Whether you do your taxes by hand, use tax preparation software, or rely on an accountant or other service, there’s no escaping the preparation involved in filing. However, there are tech tools out there that can make filing easier. Just be sure that if you purchase any of these items you save the receipt — you can write off this stuff next year.
Printing and Scanning
The promise of a paper-free world never really panned out. In fact, chances are you have more paper than ever. At tax time, this means lots of printing, and if you need to send copies of receipts to Uncle Sam or just to your accountant, you’ll have to do some scanning. The good news is that this technology continues to get better and cheaper each year. If you’ve been putting off buying a scanner or printer, now’s the time to get a new all-in-one system.
The Epson Stylus NX515 All-in-One Printer offers scan to e-mail functionality, manual two-sided color printing, and one-touch copy. And while this one won’t reduce your paperwork, it will make short work of your print needs with a maximum speed of 36 pages per minute in black and laser-quality speed of 15ppm in color. It also features Wi-Fi functionality to help you cut down on the cords in your office. This Energy Star unit is designed to be easily recycled.
If you need to add fax functionality, consider Lexmark’s Platinum Pro905. This heavy-duty unit will save you some pennies throughout the year as the ink replacement cartridges cost about $4.99 each, bringing your per-sheet print cost down to about one cent. In addition to being cost effective, this one can help you become more efficient, as it includes an extra paper tray and even has options like a business card scanner — so you can keep your contacts organized after you finish your taxes.
For those on the go all year, it can be hard to find those receipts when the time comes. That’s why the Plustek MobileOffice AD450 is perfect for the harried business traveler. It’s a compact scanner measuring just 3.8 by 11.4 by 3 inches, and it runs on power from your laptop’s USB port. It can scan paper documents as well as plastic cards, is compatible with MS Office, and supports scan to e-mail. This means you can scan your receipts and save them to your computer for tax time or send them back to the office while you’re still on the road.
Back It Up
Besides printing and scanning the year’s receipts, time sheets, and invoices, you have the worry of making sure this information is backed up. That means more than just saving it to your desktop hard drive. Burning a copy to a CD or saving one on a thumb drive is good, but the problem with both of these options is that it’s easy enough to misplace them.
One alternative is to put your sensitive data on an external hard drive, which can then be locked safely in a firebox. Seagate makes a reliable line of external hard drives, ranging from its FreeAgent Desk line of drives that store up to 2 terabytes to the FreeAgent Go portable drives that offer up to 1TB of storage.
Another option is to go virtual with a site, such as Box.net, which is essentially security in the clouds according to the company. There’s a free option that allows for up to 1 gigabyte of Web-based storage with a 25 megabytes file size limit. Individual packages are $9.95 a month and business plans are $15 a month per user with a beefy 15GB of Web-based storage. The good thing about this option is that it means you can get access to your data from just about anywhere.
Destroy the Old Data
It’s nice that you don’t have to save old files indefinitely. But chucking those old bills, receipts, and invoices isn’t a great idea. While still tedious, there are ways to make getting rid of old paperwork and hardware a little easier.
The Fellowes line of shredders will help. Its IntelliShred MS-450Ci is a desk-side paper shredder that can handle up to 7 sheets of paper at a time, while the high-volume MS-460Ci can tackle up to 12 sheets with a 7 gallon capacity, and the MS-470Ci can also tear up to 12 sheets at a time with a 16 gallon capacity. All of these use a micro-cut that turns old documents into confetti, and they can also gobble up CDs and plastic cards.
And since every computer eventually reaches the end of its life cycle, you need to think about destroying that hard drive too. There are massive machines out there that can do the job, but these are probably too big for most small offices. You’re just as well off with a low tech $10 hammer. But if you just don’t have a Thor-like hammer (or compulsion), consider companies such as Hard Drive Destroyer, which will destroy your hard drive once you mail it in. You get a certificate ensuring that the work has been done.