Feeling overwhelmed by the stacks of receipts and other tax documents on your desk that you need to get to your accountant? Like…yesterday?
Save time and money and make yourself (and your accountant!) happy – use our tips to start scanning those piles of files today!
Scanning tax documents into digital images makes file storage, management (including search and retrieval) and sharing with your tax professional SO much easier for both yourself and your accountant. In fact, more than 70% of accountants are scanning tax files before, during and after tax preparation. Sending them electronic files will save you both the hassle of bringing the records over personally and may save you on the costs of tax preparation. Not to mention making you one of your accountant’s favorite clients!
Check out our list of great tips that you can use today to get the most out of your tax time scanning activities!
1. Use good equipment. Buy or upgrade to a professional quality, high-speed, automatic document feed scanner. The difference in performance is worth the initial price difference, and with life cycle of at least 3-5 years, the total cost of ownership can’t be beaten.
2. One word: Duplex. It’s a drag having to flip a page over to scan both sides, and you won’t save any time that way. If you don’t have a duplex scanner, get one before you continue.
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3. And another word? Flatbed. Not all papers will easily go through a document feeder. You won’t need it often, but they are reasonably priced, and you’ll be glad you have one for those over-sized or delicate papers.
4. Color isn’t (usually) necessary. Generally, it simply takes more space in your digital storage. If possible, scan documents in black-and-white.
6. Preparation matters. Scanners and paperclips (or staples) are not good friends. Remove paperclips and straighten papers before you put them in the feeder. You might even consider taping smaller papers to a full-size sheet of paper to run through the scanner – it’s what professional scanning operations like ours do – it works! You, and your scanner, will be much happier, and you’ll save a lot of money on repairs.
7. Flip first, be happy later. Try to scan documents right side up and top-oriented. Skip this process, and you’ll be flipping images all day. Not fun, or efficient.
8. DO NOT OVERFEED YOUR SCANNER. Shove too many pages in at once, and it will jam, or worse, break. Trust us, it happens, and it’s definitely NOT fun to fix.
9. Scanners do require care and feeding. Simple, regular maintenance routines will ensure the longevity of your scanner as well as the quality of your images.
10. Scan to PDF. PDFs are definitely preferable to scanning to image formats (like jpg). PDFs can be easily combined into one document package or set for storage and sharing, which will save both you and your client a great deal of time when viewing the digital files (Think: turning pages vs opening separate files.) If your current scanner isn’t capable of scanning directly to PDF, consider getting one that will.
11. Scan at the highest resolution (dots-per-inch, or DPI) level recommended by the scanner. Basically, you can’t improve the quality of a low-resolution file after it’s scanned.
12. But, avoid using too high of a resolution. Much like color images, the higher the resolution, the larger the file. Large files take up lots of digital warehouse space, are slow to open, and hard to share with others. Select the lowest resolution level that still results in quality images. (PS- this may take some practice at first!)
13. Receipts can be tricky, but the results are worth it. In fact, our clients report that receipts are actually easier to read in digital format than in the original. Just make sure to capture both sides and any notes that may be on the receipt. They also tend to scan better if you run them through the scanner one at a time.
14. Scan ’em when you get ’em. Basically when the papers come in, scan them right away. And, if you have time, when you pull a customer file, scan it before you put it away. Try to make this a habit, at least for the current year’s taxes.
15. An all-in-one unit is not a production scanner. These will seldom offer the type of speed and quality you will need to get your work done efficiently. Get a dedicated unit for the job.
16. Practice makes perfect. An hour or so spent learning the features of your scanner will save you hours of work later and will help to eliminate frustration down the road when you need to adjust settings, flip images, or whatever needs to be done to get the image quality you need.
17. Use a vendor that will help you get set up and trained to use your scanner. While ordering from a drop-ship vendor may save you a little money, you won’t be able to get the help you need from them when you will undoubtedly need it. A good vendor will help you to get underway quickly, and will likely also help you to select the best scanner for your needs and budget.
18. Get reviews and references for any specific system and software. PC Magazine did one on scanners recently.
19. Yes, scanned files (digital images) are admissible as evidence for tax cases. This link will take you to exactly what the IRS has to say about electronic tax records. You still need to keep the records (electronic still counts!) for the required time period (generally not less than 3 years)
21. Back. Up. Your. Files. This is not optional. And store your backups somewhere outside of your office.
22. Reach for the Clouds. A secure cloud management solution, that is. Hands down, this is one of the easiest (and cost-effective) ways to store, backup and share your digital images, especially if you do not already have a good digital records management system.
23. Now that you’re digital, invest in a document management system. These tools will save you time and money. In fact, industry reports consistently state that the average customer sees a measurable return on their investment in these tools within no more than 2 years, and often in less than 14 months.