I think the first hurdle to going paperless is probably a psychological one – you like knowing that you can physically hold those important pieces of paper and it is hard to change systems that you’ve been using successfully for years.
I’ve recently gone through the process of getting accounting records to an auditor who was interstate. It involved a lot of scanning of supporting paperwork, which was very time consuming. Now that I’ve gone through that process I’ve changed the way I work throughout the year for that organisation so that I will be better prepared for next year’s audit. The added bonus is that more of the organisation’s documents will be saved in soft copy that can be easily backed up with the rest of the accounting information.
Here are 4 easy ways you can go paperless:
1. Online banking
This is probably the easiest and most readers have probably already embraced this one. Pretty much everything can be paid by electronic funds transfer, credit card or PayPal. If other people are responsible for making payments in your business, don’t forget to protect your hard-earned cash by having 2 separate people responsible for authorising online payments.
2. Emailing customer invoices and statements
No need to print them out and post them – email them from your accounting software instead.
3. Cloud accounting software
If you don’t have reliable internet, then cloud accounting software may not suit your business. However cloud accounting software providers are introducing more and more features to help you move towards having a paperless office. For example, you can have bank transaction info fed into your accounting program direct from the bank. Another example is saving copies of documents that have been sent to you straight into your software without having to print them off first. Whilst entering transactions in Xero I can use my laptop’s webcam to take a photo of supporting documents and attach them right then and there. Very cool!
Australian businesses have the option of keeping electronic copies of source documents instead of hard copies, as long as these copies meet the requirements outlined by the Australian Taxation Office. Be sure to check the record keeping requirements applicable to your country.
4. Paperless Reporting
For those of us Down Under, the Australian Taxation Office is very much moving towards paper-less reporting. I’m sure the tax authority in your own respective country is either offering options for paperless reporting, or will be in the near future. For example, Business Activity Statements can be lodged electronically using the Business Portal. You can get a nice little reminder email when the next one is available to complete and lodge, as well as direct confirmation that your BAS have been received (no more posting it in the mail and hoping they receive it on the other end).
I’m not suggesting everyone jump in the deep end and eliminate every piece of paper in the office – one step at a time is great and will give you a chance to get used to new ways of working without being overwhelmed. On the other hand, you might be an all-or-nothing person that wants to jump right in and embrace the concept fully.
I wish you well in your quest to go paperless!