Wouldn’t it be great if you could get rid of the towers of file cabinets with your records that are taking up space in your office? Many of your records can, and should, be kept digitally. Storing these records digitally not only allows you to free up that office space, but also offers you the ability to encrypt each file for maximum security, become essentially theft resistant, and search files within seconds.
What to Keep
Before you begin scanning all of your documents into digital form, you'll want to make sure you're keeping documents that are required by the IRS. No one likes to think they may one day be audited, but keeping solid records of all business transactions can save you a ton of money in the long run should an audit arise.
The IRS recommends keeping the following records for your business:
• All records of income including cash register tapes or invoices
• Any purchased materials for your customers,
• Expenses including travel, transportation and entertainment,
• Assets, such as machines or furniture for example, you use for business,
• All tax records.
Keep in mind, these records generally have a period of limitations, so you won't have to keep them forever. Transitioning your records to digital gives you an opportunity to purge items you've held onto, but may not need. The IRS can initiate an audit for up to three years after a tax filing. Any of the documents you have longer than that can safely be purged. Remember to keep your private financial data safe and shred the documents before throwing them away!
Most of the records you'll need to keep relate to your finances, so accounting software is a great way to store those files. If you've been in business for awhile, chances are you've at least heard of, if not used, Intuit QuickBooks.
QuickBooks products not only give you way to store your financial data digitally, but also include features like bill pay, profit reports, and prepare and print tax documents. QuickBooks offers a wide array of products to make sure you're getting everything you need for the size of your business.
QuickBooks online is a relatively new addition to their product line-up and is available for all of their various software. Instead of installing the software on one device, you'll have the ability to use QuickBooks on all devices, including tablets, all while keeping everything in sync. Pricing for QuickBooks online starts at $5/month.
Cloud Based Storage
We've talked about cloud based storage options a few times during our earlier going paperless segments, especially in last week's sharing and collaborating in the cloud piece. Though using cloud based options such as DropBox, iCloud Drive, or Google Drive don't necessarily automate the storage process for you, they all give a viable option to keeping a "hard drive in the sky" so- to-speak. This way, you're free to organize your documents into folders as you see fit!
In conjunction with this storage option, it's a good idea to utilize spreadsheet tools if you're not planning on purchasing full accounting software. Spreadsheets give a consistency to your data and also automate the mathematical aspect of financial record keeping. If you have a Mac, you can use Apple's Numbers software which is available free with the purchase of a new Mac, or for $14.99 in the App Store. Windows users can find Excel inside of the Microsoft Office suite, which starts at $149 for the home edition.
Don’t forget to backup!
In the paper world, you should be making copies of important documents as a failsafe in the event of disaster or theft. This basic concept is no different than in the digital world, so you’ll want to make sure your records stay backed up. Needs some ideas for backup solutions? We talked about backup strategies in our earlier post discussing tips for effective invoicing.
Creating a plan to store your records digitally is one of the easiest stops in the journey to create a paperless office. We hope our tips and tricks on going paperless over the last few weeks helped your business easily transition to a paperless office!
What are some of your successes after switching to a paperless office? Share in the comments below!