I have a confession to make: I do not have a nicely organized file system.
In fact, all of my receipts get shoved into barely-labeled folders in no particular order. Half of them are jumbled up and scribbled on, and most of them will never be pulled out of the folder again.
I mentioned this at a seminar I taught once, and the reaction surprised me. People were shocked that an accountant could ever have such a system! How can you possibly be satisfied with this kind of office disorder when you’re a numbers person? they’d say.
Well, here’s the thing – I value my time highly, and organized paper files do nothing to add value to my accounting records. Because the magic of accounting technology means that if I want to find a receipt it is infinitely faster to search for it electronically then it is to go through paper files, and it only takes a moment to capture the receipt electronically. So by having my electronic accounting records in good order (some of which is automated, I might add) I don’t actually need to have papers organized at all.
Once I have the receipt in electronic format, the paper copy goes into a file folder that is marked only by the fiscal period to hopefully never be seen again. Those paper copies are there only as a backup in case of audit; usually when CRA asks for an audit they are looking at particular fiscal period so that’s why I label my folders only by fiscal period.
Technology has come a long way in the last few years, and while we’re nowhere near the point yet where all of our accounting is automated, here are some of the cool ways that I add efficiency to my electronic record keeping system:
- I ask for electronic invoices whenever possible, and I save them to my fiscal period bookkeeping folder directly from my email
- I snap pictures of my receipts, and ReceiptBank reads them for me and extracts the numbers all ready to go into my bookkeeping system
- I set up auto-retrieve in my ReceiptBank file for any accounts that I can, so that the system automatically obtains electronic invoices that I’d otherwise normally have to log in and get, and then extracts the data
- I link my bank and credit card accounts into my Quickbooks Online file, and use rules to automatically post certain repetitive transactions into my accounting records
… And you know what? I really don’t miss the days of highly-labelled and sorted paper filing systems.