If you are like me, you have a special place in your office. It might be a drawer, or it could be an out of the way shelf. Whatever your space of choice, it’s where all of your paperwork ends up. While a lot of documents are sent digitally, we still receive some physical paperwork, and many people don’t know how to safely manage it.
As a result we take the “better safe than sorry” route and keep our special place stocked up with documents that we will either never look at again, or spend time shuffling through to find the one you need. Here is your guide to knowing how to once and for all take care of your paperwork.
What is worth keeping and what can be thrown out?
There are certain kinds of documents that can be thrown out without doubt. This includes junk mail, receipts and monthly bank statements, which you should now receive online.
Other documents should be thrown out if they relate to products or services that you no longer own or use. Examples include contracts for loans you’ve paid off, repair records for equipment you’ve now sold, and contracts for utilities or services that you no longer use.
Keep digital copies of tax documents and tax returns for up to six years. You should also keep annual investment statements. The physical copies are not necessary. You will however want to keep physical examples of estate documents, ongoing loan and mortgage documents, social security cards and medical records as it can be hard to get duplicates.
Where should you keep these documents?
Determine what categories and subcategories you need most when storing your printed documents, mail, receipts, invoices etc. These need to stay organized for not only your reference, but also in case you are audited. It will save you time and a headache if everything is where you can easily find it.
Important physical documents such as licenses, tax documents, titles, medical records or anything with sensitive information on them should be kept in a separate location. They should be kept in a secure safe that is also fireproof and waterproof. These items should be considered irreplaceable and kept not only organized but safe.
What happens to the paperwork you don’t need?
In the digital age, identity theft has become an increasingly serious threat. Everyone has heard stories of someone having their account drained after someone spent thousands of dollars on flowers or bouncy castle hire. To stop yourself from becoming a victim, shred everything you throw out. This includes not only documents with sensitive information but also CD’s, DVD’s and ID cards.
Handling money safely
Every small business owner should be aware of how to keep themselves out of trouble when it comes to handling money. If you have a physical location, take an interest in who visits, and have security cameras watching the premises.
Be aware that counterfeit bills are a huge problem, and one that can land you in serious trouble with the feds. To prevent fake notes entering your business, use an ultraviolet pen to check each bill that you receive. Use visible security signs to remind customers that you are proactive.
Sadly enough, 34.5% of fraud incidents for retailers are down to staff theft. Keeping rigorous checks on inventory and regular cash counts should discourage staff from having sticky fingers.
Continue these safe paperwork handling practices
You won’t regret putting into place these practices designed to help you handle paperwork better. The next challenge is to make sure you keep updating your records as more paperwork builds up. With a more efficient and organized system in place, you will spend less of your time managing paperwork and more on the things that you want (and enjoy!) spending time on.
Organizing your paperwork may seem like a thankless task, but it can bring huge benefits. Not only will it de-clutter your workspace, it will keep important information safe and encourage best practices. It’s time to get cracking on your paperwork today!
Doug writes for iTestCash.com providing information and products to better organize and protect start-ups, small businesses and growing companies.
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