How To Be Green Yet Keeping A (Mostly)Paperless Audit Trail

green dragon on gladiolas
Originally uploaded by Shelly and Roy.

Many of my clients ask me if they should keep paper copies of receipts, bank and credit card statements and bills. First of all, I think everyone should be doing online banking. For bank statements, you may want to download a pdf of the latest statement each monthly and only print it out when you need to use it monthly reconciliation. Then you may want to organize the statements in binder because there is always need to refer back to bank statements throughout the year, so if you keep them organized, then there will be no need to reprint or even worse have to pay for old bank statements. With credit card statements, do the same but I suggest printing those only when absolutely necessary (to dispute a charge) and then if you don’t need a paper copy, shred the credit card statement ASAP to deter any identity theft.

Most utility bills are available online and you can keep them there unless there is an occasion (applying for a loan) where you have to show proof of your monthly expenses. Print only when necessary since most of your bill payments will either show up on your business checking or business credit card. If you pay in cash, get a receipt.

Cash receipts for taxi, food, office supplies should recorded in your general ledger. They should be retained until the next year. Now if you have a scanner, you may want to scan all those little TLC (taxi) receipts and put several on a regular letter-size paper, but if your CPA or the IRS wants the originals, then you may have saved a tree but screwed yourself if you get audited. It is better to safe than sorry in this regard.

More paper savers:
Get a shredder. They are not just for Enron employees.
Scan when you can.
Set-up online fax service and have faxes sent directly to email. This is more efficient, too.
Get a printer that enables to recycle printer cartridges.

Big energy saver:
Turn OFF the laptop when you are not working. Stop and smell the roses!


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