I am a trained bookkeeper and I have been working with small businesses for over 10 years. When I see a new client the first thing I do is organize their documents. If you aren’t organized you can’t find any of the information you need to continue on in your accounting. I set up my file cabinet similar to my chart of accounts in quickbooks.
- Assets – Bank accounts, Copies of deposits
- Liabilities – Credit Cards, Loans
- Income - Customers, Contracts, Copies of checks, Invoices
- Expenses – Bills, vendors, Vendor Contracts, Employees, Contractors
- Other – Tax returns, Rental Agreements, Permanent Documents
A lot of people switch to paperless billing or filing and personally I don’t like it for small businesses. I still like to have a physical copy of all my paperwork in the office. This makes it a lot easier to find when there is a problem or discrepancy. Some might ask why? And my main answer is that if we are perfectly organized and have a nice system for keeping track of our documents on our computer then that’s great. But most small businesses aren’t very organized and any type of small fix that makes life a little more organized I support. A lot of times the business computer is also the homework computer, the facebook computer, etc. Keeping physical copies makes it easier for keeping track of everything and keeping distractions to a minimum.
For my filing I like to color code my files. Just go down to your local office supply store and buy those colored dots (Blue, red, yellow, green and orange). This makes it easier to know what a folder is when it’s sitting in a pile on your desk. I like to use blue for assets, red for liabilities, green for income, yellow for expenses and orange for other. But you can use whatever system works for you.
Assets are mainly going to deal with bank accounts. It will also have properties or equipment if you have those too. Here you will have one folder for the bank statements. In between each statement I like to have a “deposit bundle”. This is going to include a copy of the deposit slip, a copy of any checks that were deposited and notes for any cash or any other info on the deposit. This way when I do the bank reconciliation at the end of the month I have a simple goto if there are any discrepancies.
Liabilities are mainly going to deal with credit card statements and any receipts we have. I also include any credit card reconciliation statements and copies of payments to the credit card company.
Here we will have a folder for each of our customers. I will also staple copies of the checks to the invoice of the customer. I keep notes of how and when they paid on the invoice. This way when they call saying they paid a certain amount I have a quick bundle to refer to.
This will be all the vendors we have and main bills we deal with. Any bill that is paid, I write paid on it, date and how it was paid (Credit card, check and check # or cash) This makes life a lot easier when you have an ongoing balance with a vendor and you need to do a vendor reconciliation. If you have employees and/or independent contractors I keep that info here too. Make sure each person has a folder and their W-9 info is in there that will help at the end of the year.
This is where I put my permanent documents like rental agreements, warranties, etc. I also put all tax info here like sales tax returns, income tax returns and payroll taxes. Anytime I file a sales tax return I print an income statement and sales tax liability report to staple to my copy of the sales tax return. This way if you are audited you have a back up to what you did.
Is this the best way to organize your documents? Probably not. Big corporations will have number codes and classes. If you are a small business this is a great way to get started. The number one thing clients tell me is they just don’t know where to start. Well here is a starting point. I recommend you improve upon it and make it your own system.