There are definite benefits to transitioning to an almost entirely paperless office. The amount of money you have to spend on copying and printing costs is not small. The reduction of your business’s carbon footprint is also attractive. Don’t toss all of your printers, copiers and printer ink and toner cartridges out just yet though! There are some things that need to be kept in hard copy.
Things like W-2s, documents that pertain to your retirement (and the retirement of your employees), the year end summaries for major purchases, like the mortgage on your offices, etc. For most other financial documents, the magic number here is seven. You need to keep hard copies of your financial records for the last seven years. This includes:
- Copies of Tax returns (state and federal)
- Receipts (scanned copies or the actual receipts)
- Bank statements
- Loan statements
- Credit statements
- Bad debts that have been written off
Once the seven years is up, you can scan in these documents then shred and recycle them. That way you have access to them but you don’t need to allow them to take up physical space.
In the event that your business finds itself the subject of a lawsuit, it is important to have hard copies of everything that could possibly pertain to that lawsuit. Print them all out as soon as you get wind of the possibility of a lawsuit. This way you will be protected even if someone hacks in and changes your files. It’s scary to have to think in such a paranoid fashion but remember: there is no such thing as too paranoid when it comes to keeping yourself covered and protected. This is sound advice even if you are the one filing the lawsuit.
Your insurance company is going to require that you have physical copies of a number of important documents: proof of payment of your premiums, your actual policy, the relevant personal information of each person your insurance will cover, bank statements for your mortgage loan payments, etc. Each company is different so make sure you check with them before you send anything through the shredder.
Sadly, every business is going to have to deal with inter-office personal issues at some point. It is important that you keep hard copies of any notes you take during meetings to resolve these issues. Encourage your employees to print out and keep hard copies of any emails or other communications that are threatening or unprofessional or that make them uncomfortable. Make copies of whatever they show you so that you can keep them with you (in case anything happens to the pages printed by the person telling you about the problem).
There are a lot of different documents that you need to keep on hand so, while switching to a (nearly) paperless office, keep at least a couple printers and copiers on hand so that you meet your governmental and legal paper trail obligations.