Going paperless is a great way to clean up your office space and increase efficiency in your tax practice, but it requires conscious organization. When you store documents in the cloud everyone in your practice will have access to the same files, and the files will be updated in real time. Folders in the cloud can become as messy as the overflowing file cabinet in your office if every team member is using their own system to organize and name those files. To optimize the efficiency going paperless can bring to your practice, you need to standardize your system of organization. Here’s a look at how to do that:
Create Main Folders
To get started setting up your organization structure, create main folders. Choose whether you want your main folders to be sorted by clients’ names, types of cases, types of files, or another category depending on which makes the most sense for your practice. The categories should be broad enough that each type of document you use can find a home under that umbrella. Just be sure to only choose one structure for the main folders. Things will quickly become disorganized if everyone adds a folder each time they need to file something new.
It’s good to keep in mind that your hierarchy may change depending on which cloud software you use. Canopy, for example, stores files by client.
Set a Hierarchy of Files
After you’ve created the main folders, decide how to structure your file tree or hierarchy of files. This system should be similar to what you would find using document storage on your desktop. Within the file tree, folders and topics should narrow and get more specific.
For example, you may have this file tree: Offer in Compromise > Forms > Form 433-A
When deciding the hierarchy, it’s a good idea to think of how a physical filing cabinet works. If you would never file a document in a certain file in your filing cabinet, don’t file it there in your paperless system either.
Stick to One Naming Convention
Once a hierarchy is established, consider how files are named. Because every team member will be using the same filing system, it’s imperative that you put some thought into what the naming system should look like for ease of use across the team. There should be a uniform way for naming new files. You will have a difficult time finding the correct, most updated version of a file if there are several variations floating around.
For example, if you were looking for a power of attorney for a specific client, you wouldn’t want to sort through “Sarah Smith POA,” “POA - Sarah S,” “Smith Power of Attorney,” etc. Pick one format for naming and stick to it.
Get Everyone on the Same Page
After you decide on a paperless filing system, call a meeting or send an email to get everyone on the same page. Increased transparency and ease of collaboration are two of the main benefits of going paperless, but it becomes a moot point if nobody knows how to find the files they’re looking for, or if they can only find outdated versions.
When your paperless system is running smoothly, any team member in or out of the office should be able to find the files they need in the cloud, hassle-free. If finding a specific document becomes a frenzy in the office to ask who filed what and where, it’s time you restructure your system.
Interested in learning more about going paperless? Check out Your Ultimate Guide to Going Paperless at Your Tax Practice.
Get Our Latest Updates and News by Subscribing.
Join our email list for offers, and industry leading articles and content.