A professional bookkeeper answers FAQs from Canadian Small Business Owners
Dear advisor, I have a shoebox full of business receipts and every tax season is hectic. Is there a better way for me to do this?
As a bookkeeper, I get to work with small businesses on a daily basis and in many different fields. Over the years I have seen enough to write an epic novel (which I hope to do one day), however, for this question one story in particular came to mind.
Small business owners often have no idea what they are doing on the financial side of things because they are busy working in the business, instead of on the business. So, it was not uncommon for them to come by my office with a grocery bag or shoe box full of receipts, hoping to exchange it for a nicely drawn up report for their accountant. One day, a client of mine dropped a pizza box full of receipts off on my back step. Mistaking the pizza box for garbage, I quickly threw it out and blamed my husband for being unable to walk two extra steps to the trash bin. Needless to say, I soon found myself digging through said trash bin to recover those important documents so I could file everything accurately.
I knew there had to be a better way to help my small business clients manage their paper documents.
This is when the accordion folder was introduced to my bookkeeping business back in 2009. Each client had their own accordion that was setup specifically for their business. The client would then drop off their full folder each month or quarter and we would give it back empty – no more receipts disguised as garbage in my house! Still, sorting through all that paper sounds like a lot of work, huh?
Fast forward a decade and I was introduced to “receipt capture” technology that would make mine and my clients’ lives so much easier. Tools like Hubdoc, a document collection and management software, allowed our clients to simply take photos of bills and receipts for record-keeping purposes.
Conversations with our small business clients were filled with reasons why software such as Hubdoc was a necessary evolution to the small business landscape. At the time, some were ready to give it a go, and others not so much.
Then came 2020: the COVID-19 pandemic managed to do the convincing where I could not, and those clients who had been wary of Hubdoc were calling to get set up. Gone were the days where an in person paper drop-off was the norm. My clients were able to gain efficiency by taking photos of their receipts and forward emails and invoices in near real-time. This not only made their bookkeeping so much less time-consuming – it also meant they got to have a proactive (vs. retroactive) look at their business, while in the comfort of their own home. And, it helped make preparing for tax season a breeze for us and our clients – we had all the documentation we needed, easily accessible in one secure location.
Coming out of the pandemic, I’m finding that the landscape is changing yet again. Small business owners are no longer always holding office space and are evolving into remote or hybrid environments; sometimes taking on jobs that are halfway across Canada.
Software like Hubdoc is continuing to help us adapt, allowing us to work with clients that are five minutes away or on the other side of the country. For those that are close by, they like the fact they can take a picture at the time of purchase, file it away, and never think about it again. Clients that are far away appreciate that we can take care of them without the expense of couriers or postage. My client pool (and my employee pool) grew from those in and around my immediate physical location and expanded across all of Canada.
What’s the best part of all of this? We get to let technology do the data entry at the click of a button. We then manage and look at those numbers to provide timely information to help grow the small businesses our clients so lovingly tend. What’s the use in having information that is months old, when accounting technology can let us know what is happening in a small business at any given moment?
If you’re looking for a better way to manage your business receipts and make tax season less hectic, and get better insights into your business – look to technology. Technology doesn’t have to be too complicated or feared – if you can take a photo on your phone, you can use tools like Hubdoc and reap all the benefits.