7 steps to organize business paperwork so you always find what you need

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Create broad categories such as receipts, invoices and purchase orders, and organize each one further by date or by client. If you are interested in the hands-on aspects of running your business but do your paperwork reluctantly, create a rudimentary system that you’re likely to maintain. We’re firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team. By paralleling your organization systems, you’ll keep things easier.

categorize office filing

The rules are to avoid confusion around sharing, to prevent multiple copies being made of the same document, and for file tracking. A good electronic filing system shouldn’t disrupt daily to-dos. It has to integrate well with current apps and tools, including email, web navigation, etc. Electronic filing should make life easier by blending seamlessly into your company’s day-to-day. Most systems charge based on storage amount, so having a ballpark of your total data needs is important.

Calculate Storage Needs

Make sure that the filing cabinet can be easily reached from your office desk. If you have more than one employee, you have to determine who will require access to the cabinet or whether to install the cabinet at a central position. Now from each category, further divide the papers into working files and archived files.

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(in some countries this is office equipment or vehicles etc that cost more $400 or $500). You should keep copies of the invoices/receipts in the assets section. So bank account No 1 will have a section for the monthly/weekly statements, and a separate section for the monthly/weekly bank reconciliations. If your financial year runs from January to December you would put all your months back to front, so January is at the bottom and December at the top. As the business grows the sections can be split out into new folders. The number of folders or binders you need will depend on how many transactions your business carries out.

Label the Files

First, you’ll need to decide what works best for you, and then implement it. For example, you may have a binder system to help you organize day-to-day management of your business such as your schedule, marketing, and copies of your forms. Other ways of creating an effective filing system involve breaking larger folders into subfolders, organizing documents by date, and making digital copies. On the contrary, the best office filing procedure begins by deciding what documents need preservation and those that are not equally important.

Archived files are those which no longer need to be reviewed and are permanent files to be stored. Working files can be anything related to your current projects or regular procedures. Above all else, be consistent with file naming throughout your organization.

You probably have business documents tucked away a lot of different places. Perhaps there’s your filing cabinet, the growing pile on your desk, your tangled web of computer files, plus all of the important paperwork that’s hanging out in your email inbox. Maintaining an effective filing system is essential for the safety of office documents.

What are Filing Systems?

There’s way less physical paper involved in business ownership than there used to be, but you likely still have plenty of tangible documents that you’re keeping stored. Decide how you’re going to label and organize your filing system. Create separate destinations for legal and business papers and licenses, and for documentation of items you enter into your ledgers, such as receipts and invoices. Organize your licenses and documents either by type of license or by time frame. Set up categories and specific rules to avoid creating duplicates, but also so that files don’t get lost. A digital filing system should be intuitive and shouldn’t disrupt workflow.

  • In other words, files that are frequently accessed should be closer.
  • Color coding makes it easy for the brain to sort through large chunks of information when looking for something specific.
  • If a pile is too thin, combine it with another pile and rename it.
  • Another way you can categorize office filing systems is by digitizing your files.
  • You probably have business documents tucked away a lot of different places.

When you transfer your paper files to an electronic format, you should have a system in place. You likely still have a filing system in your office for recording and categorizing that you’ll want to mirror somewhat closely when switching to digital document management. When you choose document management software, make sure it realistically fits within your budget.

If you’re prone to get behind on filing, don’t underestimate the usefulness of a shoebox system. This term is used to refer disparagingly to an approach to filing in which everything simply goes in the same box until you have time to deal with it. You’ll also have to be sure that everyone who has access to documents within your organization follows through by consistently naming and storing documents appropriately. Latera filing system is one of the most popular methods of filing in modern offices. They make use of envelope-like folders closed by metal strips. The folders are hung laterally on metal shelves for easy reach.

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Keeping your documents in order is one of those business tasks that slides to the back burner—until you desperately need to find something and curse your lack of a system. This step is totally optional, but it can help you to give you some peace of mind that you’ll always be able to access the information that you need. But it also means you’re at risk of clogging up your space with all sorts of unnecessary records. What you require can vary based on your existing system, business, and goals. The point is to just make sure you’re prepared for the task before diving right in.

Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 358,955 times. Never create a miscellaneous pile for what you can’t categorize, because everything will end up there. This system is best when most of your files are going to be names of clients, patients or customers. For important correspondence that you receive a lot of, such as letters from your lawyer, keep a separate section called Legal along with copies of invoices from your lawyer. You receive in the post you may be able to simply file it in date order in the correspondence section putting the most recent document at the top.

They are susceptible to fire and not as safe as other methods of filing. Wire filing is also known as spike filing as it makes use of a spike or wire attached to a wooden base either kept on the table or hung at a higher surface. The sharp end of the wire is used to insert the documents and letters into the wire to be accessed for later use. As newer letters are punched above the previous, they are arranged in chronological order and taken out in the same order if needed. In bundle filing, all the documents of a particular period are put together in a piece of cloth and tied. They were used in the old times to keep them together in one place and find the documents concerning the time they were produced or came in.


However, there are other ways to categorize office filing systems. Organize physical files on the walls by categories, e.g., invoices, receipts, reimbursement requests, etc. Most importantly, categorize files and folders by their importance to make retrieval enjoyable for everyone.

Simply put, you will want the front-end user experience to be seamless and botkeeperive. Setting up the framework should be minimally invasive for you, but it should also accessible enough that users will be encouraged to adopt it. Aside from system costs, it’s important to consider your skills and the tech-savviness of the rest of your office so that you schedule yourself accordingly. Where necessary, use virtual databases to maintain an effective file system. The last three procedures involve file retrieval, file transfer, and file retention. If you must remove a document, do so only under a written requisition.

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For lateral files, which run left to right when you open the drawer rather than front to back, place the tabs on the right side. Anyone who has ever searched through files understands the burning desire to find exactly what you need instead of finding 100 things you don’t need. For example, try organizing your office files in order of importance to make document retrieval more enjoyable for everyone. Create a organization structure based on department instead of using categories that group files based on overarching topics, such as finance or human resources.

On the other hand, an encyclopedia format is where you categorize everything by subject first, then group the items within each of them alphabetically. As you get ready to take on a digitally managed system, you will find that your office life becomes less cluttered. You’ll go through a little bit of a learning curve to migrate files online, but with time, it will become easier to manage and maintain. Be consistent with naming conventions (such as date first or ending a document with the last editor’s initials) and files to make searching and categorizing much simpler.