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Contributing Author: Dominique Molina
The modern office faces a deluge of paper every day.
From faxes to printed emails to receipts and more, today’s businesses consume a great deal of paper.
While going completely paperless isn’t always desirable or wise, there are some things you can do to reduce your dependence on paper.
By making your bookkeeping paperless, you accomplish several things:
- You lessen your impact on the environment.
- You mitigate the risk of lost information due to disaster.
- You improve your overall efficiency.
If you want to work toward making your bookkeeping paperless, here are seven key steps you need to implement:
Start with Bookkeeping Software
There are a number of affordable bookkeeping packages out there that are perfect for small businesses.
If you’re still relying on paper ledgers, it’s time to make the change.
The money you’ll save at tax time when your tax specialist is able to access your accounting software instead of sifting through your ledger.
Consider Scanning Receipts
Shoeboxes full of receipts are a disaster at tax time and they create a massive paper mess that you need to account for.
Instead, consider scanning your receipts.
Most of the bookkeeping software on the market today has an attachment feature that will allow you to scan an image of your receipt and attach it to a given transaction.
This means you only ever need to touch the receipt once – long enough to put it into your software.
Use Electronic Invoicing
There are a number of ways that you can move clients from paper checks and invoices to electronic checks and invoices. Your accounting package can often do this or you can rely on a third party to handle it.
For example, you can do something as simple as using PayPal to invoice customers and interface directly with many accounting packages.
Create and Implement a Backup and Recovery Procedure
Because you’re not keeping boxes and boxes of receipts, you need to make sure that your bookkeeping files are backed up.
By the way, online file storage services are the easiest and often the cheapest way to do this.
Whichever method you choose, make sure you’re backing up your data every time you enter transactions or daily if that tends to happen multiple times a day.
Talk with Vendors about Reducing Paper
Some vendors may be able to put you on an electronic invoicing system. The same goes for your financial institution statements.
This is the best way you have not only to control the amount of paper that your office is generating, but how much is coming into your office that, subsequently, needs to be managed.
Know Your Regulatory Requirements
Some industries have strict policies about what information you need to keep and for how long. Usually, there are specific policies in regard to electronic information, too.
There may even be specific protocols that have to be followed in terms of security which will affect exactly how and where you store your financial backups. Make sure that your procedures meet these requirements or you risk a violation and subsequent fine.
Identify and Implement Other Areas Where You Can Reduce Paper
For example, you may be able to reduce paper in your payroll process. You might decide to move to an Internet-based fax service for the purposes of sending and receiving faxes.
Talk to your employees about your desire to go paperless, and listen to their input. They may have ideas about additional ways you can reduce your paper or identify areas where going paperless may not be the best idea.
In the beginning, going paperless doesn’t always improve the efficiency of your business. There’s a learning curve and it will often take time to get buy-in from your employees.
In the end, however, you’ll save your company money while doing your part for the environment by reducing the amount of paper that your company generates and stores over time.
About the Contributing Author:
Dominique Molina is President of the CertifiedTaxCoach.org, a professional organization that helps tax professionals deliver thousands in tax savings to their clients.
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