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					Paperless Office for CPAs - Myth or Reality?

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CPAs owe it to their clients to go paperless - there are numerous tax and
accounting issues which require their undivided attention, yet they spend
a significant amount of time each day just pushing papers in and out of
filing cabinets and looking for the ones lost in transit. This article
discusses the practical experience of the author of taking his practice
to the next level by going paperless.

paperless office, CPA office, CPA, accountants office, paperless office
for CPAs, CPA practice management, CPA efficiency, accounting office
efficiency, paperless CPA office

Article Body:
As a new CPA on the block, about eight years ago, I had made it a
practice to read as much as possible on practice management along with
the regular reading I had to do keep up with the technical matters. I
came across articles after articles about how it was possible for CPAs to
operate in an almost paperless office. It was, however, quite difficult
for me to imagine my own office being a paperless office.

      “How could a CPA really operate a practice without papers?” I would
wonder all the time. I thought of these talks about paperless offices as
being something of a creation of imagination about how life would be in
2035 when I may not be there.

      The technology that I was using in my office was helping me improve
the production. It was also helping me learn some of the more advanced
possibilities in my system. In my small practice, it was a simple client-
server network with a T1 internet connection. It was during one of my
overseas trips about four years ago, that I discovered the power of my
system to its best. With the T1 connection and a static IP address, I was
able to work on my office system from over 10,000 miles away without any
problems. This was a wonderful experience and my desire to learn more
about the paperless office became extremely strong at this point.

      I spent a lot of time, powered by my strong desire, to learn on the
ways I could possibly convert my CPA practice into a paperless practice.
I had already enjoyed the pleasure of working on my office system from
around the world. I thought that if I could only access all the other
papers I needed to look at while working on a client’s file I would not
even need to be in the office at all to work. Besides enjoying the
frustrations of continuous interruptions, accessing papers was the only
remaining reason for me to be in the office. Sure there were other
reasons, but to carry out my work for a client, accessing papers was the
only one.
      Now that my desire was so strong, I started running into various
pre-packaged solutions advertised in the direct mail and magazine
advertisements. I checked out a few, called a few 800 numbers and
received some promotion materials. All turned out to be beyond my budget.
I had learned a lot about the potentials of my simple office network by
now, and figured out that I was too poor to afford some of the good pre-
packaged solutions available out there for CPAs.

      Upon a thorough study of the technology in my office and the
hardware available in the market at affordable costs, I came to an
unbelievable conclusion. It was unbelievable because based on my
calculations the cost of converting to a paperless office was going to be
5 or 10% of what it would cost me to go with a pre-packaged solution.
This happened within one year of my trip overseas and it has been three
years since then. I could not believe it but I had a gut feeling that I
was right in my conclusion. I considered the cost of failing in an
attempt to go paperless not too high. I was already managing a paper-full
practice and if an attempt to go paperless were to fail – I would remain
where I was – a paper-full practice.

      I spent a considerable amount of time developing the detailed plans
on the whole process of going paperless, ordered the scanner that I had
studied and found to be most affordable and launched the project. In
terms of managing the staff time to work on the conversion process and
managing priorities it was quite challenging. The process itself was
quite enjoyable and revealing (about the hidden treasures in my filing
cabinets) but above all quite enriching.

      At the conclusion of my project to go paperless, about 60 days from
when it started, I discovered that it was truly possible to manage an
almost paperless office. I enjoyed more than two years of paperless
office at my practice. The efficiency of the office went up significantly
during that period. Clients experienced a different, a much higher level,
of efficiency in service.

      There were certain things that went right for me in this process. I
was able to develop my understanding in this area over the years due to
my curiosity and had a good handle over the capacity of my seemingly
small office network. I discovered that the current office networks, in
many small CPA offices, are like human brains. They are highly powerful
and highly underutilized.

      A paperless CPA office is no more a thing of the future. The true
beneficiaries of this move by CPAs are their clients. CPAs who do not
have to spend a lot of their time pushing papers and locating lost
documents, would definitely be able to provide high-level services to
their clients and benefit them more. All clients deserve a CPA who is at
least paperless at the basic level, which is completely possible with a
small office computer network and a very small investment.