paperless http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/12114/all en-US Organizing Your Financial Paperwork http://www.wisebread.com/organizing-your-financial-paperwork <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/organizing-your-financial-paperwork" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000010646398Small2.jpg" alt="Woman looking through paperwork" title="Woman looking through paperwork" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="181" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Keeping your finances organized may be easier than you think. Even if you hate organizing or are short on time, you can still stay on top of your paperwork by setting up a simple system. The best system reduces the amount of clutter coming in your front door and makes it easy to prioritize and deal with the remainder. (See also: <a href="http://getcurrency.com/design-home/3-ways-to-declutter-your-desk-and-divorce-your-mess">3 Ways to Declutter Your Desk and Divorce Your Mess</a> via Currency)</p> <h2>Reducing Paperwork</h2> <p>The first secret is to reduce the amount of time you spend on the same types of paperwork over and over again each month. For example, I can probably guess the majority of the things that are cluttering up your desk right now:</p> <ul> <li>Bills</li> <li>Statements</li> <li>Other Important Documents</li> </ul> <p>You can probably stop at least 50% of it from bombarding your mail box by having your bills and statements delivered and automatically handled digitally.</p> <h3>Bills</h3> <p>Many banks these days are offering free or cheap online bill pay, or you could go with a more comprehensive option like I use, Intuit&rsquo;s <a href="http://paytrust.intuit.com/">Paytrust</a>. Services like Paytrust allow you to manage all your bills in one place and set very specific rules and alerts for handling each bill.</p> <h3>Statements</h3> <p>Not only can you have many of your bank, brokerage, and insurance statements delivered to you electronically &mdash; doing so could actually save money. In an effort to cut costs and be more environmentally friendly, many companies are either providing incentives to go paperless or charging you a fee to continue receiving paper.</p> <h3>Prioritizing Paperwork</h3> <p>You&rsquo;ll have to screen all the paperwork that can&rsquo;t be digitized and automated that lands in your mailbox. You really only need one criteria for your initial screening &mdash; does it require immediate action?</p> <p>If it&rsquo;s something you can address later, you can add it to a &ldquo;To File&rdquo; folder, which we&rsquo;ll talk about later on. The urgent paperwork can go into a &ldquo;Due Tomorrow&rdquo; file that lives close to the entrance of your home. Keeping it visible helps you remember to take care of the paperwork and keeps it from getting lost in a pile on your desk.</p> <h2>Organizing Paperwork</h2> <p>Now that you&rsquo;ve eliminated a chunk of paperwork and handled urgent documents, you still have to worry about the rest of it. I think this is where many people have a break down in their system and can end up keeping stacks of papers on their desks.</p> <p>Two common reasons for not filing away these papers are that people are too busy and that they don&rsquo;t know where to file things. If you can remove those two obstacles, you make it much more likely that you&rsquo;ll organize your documents and declutter your desk.</p> <h3>Filing and Finding</h3> <p>I use a simple filing system called <a href="http://www.homefileorganizer.com/">HomeFile</a> that defines the categories for my paperwork and comes with dividers and a cheat sheet to remind me where things go. Over time you pretty much know where things get filed, but it&rsquo;s a nice system for getting started &mdash; plus it can help when coming back to look for a specific document years down the road.</p> <p>If your desk is already a pile of papers, then going through them can be daunting. Having a ready-made system like this can make it easier to get started tackling the mess.</p> <h3>Making Time</h3> <p>The non-time sensitive paperwork in your To File folder can wait until you have some downtime to be filed. The time you choose will depend on your lifestyle and habits &mdash; just keep your eyes open for occasions when you&rsquo;re <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/massive-list-of-things-to-do-while-watching-tv">sitting around home</a> and can file a few papers.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;re not a big fan of organizing, or maybe just too busy, hopefully these tips have given you some ideas on how you can take control of your desk again.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/ben-edwards">Ben Edwards</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/organizing-your-financial-paperwork">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/is-there-such-thing-as-a-messy-millionaire">Is There Such Thing as a Messy Millionaire?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/pay-bills-early-only-if-you-want-to-save-money">Pay Bills Early? Only If You Want to Save Money</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/a-one-touch-approach-to-managing-household-finances">A One Touch Approach To Managing Household Finances</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/video-on-how-to-spot-counterfeits">Video on How to Spot Counterfeits</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/food-going-bad-quickly-heres-how-to-fix-it">Food Going Bad Quickly? Here&#039;s How to Fix It</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance Organization bills paperless paperwork Fri, 26 Aug 2011 10:36:15 +0000 Ben Edwards 678788 at http://www.wisebread.com Setting Up a Home Office on the Cheap http://www.wisebread.com/setting-up-a-home-office-on-the-cheap <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/setting-up-a-home-office-on-the-cheap" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/home_office_3.jpg" alt="Home Office" title="Home Office" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="240" height="160" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>If you go into an office furniture store and start browsing around, you can quickly wind up with sticker shock. But you don't have to let that stop you from creating a home office &mdash; it can be done surprisingly inexpensively. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/10-unusual-ways-to-cut-costs-in-the-office">10 Unusual Ways to Cut Costs in the Office</a>.)</p> <h3>The Reason for Your Office</h3> <p>Before you dive into designing your home office, think about why you're setting it up. If you're running a business of your own out of your home, your requirements &mdash; and what the IRS expects of your home &mdash; are different than what you may need if you want a place to attend to household matters.</p> <p>With a home office that you plan to write off on your taxes, you need to be able to separate your workspace from the rest of the space. That can mean emptying out a room or adding a screen to an open area. For tax purposes, though, you do have to clearly separate your office &mdash; I've heard of some people just marking off where their home offices end with masking tape on the floor successfully.</p> <h3>Thinking Through the Furniture</h3> <p>Before you get stuck on the desk/chair combo, check out options like standing or walking desks &mdash; they can take some getting used to, but they're better ergonomically (and they save the cost of a chair). Get imaginative with your space.&nbsp;</p> <p>There are also a lot of options for picking up office furniture inexpensively. Many businesses will sell off old furniture when they upgrade their offices or go out of business. They may also send it to a liquidator. Both options can help you pick up furniture in pretty good shape for a fraction of what it cost new.</p> <h3>Paperless from the Start</h3> <p>The cost of office supplies can be a significant portion of what you spend on a home office. But by going <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-go-entirely-paperless-at-home">paperless</a> from the very beginning, you can cut costs dramatically. In theory, you may even be able to avoid the cost of a printer and filing cabinets (although, in even the most paperless offices, there's typically some hard copy still floating around), or at least buy a significantly smaller filing cabinet and less robust printer.</p> <p>In a paperless office, it does make sense to invest in a scanner (so that you can turn incoming paper documents into electronic files), but with the availability of inexpensive combination printer/scanners, that's not going to add a lot to your total cost.</p> <h3>Think Green&nbsp;</h3> <p>While your home office may not include huge appliances like a refrigerator, it can be a significant power draw. Simple tricks, like unplugging equipment when it's not in use, can keep your utilities bill down.</p> <h3>Planning Your Home Office</h3> <p>At the end of the day, your home office needs to be a place where you can get work done. If that means getting your initial set-up in place and then tweaking it &mdash; maybe adding that fancy ergonomic chair or a mini-fridge for snacks &mdash; then go for it. Even a basic office will be enough to work in for the short-term, letting you really figure out where it's worthwhile to spend money and what you don't need for your business.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/thursday-bram">Thursday Bram</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/setting-up-a-home-office-on-the-cheap">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-pitfalls-that-can-bloat-a-home-office-budget">7 Pitfalls That Can Bloat a Home Office Budget</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-things-that-improve-your-health-in-your-home-office">10 Things That Improve Your Health in Your Home Office</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/12-cheap-ways-to-make-your-office-look-awesome">12 Cheap Ways to Make Your Office Look Awesome</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-one-inventor-turned-a-spring-break-idea-into-a-six-figure-business">How One Inventor Turned a Spring Break Idea Into a Six-Figure Business</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-really-easy-ways-to-unclog-drains">10 Really Easy Ways to Unclog Drains</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Entrepreneurship Home cheap furnishing home office paperless Wed, 22 Dec 2010 15:00:09 +0000 Thursday Bram 395840 at http://www.wisebread.com Taking Your Invoicing and Accounts Receivable Management Online http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/taking-your-invoicing-and-accounts-receivable-management-online <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/money/article/taking-your-invoicing-and-accounts-receivable-management-online-julie-rains" target="_blank">http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/money/article/taking-your-invoicing-and...</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/taking-your-invoicing-and-accounts-receivable-management-online" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000006070378XSmall_0.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="221" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>A long-standing cash-flow dilemma is finding the right balance between getting fast receipt of customer payments and minimizing fees and discounts associated with collecting those payments as quickly as possible. Finding payment methods that fit the needs of your business and offering the options that are right for your customer base adds to the complexity of figuring out how to get paid fast without compromise to convenience or security.</p> <p>Years ago, my clients loved payment by charge card; now, many trust and prefer third-party online payment providers. There seems to have been an inverse relationship between quickness and cost:: the faster the process, the higher the fee; the slower the process, the lower the fee. A check sent through the mail by your customer and its subsequent deposit in your bank account was generally cheap compared to alternatives.</p> <p><strong><em>Times have changed. Getting money faster may now be the least expensive approach.</em></strong></p> <p>Among the reasons for low-cost payment acceptance is the emergence of the e-check (ACH transaction). Eliminating some steps and quickening other processes for invoicing, payment acceptance, settlement, and funds deposit have also sped up collections and reduced administrative costs. Online invoicing and A/R management services can enable this approach.</p> <p>There are many options, ranging from no cost for basic services to $100+ per month for premium services. Standard features typically include these capabilities:</p> <p><strong>Online Invoicing</strong></p> <ul> <li>Set up customer accounts.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Create and send company-branded invoices for both one-time and recurring services.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Enable customers to make a one-time payment or store account information online to facilitate payment of recurring bills.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Present payment options to customers (generally, charge, credit, and debit cards and e-checks).<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Accept and process payments.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Generate company-branded receipts.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Automatically send reminders of upcoming payments due, recurring bills or installment payment invoices, card expiration dates, second invoices, and late notices.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Online A/R Management</strong></p> <ul> <li>Post payments to customer accounts electronically or manually (for payments made over the phone and face-to-face).<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Deposit funds in your bank account, either automatically or by requesting a transfer.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Monitor A/R activities through a dashboard that presents information such as pending payments and recent deposits.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Produce standard and customized reporting of A/R aging, customer balances, consolidated payments, and more.</li> </ul> <p>Many offer add-ons that equip your business with tools and/or technical support your business needs to integrate online invoicing and A/R management functions with your website and accounting software. Still others have features that facilitate sales and payment processing offline by allowing your business or your customer to print invoices, post payments to accounts, and print receipts.</p> <p>Some cater to specific industries and types of businesses. For example, online features may include project-management tools that allow your employees to record hours dedicated to certain projects for use in preparing client invoices (with the bonus of tracking project tasks, expenses, and progress). Other services accommodate installment billing for companies that sell big-ticket items (or big-ticket services, such as orthodontia) or facilitate payment of tuition expenses for schools, child-care centers, sports instruction, etc.</p> <p>What online services don't seem to make easy are offering credit terms with opportunities for early-pay discounts, such as a 2 percent break for paying a bill within 10 days rather than the standard 30 days, for example. Making adjustments to invoices seems tricky as well; traditionally, A/R departments can make adjustments to reflect discounts off standard pricing or correct discrepancies between proposed orders and actual deliveries. Some businesses may need to create second invoices or issue refunds for certain adjustments to handle these tasks.</p> <p>Your business may have developed its own online-offline hybrid method of A/R management, changing and updating your processes as technology solutions become available, easy-to-use, and acceptable by your customers. As your business continues to move from offline record-keeping to online invoicing and A/R management, keep reviewing and updating accounting procedures. Make sure customer accounts are credited appropriately, especially if you are giving early-pay discounts or making slight invoice adjustments.</p> <p>When evaluating online service offerings, consider set-up fees including website integration, monthly charges, merchant account fees, and transaction fees (per-item and percentage charges).</p> <p><strong><em>One of the greatest benefits of online accounting services is security.</em></strong></p> <p>Reputable providers will safely store customer account information on your behalf so that recurring charges can be made easily by your customer but you don't have the worries of protecting this data. Payments made by charge, credit, and debit cards can be accepted, processed, and settled in compliance with <a href="https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/index.shtml">Payment Card Industry (PCI)</a> standards. You'll need to conduct due diligence on providers and maintain accountability for confidential information, but the bulk of this responsibility is outsourced.</p> <p>Product-oriented ecommerce businesses have been using third-party shopping-cart software for years, collecting, processing, and settling payments at the time that goods are sold. Service-oriented businesses that generally bill customers after the delivery of services can now benefit tremendously from similar technology.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/julie-rains">Julie Rains</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/taking-your-invoicing-and-accounts-receivable-management-online">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-3"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/250-tips-for-small-business-owners">250+ Tips for Small Business Owners</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/100-ways-to-make-more-money-this-year">100+ Ways to Make More Money This Year</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/coworking-spaces-the-office-alternative">Coworking Spaces: The Office Alternative</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-i-got-over-the-hump-and-sold-my-blog-for-3-million">How I Got Over the Hump and Sold My Blog for $3 Million</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-inspiring-stories-of-normal-people-building-a-thriving-online-store">4 Inspiring Stories of Normal People Building a Thriving Online Store</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Small Business Resource Center billing online billing online invoicing paperless small business Sun, 21 Nov 2010 17:58:18 +0000 Julie Rains 257699 at http://www.wisebread.com Save Money and Go Green by Making Your Office Paperless http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/save-money-and-go-green-by-making-your-office-paperless <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/money/article/save-money-and-go-green-by-making-your-office-paperless-scott-allen" target="_blank">http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/money/article/save-money-and-go-green-b...</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/save-money-and-go-green-by-making-your-office-paperless" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000007896677XSmall.jpg" alt="businesswoman paper" title="businesswoman paper" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>In an attempt to clean up, clear out, and just plain get rid of the mess of many offices, document management is &nbsp;an ever growing need.&nbsp;Today, most people are inundated with reams of paper which must be dealt with on a daily basis somehow, whether by filing, shredding, or off-site storage. Electronic document management is an excellent way to tame that paper jungle and get back to the business of business.</p> <p>The right system can streamline an office into a more efficient, more cost-effective, and yes, even a more environmentally-conscious work area. There are several software packages that can be used to help anyone become more efficient and effective in their everyday and work lives, including Cabinet NG's CNG-Safe, Nuance's Paperport, NeatDesk, and others. The best systems don't just help set up files and folders; they also have built-in rights management (security), document retention systems, templates to make filing easier, and an easy-to-manage work/flow system that will move paper along seamlessly. These systems also can link and retrieve data from other systems, and leave an audit trail with documents and transactions.</p> <p>In the lean work environments of today, businesses must do everything feasible to save money and be as efficient and effective as possible to survive. Companies are also a part of the community and want to be as &quot;green&quot; and environmentally friendly as possible. Change is never easy, and most people are resistant to change. However, there are several reasons to consider electronic document management:</p> <h2>Efficient</h2> <p>Once the initial setup is done, scanning and/or just copying documents into the DM software is easy and makes short work of files. Once documents are in the system, access is easy and instant, searches for and retrieval of documents can be made quickly, files can be accessed by multiple people, etc. Many document management systems have an electronic work/flow process which enables manual processes to be automated. This allows for a more efficient use of resources and personnel, and streamlines processes for quicker response and/or invoice payments.</p> <h2>Cost-effective</h2> <p>The use of an electronic document management system is a cost-effective way to save your company money. Once files are setup electronically, file cabinets and file rooms can be re-deployed (or sold) for greater efficiency. Paper and printer costs decrease as well. File rooms can be used for more value-added enterprises, i.e., conference room, offices, etc. People who spent time filing or searching for files can be put to more productive use in more lucrative activities.</p> <h2>Environmental</h2> <p>From an environmental standpoint, an electronic document management system will help to reduce waste and decrease the environmental footprint. The use of a document management system is a green way to manage a business's paper use as well as processes and procedures.</p> <h2>Disaster Recovery</h2> <p>One of the best reasons for an electronic document management system is the ability to recover quickly from a disaster. How many companies lose money and customers after a disaster (fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, etc.)? After a disaster, files, invoices, and customer lists are in file cabinets that are now either water soaked, burned, or scattered across the city. If documents are in off-site storage, it takes time to retrieve the documents &mdash; and these are likely only archival documents, not the current documents. Every company should think seriously about the processes and procedures it has in place for disaster recovery, but an electronic management system can assist in making the process easier.</p> <h2>Other Reasons</h2> <ul> <li>Many document management systems have security systems (rights management) in place in the software. This ensures that any confidentiality and privacy issues are managed down to the document level.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Records retention is also a concern for companies, and many systems are able to establish retention timetables attached to each document. This makes it much easier to ensure that documents are retained as long as necessary and then discarded safely.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Auditable document trails are another key aspect in many document management systems. This is an invaluable tool for many businesses.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Many electronic document management systems can integrate with other software solutions, retrieve date from other databases, and have built-in solutions that comply with all regulatory requirements.</li> </ul> <p>Is an electronic document management system a good idea for your business? It can be with the correct approach and with employees who are prepared and enthusiastic for the changes. Will it make your business life easier? Yes, absolutely. Change can be good, and the ability to find and easily manage your business is a change that can make your office run more efficiently and be more cost-effective. Managing your documents &mdash; and not allowing the documents to manage you &mdash; can be one of the best business decisions you'll make.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/scott-allen">Scott Allen</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/save-money-and-go-green-by-making-your-office-paperless">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-4"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/250-tips-for-small-business-owners">250+ Tips for Small Business Owners</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-i-got-over-the-hump-and-sold-my-blog-for-3-million">How I Got Over the Hump and Sold My Blog for $3 Million</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-inspiring-stories-of-normal-people-building-a-thriving-online-store">4 Inspiring Stories of Normal People Building a Thriving Online Store</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/effective-networking-in-a-one-horse-town">Effective Networking in a One-Horse Town</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-5-best-credit-cards-for-small-businesses">The 5 Best Credit Cards for Small Businesses</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Entrepreneurship Small Business Resource Center paperless small business Fri, 15 Oct 2010 16:50:30 +0000 Scott Allen 258498 at http://www.wisebread.com The Paper Records You Need — And Those You Can Do Without http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/the-paper-records-you-need-and-those-you-can-do-without <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/managing/article/the-paper-records-you-need-and-those-you-can-do-without-thursday-bram" target="_blank">http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/managing/article/the-paper-records-you-...</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/the-paper-records-you-need-and-those-you-can-do-without" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000004817156XSmall.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>As a business owner, there are certain documents that you just have to have. From tax returns dating back seven years to client records stretching back to the beginning of your business, you can wind up with more files than you have room for in your filing cabinets. There are probably records in there that you can do without, but how do you know what to get rid of?</p> <h2>The Must-Keep Records</h2> <p>As a general rule, you need to keep all financial records long enough to resolve any issues that could come up, whether that's a client finding a discrepancy when auditing his own books or the IRS deciding that something is wrong with your tax return. It's hard to tell exactly what time frame that translates to, given that it isn't entirely impossible that someone could sit down with records that happen to be years old. However, the IRS recommends keeping records for anywhere from three to seven years. The lower end of that range is if everything is absolutely perfect when it comes to your taxes, while the higher end is if there are issues like losses for bad debt deductions. Five to seven years is generally a practical time frame for keeping financial records.</p> <p>Employment records can be a different matter. While you need to keep all employment tax records for a minimum of four years, according to the IRS, some employment records may be necessary to maintain from the time you hire a new employee. You may even need to keep them after the employee no longer works for you. It's important to look into local requirements, taking into account the possibility of a past employee claiming unemployment insurance and other factors.</p> <p>Depending on your specific business, you may also have regulatory requirements for certain types of records. Those requirements can vary significantly, from certain forms that you need to complete for each client or customer to a requirement to keep in-depth records on certain types of inventory.</p> <h2>The Records that Can Go</h2> <p>Client files may make up the bulk of your records. But clients come and go. Someone you worked with last year may not be an active client this year. It's useful to have the invoices and other paperwork that support your financial records for the past three to five years, but beyond that, there's little reason to maintain records, at least on paper. If your records are electronic, you may have some alternatives. Other records, such as internal paperwork, may have an even shorter shelf life and can be disposed of relatively quickly.</p> <p>It's important to have a process in place for handling old records, however. Many records may still have sensitive information, such as financial accounts, that you don't want just anyone to have access to. Shredding or incinerating old records are the best options to for protecting such information. There are companies who can handle disposing of sensitive documents or you can handle the process in house.</p> <p>You may also need to put into place a plan for sorting through old files and determining what to keep. Such a process can coincide with a general audit of your records, it may be a process that allows you to clean out records in small sections or it might be another approach entirely, depending on how your business handles documents. The important thing is to have a plan &mdash; if you clean out files haphazardly, it's easy to wind up repeatedly cleaning out just a few files while the rest of the filing cabinet winds up bulging.</p> <h2>Keeping Documents Electronically</h2> <p>Ben Pearman's financial planning business is moving towards being paperless &mdash; it's about 75 percent paperless now and looks like it will reach 90 percent in the next year. He faces certain requirements for paperwork that he must keep, often for years, from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, as well as other organizations and corporations. However, for many of these organizations, electronic copies of documents are acceptable. Pearman's policy on keeping even outdated documents takes advantage of the ease of storing documents electronically.</p> <blockquote>As for how long to keep outdated documents, I tend to err on the side of caution. The storage costs of disk drives or even cloud based storage are so low that if there are no rules regarding time-sensitive destruction, then I'll hold on to most documents, archived of course, so there is no chance of getting older docs mixed up with current docs. I also offer extended archiving of sensitive client paperwork such as wills, trusts, and corporate charters.</blockquote> <p>If using an electronic method to manage paperwork appeals to you, it's is important to first establish is not only the regulatory agencies that may be looking over your paperwork will allow for electronic copies, but if your clients will be comfortable with such an approach. You may find that some of your <a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;218395891;41475468;y?http://www201.americanexpress.com/sbsapp/FMACServlet?request_type=alternateChannels&amp;lpid=300&amp;openeep=17460&amp;ccsgeep=17460">customers</a> just aren't comfortable with the technology necessary to use electronic documents.</p> <p>In order to take advantage of electronic methods of document management, it is important to create a system that allows you to easily manage each step of the process. Pearman's approach required some development but now allows his office to handle documents easily:</p> <blockquote>Obviously, an upper-end scanner/copier/fax with internet access is mandatory. Full-Suite Adobe software is a must. Having a well-thought-out computer file architecture system that is simple, easily accessed and streamlined is essential as well. The file system needs to be readily understood by new employees. Most companies I do business through also participate in paperless solutions. Not only does this cut down on the volume of work associated with physical paper, it allows for much more speedy turnaround on business. Waiting for the USPS to arrive, FedEx and UPS fees, etc. are cut as well. Chain of custody of sensitive paperwork is easily tracked and receipt/turnaround of virtual paperwork over a secure network is instantaneous.</blockquote> <script type="text/javascript"> federated_media_section = "platinum"; </script><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/thursday-bram">Thursday Bram</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/the-paper-records-you-need-and-those-you-can-do-without">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-5"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/250-tips-for-small-business-owners">250+ Tips for Small Business Owners</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/effective-networking-in-a-one-horse-town">Effective Networking in a One-Horse Town</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-i-got-over-the-hump-and-sold-my-blog-for-3-million">How I Got Over the Hump and Sold My Blog for $3 Million</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/business-succession-planning-part-2-how-life-insurance-will-insure-the-life-of-your-business">Business Succession Planning Part 2: How Life Insurance will insure the Life of Your Business</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-5-best-credit-cards-for-small-businesses">The 5 Best Credit Cards for Small Businesses</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Entrepreneurship Green Living Organization Small Business Resource Center paperless small business Thu, 08 Apr 2010 19:48:49 +0000 Thursday Bram 5671 at http://www.wisebread.com