Planning for Tax Day and Beyond
April 15th, a day that for most Americans means one thing, taxes are due. We work hard all year to earn a paycheck and hope that when we complete our tax returns there is a little something coming back from the government. It can also be a frustrating time if we have not done a good job of organizing our supporting tax documents and completing our returns. It is the same for companies. As we go back and forth with our accountants, we hope that the tax strategies we implemented the previous year now pay off. Planning ahead and strategizing on taxes can save you valuable time and money. Using that same approach with all of your company documentation, and having a reliable area for storing, securing and retrieving that information is invaluable. If you already have a document management system in your organization you are half way there.
Nearly all document management systems allow you to create an unlimited number of projects (applications). You may need your system administrator or IT support for doing this, but typically there is no additional cost for the software license. Begin by organizing your documents in a logical format for storing and retrieving the information. Consider how you currently store the information in its paper and digital format. If this organizational construct makes sense use it. If you or others struggle to locate information, come up with a logical alternative.
Now that you have your head wrapped around your storage needs, create a project for each set of documents. An example could be insurance documents that you further organize by the type of insurance. In keeping with our tax theme consider a project for all of your tax documents. Next you will create index criteria for which you will store and retrieve your documents. For insurance documents, you may separate them by Errors and Omissions, Liability, Auto, Life, Surety and other. You then may further define them by date. Adding additional values such as department and location allow you to create security around the applications, and limit who has access to the project and specific documents.
Let’s take a minute to think through retrieval of these files. The first thing to consider is who needs access to the folders within your organization. This part is usually straight forward and can be setup without much effort. Next, decide when granting access, what documents within the project someone can view. As an example, you may only want a person to see documents associated with the department they work within. Creating the proper security around your documents makes employees more efficient by having the needed materials at their fingertips.
Next, let’s decide on the best method for getting information into the system. Existing paper documents will need to be organized and prepared for scanning. This includes removing fasteners such as paper clips and staples, and then separating the documents and the type that they are. Select a capture process that will not impede your ability to quickly scan, index and save the documents. The use of the proper scanner and capture software could save you a considerable amount of time and effort. Also review any digital documents that you would like to store. Look for ways to save these files directly to your document management system without ever printing them. Most systems provide tools for quickly saving digital files.
Finally, empower your employees to use the system. This should include training them on its use. From storing paper and digital documents to retrieving them later, employees should have full access. Creates a sense of ownership by giving them a tool that will make their lives easier and yours as well.
Taxes should not be hard and neither should the storage and retrieval of your business documents. Following these simple steps will organize your office making it more efficient, less stressful and overall a better place to work.
Jack Arnston is a Principal at The Priton Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.