
Not only were digital signatures accepted by the Australian Taxation Office, they were preferred over inked or “wet” signatures, said Tiana Tran, managing director of eImpact, the company that makes GovReports.
“The digital signature is more secure than it is getting someone to sign it,” Tran says. The likelihood of someone digitally signing a document on someone else’s behalf was no greater.
When accountants email PDF documents they have no easy way to verify the identity of the signer or know if the signed document has been modified. Digital signatures reduce the chance of disputes over signing electronically mailed documents, Tran said. “The ATO could say the same thing (about hand-written signatures) – how do they know if the signature is real?”
GovReports’ digital signatures appear in a separate app but will soon be incorporated into GovReports when it releases the next version of its user interface, due shortly.
An accountant can request signatures on any page of a document and on any location on the page. For example, the accountant could request a signature on the bottom of every page as well as the signature box.
The accountant can write their own message when the document is ready to email the client from the GovReports signature app.
The client receives the email with a link to the document which takes them to a signing page in GovReports. They can draw a signature using their mouse or paste an image of a signature in each location.
Previously accountants used to draft documents in GovReports and send them to clients as a PDF to sign through an external digital signature app such as Echosign or Docusign, Tran said.
The digital signature app includes a dashboard that shows which clients have signed and which have documents pending. A history page shows documents that a client has already signed.
Accountants have used the app to send engagement letters or any legal document requiring sign off.
The digital signatures feature is free for 30 days to new users. Existing users can use it for free until 30 June. After that date it costs A$129 a year plus GST, or A$15 a month plus GST on a month to month basis. Heavy users signing thousands of documents pay more.