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Discussion:How do you keep track of all your files? I'm going crazy!

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Discussion Forum Index --> Business Growth Community --> How do you keep track of all your files? I'm going crazy!


TaxDude (talk|edits) said:

2 April 2007
Hi everyone,

Do you have about 12 different piles in your office? The date the paperwork came in; whether you've glanced at it, but it's not input yet; waiting on client for missing info; complicated and I don't feel like doing it yet; pita so he waits till later; Or does the super-organized have a log sheet with status notes and all the files are back in the file cabinet until needed?

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

2 April 2007
I track returns on a large white magnet board 5 ft x 3 ft with write-on magnets for each client, move them to different spots on the board depending on their status: being input, on hold, ready to assemble, ready to review, ready to pick up, mailed out waiting on payment.

get it at office depot catalog - maybe $150 or $250 but worth every cent

I know which room every return is in based on the board. Use different colored magnets/paper for each preparer. I've tracked over a thousand returns each year in my old practice this way - receptionist knows exactly what stage each return is, and where to go to add additional info dropped off by client.

Www.cpa1.biz (talk|edits) said:

2 April 2007
Na,

I have piles of returns all over my floor. When someone visits, I put them on my return bookshelf, organized.

I have shelfs for returns waiting for questions; returns waiting for payment and e-file authorization forms; and returns that have not been started in some type of sequential first come first serve order.

I have also a shelf for returns that are completed waiting to get scanned in my E-cabinet hard drive.

That is pretty much it but I am new guy so I will for sure change. What I do see being good is having little space in my office and just scanning source documents and PDFeffing the return where as other preparers on this forum tend to print off a copy for themselves. The reason I do not print of a copy for myself is because I PDF it and have two monitors to review prior year's return and current year's return.

I hope that helps. It surely does for me.

Ddspetersen (talk|edits) said:

2 April 2007
I like the magnet board idea! May have to try that because I too have several different piles on the floor in my very small home office. Can't even walk through without tripping over them. Thanks!

AHH (talk|edits) said:

2 April 2007
I keep a folder with a spreadsheet listing client name, date in, date completed, last yr fee, this year fee and an efile column. When client picks up return I highlight across column to show it's out of here. I have a filing cabinet with drawers for not completed rtns, one for ready to pickup, and one for efiled and waiting for acceptance notice. Works great for me.

Bottom Line (talk|edits) said:

3 April 2007
I've got stackable bins that I keep the incoming work in. I put a sticky note with the client name on the front of the bin so I can easily find the client if additional paperwork comes in. A couple of years ago I found a mail room sorter at an auction (normally over $1,000 and I only paid $150); weighs a ton but you can easily change the size of the slots. I use sticky notes on that too. When I get paperwork that I know I'll need in future years (purchase of publicly traded stock for example), that goes in the mail room sorter. I have a spiral binder where I log the work as it comes in, the date it came in and the estimated amount of time to complete it. (I hate carrying half completed projects over to the next day and will work on shorter projects toward the end of the day.) Pending items go in the spiral binder too. I make a list of all info needed before I call/email the client and give them the list of all info needed at one time. If I get the info within 24 hours, the client stays at the top of the stack and I'll finish the return. If I don't get it within 24 hours, they go back down to the bottom. I record the date and time I contacted them and follow up every couple of weeks. I have an Excel spreadsheet that keeps track of the clients; columns for income taxes, quarterly payroll taxes, W-2/1099, and annual renewals of corporations (if they don't remember to renew their corp somehow it becomes my fault). I do all my billing through QuickBooks so it's easy for me to see what I did for them and what I charged in prior years.

Deback (talk|edits) said:

April 3, 2007
I have a simple system that is all maintained in one room in my main office. I also have a waiting room, a storage room for prior year records for accounting clients and prior tax clients (1/2 of my laundry room), and an area of my main office (that is L-shaped) that people can't see that has six file cabinets, a 2nd computer used to print envelopes, and a supply cabinet.

Five baskets:

1. One for pending returns that have been typed into the computer but waiting for more info after I've called the clients asking for more info. When I get the rest of the info, those returns go to the front of the to-do basket.

2. One for returns to do (at times in February, I need two baskets for returns to do).

3. One for completed returns waiting to be picked up.

4. One for returns that I need to call the clients--to either get more info and/or to let them know their returns are ready to pick up. I usually make those calls each day between noon and 1 pm. After I make the calls, the folders or completed returns go into the appropriate baskets.

5. One for completed folders to be filed in the file cabinets (which I do about every other day) either in the morning or just before I close at 7 pm.

I don't keep any lists on paper, magnetic boards, or sticky notes, because I don't have the extra time that this would involve (time is money to me). I don't keep track of when returns come in or go out, because I usually have them done within a few days, and since I'm the only one here, I just know where everyone's folder is.

When the 8879s arrive back here, I just efile them. I can easily tell who hasn't sent back the 8879 by viewing the list in ProSeries.

TexCPA (talk|edits) said:

3 April 2007
I have two areas; PITA files and others, the PITA files are sprayed with FaBreeze, the others are filed chronilogically and get little gold stars, the PITA files have BIG RED DOTS, I never mix the gold stars and the BIG RED DOTS, they are seperated and each have their own room, client asks ' what's with the red dots on my file' I sez oh that's just tells me that your file is is "special"

Deback (talk|edits) said:

April 3, 2007
I also write on the front of each client's tax folder the tax year and the fee I charged. This is a very convenient method to keep track of what I've charged every client for every year.

RSRAGENCY (talk|edits) said:

3 April 2007
Mine is kinda simple. Behind and to the side of my seat, on the floor I have an open box of Large envelopes, small envelopes for receipts and the 2-pocket folders I use. Grab one of each for each return. Two LARGE baskets...one contains the incoming, which I date/stamp RECEIVED on it. The other basket has the QUESTIONS.I keep a log as they come in, their name, date received,last year's cost.As they are finished, I enter the date I called client, and when they come in I check it off with the payment amount. Those that get mailed also have the date mailed...I leave the Paid column open until I receive their check. Finished folders stand up on the floor in front of my desk; my folder with their prior year's are, at this point, inside their large envelope, too. When they come in for their papers, I pull everything out of the large envelope, open the folder and have them review--if all is OK, they sign and date the 8879, I scan a copy for them, put it in their folder, hand it over and file mine away.

Worked for the past 14 years...

DJ

RSRAGENCY (talk|edits) said:

3 April 2007
OH, I have 4 filing cabinets in my office up here. In my laundry room I have 4 more cabinets that I keep prior years' records in.. In fact, this year, I've returned 1986 thru 1996 copies back to the clients, I just kept my cover worksheet, along w/their notes, W2's

DJ

Deback (talk|edits) said:

April 3, 2007
I don't file the 8879s...just stack them up in an extra drawer I have and then, at the end of tax season, I throw them into a box and store them in my storage area in the laundry room for three years. I also don't keep any of the baskets or folders on the floor. I have two 2-drawer file cabinets that I keep two of the baskets on (to-do and pending baskets) and another table to the right of my desk where the completed and to-call baskets are kept, along with all the government envelopes, generic forms, and cover sheets that are kept in a wooden file thing (with 12 slots) that I made about 20 years ago.

Death&Taxes (talk|edits) said:

3 April 2007
Incoming go in a 3 drawer cabinet, file and envelope. Then I use storgage boxes, three holding returns waiting for something and not me. Next is a box with 'waiting for 8879' but that migrated to the TV room plus another box of files where the returns are with my associate 75 miles away being data entered. Finally there is a rack with files that just need me to finish, information has come in. Last is the chair next to me with returns I am working on. Instead of a board I have an excel spreadsheet marking ins and outs.

Klesher (talk|edits) said:

3 April 2007
TexCPA - love your PITA and big red dots - I sort of do the same thing but without the red dots or gold stars. I also have piles but my little gold stars usually get done first. Am I the only one that by this time of the year just have those damn red dots left!

Deb - Yes I also write the tax prep fee on their file from year to year - is a great help

I also have "piles" - no time for fancy magnetic boards, although it sounds like a very good idea.

RSRAGENCY (talk|edits) said:

3 April 2007
AND DON'T FORGET THE RECYCLING BIN OFF TO THE SIDE FOR ALL THE ENVELOPES CLIENTS BRING THEIR 'STUFF' IN....THAT is what fills up Every Single Day!

Vbcpa (talk|edits) said:

3 April 2007
I have files everywhere - I consider it organized - I have the just dropped off you are so getting an extension pile...to the if you don't call me back by tomorrow you are also so getting an extension pile.....the pile that I haven't looked at yet that will also be getting an extension because the client won't stop calling me to find out if I've completed their return.....and then the pile that I'm waiting to decide which pile I should put the file on in order to get it an extension.....so much work so little time! Just kidding - well not about the piles of files on the floor - they are definitely there - but that is my goal this week - clean up the floor - get those returns out the door!

Bottom Line (talk|edits) said:

3 April 2007
I do subwork for a CPA and have gotten at least two calls a week from him for the last month with "Do you know where so-and-so's file is?" I'm only in his office about an hour each week and he has three full time girls working for him in his office. He's getting a little crazed.

Rgtaxservice (talk|edits) said:

3 April 2007
I use stackable inboxes. I have one tower with 16 inboxes.

Each box is labeled starting from the top (Not started, In Progress, Waiting on Info, Call for Info, Call for Review, In Review, Review Complete, Efile Sig Pending, Ready to efile, Acknowlegment Pending. Client jackets start at the top and work their way to to the bottom.

After assembly they move to TOWER TWO. The second tower of 10 inboxes is labeled Complete..Appt Scheduled, Complete...Need to Notify.

Only one client jacket is allowed on my desk at a given time. This prevents the possibility of cross contamination.

I use Outlook Task Manager to track my returns. I have different views to show me the status of each return.

For the four months during tax season I am the most organized person my wife has every seen. It confounds her that I can exhibit such organization and tidyness on a daily basis yet fail to put my clothes in the hamper nightly, opting instead to create a clothes mountain just one foot away from the hamper. It's a guy thing.

Bottom Line (talk|edits) said:

3 April 2007
Yall's paper stacks must be a lot smaller than mine or maybe I have too many box people. My stack of just the Not Started's would reach seven or eight feet tall at times. Fortunately my pendings max out at around 10. Long standing clients have been trained on what to bring. I do agree with having only one client on my desk at a time. If I'm interrupted and need to look something up, I put that on a separate work table.

DCTAX1 (talk|edits) said:

3 April 2007
I have piles stacked in my office also. The one thing I do that I didn't see listed in other responses is that I have a "sticky note" attached to the front of each of the files telling me what I'm waiting for, who I need to call, etc. (Just a very brief note of what needs to be done.) This helps me to know at a glance what I need for that particular file (if the list is lengthy, I just put "see note inside" and print out the Lacerte "notes" page) and, when that item is taken care of, I scratch it all and jot down the next thing that needs to be done with that file.

Bottom Line (talk|edits) said:

3 April 2007
DC you read my mind. I paperclip a note to the top of the stack saying what info is needed. That's also where I make a note of each time I contacted the client. If the list is detailed (or if my handwriting is worse than usual that day), I'll type the list in Word. Some clients want the list faxed or emailed.

Deback (talk|edits) said:

April 3, 2007
BL - I don't have any box people. I might have one client each year bring in a sack full of stuff (like the 92-year old the other day who brought in two grocery sacks, including the one manilla envelope in one of the sacks that contained all of his year-end documents--the envelope that he forgot he had put in the sack). But that's probably because you do a lot of bookkeeping and I don't do much of that anymore, and when I do, I get their stuff dropped off each month in a manilla-sized envelope in the box on my porch or in the mail. I don't take any clients who need their full year accounting done during tax season. Bookkeeping was never my favorite thing. But I've always loved doing tax returns, starting at age 14, when I started working.

Back in the 80s, when I was doing returns manually, I would have up to 80 returns to start on (in four baskets), but in the last several years, in February, I'll usually have up to 40 at the most or usually more like 20 to start on. And that's why I work until about 1 am every night in February.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I can't wait until my current monthly bookkeeping clients go out of business. I would prefer to just do taxes during tax season.

Actionbsns (talk|edits) said:

3 April 2007
My stuff is everywhere! It's sort of organized, but whenever I want a file, it's never where I think it is or should be. Right now, I'm looking for a client file that has been hanging around all tax season just irritating the holy living bejasus out of me, and today it's nowhere to be seen. My office is so small that it's hard to keep organized at this time of year. On a good note, my assistant should be back on Wednesday and her pregnancy is in tact. Told her today that nothing here is more important than her baby, but I'm looking forward to her returning. I believe that about 99.99 percent, but there's that greedy little part of me that sure would like her to just come back and make my office look better.

Acctax (talk|edits) said:

3 April 2007
I see lots & lots of stacks but they are "organized stacks", imho. I have my 2 work baskets which includes untouched files & currently working on but interrupted during the process. I have my call client basket with my "Get List". Next would be my "in process drawer" (waiting for client info to finish up quickly, I hope. There is the pick-up drawer and finally the basket that says "Process Me".

On a lighter note. my one & only assistant always comes up with a gag on the last day. Last yr. she created a tombstone shaped sign for my "Process Me" basket.

R.I.P. Jan 1, 2006 April 14, 2006

Here lies the Great Tax Return Basket. It was loved by few, hated by many. After a long four month battle with tax season, it could survive no longer!

Dar

Dhtax (talk|edits) said:

3 April 2007
What a great topic! I'm gonna print it out and study it (over the summer). Since going independent I've found that office procedure is at least as hard as tax prep. I love the magnet-board idea, and the PITA stickers.
   Anyway, I'm an old data-base person, so I tried several times to "automate" with a software set-up.  Never worked.  But for the last two years the software I now use (Drake) has a client status manager that is pretty useful for completed, e-f pending, on hold, etc.  I used to do something similar in Lacerte, which was of course better.  
 Aisde from that:  Each client has a hanging folder with their name on a tab.  I have a bunch of milk-carton sized hanging-folder crates, and all the in-progress files get sorted into one or another. If the returns are too fat to fit I put an empty hanging folder in the appropriate box, and stick the files in a tray or cardboard box with a label on my bookshelf. Problem is, my categories keep changing, but in general I have "hold--waiting for client input" "under review by client (ones I've sent out pdf)" "can be finished now" "need to contact client" "Process" and "DO TODAY!!!!"     I may add some others after I read through all your good ideas.  Keep 'em coming.

Bottom Line (talk|edits) said:

5 April 2007
Fortunately I've managed to cull most of my PITA clients so the few remaining I remember and don't have to mark. I do my billing in QuickBooks and for those few charge off's I've put their name in all caps after I've charged them off. This reminds me that they're a dirt bag. (I do this for fired clients too.) It's amazing that they seem to come back after 4 or 5 years. I'm real nice, get their stuff and then remind them that they owe me back money. This has been a good collection tool. (Of course I get paid up front for the work they've just brought in too)

JEHCPA (talk|edits) said:

5 April 2007
I have a really simple system. I pick it up look at it, try to finish it, if I can it goes in the stack for the receptionist to take and collate and make the call to client. If I can't I toss it over my shoulder to desk behind me. When the stack begins to slide off to the floor and I can't move my chair anymore, I go thourhg them again and start the process over again until they are all gone.:))

DZCPA (talk|edits) said:

5 April 2007
If I can do it in 30 minutes and make $300 I do it. If they want to come to my house, I send it to Deback. If it has a 1031 exchange between related parties I send it to Riley. If its messy and at the last minute I send it to JR1. If they bring in their dog I send it to D&T. If they want to do it themselves and need additional tax education I send it to Kevin. The remainder.....in piles like the rest of you.

Deback (talk|edits) said:

April 5, 2007
A client asked me yesterday if I prepared returns like Hewlett Packard prepares returns.

RSRAGENCY (talk|edits) said:

5 April 2007
Deb, does that mean they were 'new' and wanted 'everything for nothing'???

DJ

Klesher (talk|edits) said:

5 April 2007
JEH - you gave me a good laugh roday - I like your system!

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