Benefits of a Paperless Office

About a year after graduation, I was fired from my first job. I was an Executive Assistant at a small company in Atlanta. The owner had paper files going back to the 1960’s. His partner and VP wanted to get rid of the older documents, so he instructed me cull the files. When the owner found out, the dumpster had already been emptied, so he fired me. The VP got what he wanted without taking the blame.

Today, that interoffice power struggle would be unnecessary. Using the technology available today, most companies have gone or are going paperless to capture the resulting cost and efficiency savings. Those who haven’t are held back by fears of inconvenience, security, and document loss. But the reality is, continuing to produce, store, and distribute paper accounting and other business records is a serious waste of time and money, not to mention a detriment to quality and security.

It is not necessary to change.
Survival is not mandatory.
—W. Edwards Deming

Benefits to going paperless:

  1. Save time and space, eliminate clutter. No more desks buried under piles of paper. No more printing, filing, and searching through stacks of paper. Find the document you need with just a few mouse clicks. (But you may have a problem selling those metal file cabinets, because everyone else is digital too.)
  2. Save money. The EPA estimates going paperless saves $80 per employee, per year, in expenses such as paper, toner, postage, and storage. (But unfortunately not so good for the U.S. Postal Service.)
  3. Secure, anywhere access. All you need is a computer and an internet connection. Depending on the cloud storage solution you choose, you may be able to do this with your smart phone. (How many opportunities have you lost previously because you didn’t have instant access to an important file?)
  4. Document encryption and protection. It’s important to choose a quality cloud storage service. If you do that, your documents will be encrypted and stored behind multiple security layers. This makes it easy to restrict access to only certain employees. (There are too many YouTube videos on picking file cabinet locks for this to be done effectively with paper files.)
  5. Nice optics. Going paperless isn’t just environmentally friendly, it also projects the image that your company is lean, efficient, evolved, skilled, and environmentally friendly. (The average company uses at least 10,000 sheets of paper a year.)


Paper and the IRS

Many times prospective clients have asked me, “But don’t I have to keep the paper copies for the IRS?”

I am a virtual bookkeeper. That means I don’t go to clients’ offices very often; almost all the bookkeeping work I do for them is done from my office. This requires clients to share receipts, bills, and other documents with me in digital form. This system works very well because it (a) eliminates travel time, allowing me to serve clients more accurately and in less time, and (b) for disaster recovery purposes, creates a digital copy of important documents which is stored offsite.

Yes, the IRS accepts digital receipts and other documents. Read the official IRS publication, or Google “IRS ruling on digital receipt copies” to locate numerous articles by CPAs and other tax professionals for verification.

And if you don’t want to scan all those receipts, invoices, bills, and other documents yourself, I highly recommend either or (These services are included free for all my clients.)