In this article, I tell you how to build an accountant’s scanning system.
Are you overwhelmed by stacks of paper? Do you find it difficult to locate the information you know you have? Today, I teach you how to build an accountant’s scanning system.
I have the privilege of visiting other CPA firms, and our firm has about 120 people, so I have the opportunity to see plenty of offices. It is my observation that some CPAs are paperless, but many are not.
One problem with “paper everywhere” is we can’t find what we need. We have it (somewhere), but we can’t find it. Scanning is the easiest way to capture and organize the paper monster.
To create order, take three steps:
My scanner is a Fujitsu iX500. (There is a newer model now, the iX1500.) It sits just to my right in my office, so I don’t have to leave my desk to scan. Convenience is key to creating order. Otherwise, you will think I’ll scan that later, but it doesn’t happen. Then the paper litters your desk–and distracts you.
The iX1500 costs $420, so it’s not a huge cash outlay. The scanner’s footprint is small (the dimensions are 11.5 x 6 x 6.3 inches) and it weighs 7.5 pounds. Also, the scanner comes with software (ScanSnap) that offers you destinations such as these:
I often scan to Evernote, my cloud-based library. (Amazon also offers Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 Document Scanner with Evernote Premium.) If I were buying my first scanner and didn’t have cloud-based storage, this would be my choice.
Another favorite destination: Caseware, our paperless engagement software.
So, of course, when you scan, you need final resting places for your documents.
My two primary file locations are:
If you’ve followed my blog, you know I’m a raving Evernote lunatic. Why?
There are other cloud-based storage systems such as OneNote and Dropbox. Pick one and learn it well.
If your audit and tax services are not already paperless, consider making the leap. We have used Caseware for years and, personally, I love it. We use this software for storage of the following engagement files:
My firm has built templates for each of these services, so everyone in our firm knows where documents (including scans) belong.
To scan promptly, you need to build habits, so creating a repeatable, mental system is critical to the process.
Build your scanning habits. My system is as follows:
Like any new habit, new scanning actions will–at first–feel awkward and inconvenient. But push through the pain and the actions will become routine. (Some of the above thoughts come from David Allen’s book: Getting Things Done—one of the best productivity books you’ll find.)
You may feel like the above will take too much time to implement, especially if you have lots of paper. So how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Schedule your scanning plan. Pick two days a week and put one hour a day on your calendar. Then attack. Slay your paper monster. I dare you.
For more information about Evernote, check out these posts:
Tips on Searching Your Evernote Account
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Charles Hall is a practicing CPA and Certified Fraud Examiner. For the last thirty years, he has primarily audited governments, nonprofits, and small businesses. He is the author of The Little Book of Local Government Fraud Prevention and Preparation of Financial Statements & Compilation Engagements. He frequently speaks at continuing education events. Charles is the quality control partner for McNair, McLemore, Middlebrooks & Co. where he provides daily audit and accounting assistance to over 65 CPAs. In addition, he consults with other CPA firms, assisting them with auditing and accounting issues.
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Yumiko, it would be interesting to survey governments throughout the world to see which are paperless. I think most government are partially paperless, but not completely. Most local governments in the U.S. are not completely paperless. Thanks for your comment.
I had a chance to visit one of local goverment offices, not a CPA firm though in Japan today. I have received an impression that Japanese public services are also going paperless in some way. I think that they probably manage and control important data such as individual information in their data base which as a result, make their works efficient but I am not sure. I understand this issue is different from the subject though.
Good job William. Maybe you’ll be able to get them to use the two screens as well. As you have experienced, it’s much easier.
You are absolutely correct. There is no reason we should be buried in paper. I am a sole practitioner with a couple of employees. We use Caseware and Fuijitsu scanners just like your shop does. The first scanner worked so well, I bought two more. I just haven’t been able to get my staff to adopt the two screen mode of work yet.