Many organizations are digitizing more and more of their operations and files. From cloud storage to online signing platforms, it’s easier than ever to scale back the use of printed documents. However, companies would be wise to keep a printed version of certain documents on hand.
Below, the members of Forbes Finance Council share 14 essential financial documents to keep a paper copy of, despite the digital world. With these hard copies in hand, you can rest assured that your most important documentation has a physical “backup” copy if anything should happen to your digital files.
1. Tax Returns
Keeping a paper copy of all your tax returns is still essential. While the records and backup for tax returns can sometimes be destroyed after seven years, tax return copies should be kept on file from inception. – Shaune Scutellaro, CohnReznick LLP
2. Key Contracts
I am getting increasingly comfortable as long as they are on secure cloud storage. I do suggest keeping paper copies of key contracts and tax documents where applicable. – Jay Jung, Embarc Advisors
3. Recent Receipts And Invoices
If you have a brick-and-mortar business, make sure you hang on to paper receipts and invoices for no less than 120 days. Consumers have up to four months from the date of a purchase to dispute a transaction and file a chargeback, and those items are valuable in this instance. Upgrading to a modern point-of-sale system solves this long term to provide the ability to permanently store digital records. – Paul Hadfield, Hadfield Group
4. Your Articles Of Incorporation
Your articles of incorporation should always be kept in hard copy for S- and C- Corps. This documentation is requested so frequently by banks, investors and others. By all means, digitize it, but keep a hard copy handy as well. – Sheryl J. Moore, Wink, Inc.
5. Documents With Original Signatures Or Raised Seals
So much of our world is digital now, so paper copies aren’t as big of a focus as they used to be. I will say, though, I’d recommend keeping paper copies of business licenses and permits. Also, anything with an original signature or a raised seal is an example of documents you want to keep paper copies of, rather than just relying on digital replications. – Bill Keen, Keen Wealth Advisors
6. Financial Projections And Critical Assumptions
The single most valuable document for the C-suite to carry is a hard copy of the financial projections and critical assumptions of the current and upcoming year when talking with partners, investors and stakeholders. – Peter Goldstein, Exchange Listing LLC
7. Anything Required By Law To Be Displayed
All paper documents should be turned into digital files. An exception may be hard copies of documents like business licenses and HR wage and benefit posters that may be required to be displayed by law. Paper copies that could be used for quick access for visitors may include printed financial statements, budgets and forecasts that should also be stored digitally. – Dave Sackett, Visibility Corporation
8. Your Lease
Make sure you keep a physical copy of your lease. Landlords can be notorious for keeping poor records of invoicing and fee escalations as well as not being the most tech-savvy. Make sure you have the hard copy so you can refer back to it whenever you see a price increase, additional fee or any other dispute. – Aaron Spool, Eventus Advisory Group, LLC
9. Operating Agreements
Always keep a copy of your operating agreement handy. This document outlines who at the company can make critical business decisions such as the ability to borrow money, the ability to negotiate contracts and the like. This tells the world who’s in charge. If disaster strikes, this can help you get things done quickly when you need to engage companies to help at a moment’s notice. – Chris Tierney, Moore Colson CPAs and Advisors
10. Payroll Journals And Bank Statements
Payroll journals, bank statements and tax returns are essential for any company to maintain in paper copies. These are the most critical documents to the organization from a financial perspective and documents that you would not want to be lost. – Kelly Shores, GCubed, Inc.
11. International Financial Documents
Any time you are dealing with important financial items in a foreign country, you should keep hard copies for your records. This is mainly because digital is the norm in the United States, but it may not be the case for other countries. – Anis Uzzaman, Pegasus Tech Ventures
12. Bylaws And Operating Agreements
Bylaws (corporations) and operating agreements (LLCs) dictate a company’s rules of management, responsibilities and ownership structure. These documents govern reporting and access to the totality of the organization’s documents and are typically not available through public records. Therefore, it is imperative to maintain original, hard copies of these documents. – Dr. Jason Jackson, Institutional Banking Services N.A. CORP
13. Check Stubs And Copies
It’s old school, but you should keep check stubs, check copies if you have them and your tax return package, which should include bank statements and backup. Keep them in a fireproof safe, which you can get at Staples or Office Depot. – Kurt Kunselman, AccountingSuite™
14. Mortgages, Checkbooks And Operating Procedures
We recently went through a massive digitization of clients’ files. I did keep some of our high-network financial clients’ files on paper because we believe for them, it feels a little more special when they’re both digitized and on paper when we see them. Also, as a business, we keep mortgages, leases, operating agreements, checkbooks/registers and standard operating procedures/manuals on file. – Justin Brock, Medicare Gurus
By Forbes Finance Council