How To Be Green And Keep A (Mostly) Paperless Audit Trail

Many of my clients ask me what receipts, bank and credit card statements and bills they should keep. It is important to retain these items, but it not always required to keep them in paper form. I blogged about this before, but wanted to make sure that new readers would see it. Plus, I just listened to a great podcast from the Get-It-Done Guy, “Keep Paper or Toss-Just Know Which”.

Everyone should be doing online banking whether you use it with Quickbooks, or with Geezeo, Less Acounting, Mint or Wesabe. With that said, all bank transactions should be entered into your bookkeeping, and the statements retained for the year. You can request to not have the statements mailed to you, but you should download a pdf of the latest statement monthly and print it out when you need to use it for monthly bank reconciliations. Then you may want to organize the statements in a binder because there is always need to refer back to bank statements throughout the year. Additionally, if you keep them organized, then there will be no need to reprint or even worse have to pay for old bank statements especially during tax season next year.
With credit card statements, do the same but I suggest printing those only when absolutely necessary (e.g. to dispute a charge). Then if you don’t need a paper copy, shred the credit card statement ASAP to deter any identity theft. Keep all pdfs of bank and credit card statements backed up regularly on an external hard drive and/ or use a flash drive. Also if you use Quickbooks, back up regularly as well on an external hard drive.

Most utility bills are available online, so you could also request to not receive them via snail mail. If you ever need proof of residence and you use the utility bill for that, then simply print out from the utility company’s website. Since most of your bill payments will either show up on your business checking account or business credit card, there’s no need to retain after paying the bill. If you pay in cash, get a receipt.

Cash receipts for taxi, food, office supplies should be recorded in your bookkeeping system. 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 check with your CPA first. If your CPA or the IRS wants the originals, then you may have saved a tree but screwed yourself.

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

Big energy saver:
Turn OFF the laptop and unplug it when you are not working. Plant flowers so you can stop and smell the roses!

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One thought on “How To Be Green And Keep A (Mostly) Paperless Audit Trail

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