As part of our goal to minimise our impact on the environment, the Personal Tax Specialists team is committed to operating a completely paperless office.
Accountancy practices throughout Australia use hundreds of reams of paper every day. Each tax return they prepare traditionally requires at least 30 pages of printing and with over 8.5 million tax returns prepared by Tax Agents every year that adds up to at least 255 million sheets or 1,275 tonnes of paper per year.
And all this paper requires approximately 22,950 trees, 86,062,500 litres of water, 4,207,500kgs of greenhouse gases, and 12,112,500kWh of power to produce.
So what are we doing?
Members of the Personal Tax Specialists team are actively reducing their paper usage and we generally operate a paperless office! Some of the strategies that our team have implemented are:
- All of our systems and procedures manuals are stored electronically and accessed online by our team.
- We communicate with our clients and suppliers by email, phone or text – ATO-generated mail is sent directly to our clients.
- All of our checklists are designed to be completed and returned to us electronically by our clients. We also store the completed checklists electronically.
- We suggest that our clients use electronic software to keep a track of their income and expenses during the year instead of using a manual record-keeping system.
- All of the work papers and checklists we use internally are prepared and stored electronically.
- When sending out completed Tax Returns to our clients for signing, we always email them in PDF format (with password protection). We also encourage our clients to file the copy of their return electronically rather than printing it out.
- If our clients send us printed materials (which we discourage and it is already very rare), we scan and store the copies electronically and then shred & recycle the paper version.
- Our invoices are issued electronically to our clients.
- Internal communication between team members is always via email, phone or text.
- Internal management reports are electronically prepared and stored.
- Bank statements are received and stored electronically.
- Invoices are received electronically from our suppliers. If there is no alternative and we do receive a paper invoice, it is scanned and stored electronically and the original document is shredded and recycled.
- Printing is always the last option – It is only acceptable if there is absolutely no other option (and this is very rarely the case).
By applying the above-listed strategies, we continue to achieve huge paper and printing savings in our business.
And how can you help?
There are many ways you can also help to reduce the amount of paper you use in managing your tax and your finances. All of the ideas listed below are pretty obvious and none of them are that hard to do; but the key is to just start doing them. If every person reduces his or her paper usage by half (which wouldn’t be that hard), we can make a huge difference for our environment. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Only print out the pages from your tax return that you need to sign. Rather than printing, check your tax return on your computer screen and save it on your hard drive for future reference.
- If you must print, print on both sides of the paper – effectively cutting in half the amount of paper you use.
- Setup an electronic filing system on your computer – have a folder for each tax year and save everything that you will need to do your tax return as you receive it during the year. Then when it’s time to do your tax return, all of the information is ready to send through to us.
- Ask your employer to email your pay slips and annual payment summary to you rather than printing them.
- Make the choice to receive your bank statements via email, or simply view them online, instead of receiving them in the mail.
- Most companies will send you dividend and investment statements via email if you ask. Make the choice and file your information electronically.
- If you have the option, choose to go paperless with your bills.
- Pay your bills online if possible, rather than writing out cheques and sending them in the mail.
- If you do have to receive invoices and statements by mail, scan them into your computer and then shred & recycle the paper copy.
- Make sure you back up your electronic records regularly.
- Just ask yourself every time you are about to print something – Do I really need to have this on paper or could I store it on my computer instead?