Can Bookkeeping Be Handled Remotely?

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There are many job roles that simply don’t seem to work outside of the office, at least at first glance. For example, consider the role of your bookkeeper or accountant. It seems like, at the very least, they would need to come in on a regular basis to take care of paperwork, whether you’re talking about cutting checks to vendors or handling payroll. However, with some planning and the use of the right tools, bookkeeping is a task that can be done remotely.

Handling Hard Copy

The biggest difficulty with either outsourcing your accounting department entirely or letting them telecommute is that there are more pieces of physical paperwork in the accounting department than in any other part of the office. Checks, receipts, tax forms and other paperwork build up and someone will have to deal with all of it.

But if you’re willing to make a commitment to reducing all that hard copy, it’s possible. Services such as Shoeboxed can automate the process of scanning in your organization’s receipts and putting them in a form that a virtual bookkeeper can handle easily. It may just be a matter of adjusting how your mailroom operates: Invoices, receipts and other such paperwork needs to be scanned and then filed. It’s a simple transition, although it may take a little work to set up.

There is a question of security — you don’t want your employees’ tax forms floating around the Internet — so you’ll need to ensure you use a secure system.

Outsourcing Accounting Functions

Moving your bookkeeper and other accounting staff out of your office isn’t necessarily that difficult proposition, but a question of location will come up if you want to outsource. Increasingly, firms are offering extremely inexpensive accounting and tax preparation services using staff based in countries such as India and the Philippines. Such outsourcing may be less effective for financial work than for other parts of your business, however. When it comes to your company’s finances, it’s important to make sure that you’re working with a staff deeply familiar with the regulations in the U.S. (or wherever you’re based). It’s even better if you can find someone up to speed on your state’s requirements. Otherwise, come tax time, you can find yourself facing a lot of trouble. There are enough ways for a problem to creep into your taxes that it just doesn’t make sense to add the potential problems of working with someone who isn’t local.

It comes down to striking a balance, if you want your accounting staff to be able to telecommute or if you want to let someone outside your company entirely handle the function. Payroll firms and other specialist companies make it easy to outsource the process, but you’ll still want to make sure that you’re working with a local team, even if you never see them face-to-face.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Le Petite Poulailler

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