One of the great joys of running a business is dealing with all the paperwork.
Bills, taxes, meeting minutes, email correspondence, invoices, checks, bank statements, payroll, the list goes on.
It’s a small wonder how a small business, especially a MicroISV, can survive. There’s hardly enough time during the day to develop your product and work on marketing. Add on paper work and we need to tack on a few extra hours to the clock.
Once we do find time to do the paper work, what do we need to keep for our records? The IRS (or equivalent in other countries) can audit us for up to three years after we file taxes, or is it five years? I can’t keep track. What about if I need to get a small business loan? How far back will the bank want to see my financial records? Three years? Five?
I don’t have any magic bullets to solve this problem (if you do, please let me know), but I can share with you what I do.
I purchased a Canon Pixma MP780 all-in-one printer/scanner, but I’m sure there are plenty of alternatives that would also work. Then I ordered the biggest RAID hard disk system I could afford and set out to scan every document that passed my desk and lived in my filing cabinets.
I scan everything: bills, invoices, tax forms, payroll reports, bank statements, etc.
It all gets scanned, run through OCR and saved as a PDF. This allows Apple’s Spotlight to serve as my search and lookup mechanism. I save the files in a directory structure that breaks down type of paperwork (expenses, income, etc), then by year, and then by source/destination (IRS, Bank, Client, etc).
How long do I need to keep these documents? I don’t care. I just keep them forever. Disk space is cheap enough that I can. If I’m ever audited, need a loan, or want to create a new budget, all my information is on my hard drive and safely backed up. You do backups don’t you?
Plus, I don’t have to fill my office space with extra filing cabinets. Things are easier to find and faxing documents couldn’t be easier.