E-commerce: Store your old accounting documents

When a company produces documents (invoices, purchase order, delivery note, payslips, etc.) or receives them, it must keep them for legal and practical reasons.

You are no exception to this rule as a structure specialized in e-commerce. Whether you choose to do old-fashioned archiving (paper) or keep your documents virtually, certain rules are in order.

Identify essential accounting documents

In business, it is essential to keep accounts and complete a tax form. All accounting documents recorded in the accounts must be stored, since they serve as supporting documents.

Managing these documents requires organization and rigor in storage and filing.

In particular, you must pay attention to essential documents such as:

  • The accounting books:  this is the accounting journal and the general ledger which list the daily financial flows (money inflows and outflows) of your e-commerce activity.
  • Supporting documents: these are sales and purchase invoices, order or delivery slips, tax documents, bank statements, etc. They prove the information contained in the other accounting documents.
  • The annual accounts:  these are the balance sheet, the profit and loss account and the appendix which lists all the accounts for the current financial year.

Choose the storage format for accounting documents

The choice of format for keeping accounting documents deserves special attention when you want to set up an effective storage system.

Companies are increasingly replacing their paper information media (or other materials) with immaterial media.

The virtual backup of accounting documents offers many advantages:

  • You don’t need archive rooms or spend time on storage
  • You save paper and reduce waste
  • You save on printing, the purchase of ink, printer maintenance, etc.
  • Your collaborators can access the documents simultaneously.

Despite these positives, some e-commerce owners will still want to store their documents in paper form. It may be because they don’t deem external servers or the cloud secure enough.

Adopting efficient and secure GED software helps to solve this problem. However, this solution may involve an investment that your e-commerce business cannot yet afford.

It is possible that you do not have a lot of documents to store or that you have a lot of storage space. You can therefore choose to keep your old accounting documents in the cloud and keep their paper version.  

Know the retention period of documents for better filing

Controlling the retention period of your accounting documents is important when you want to archive them. You must keep them not only according to their use, but also according to their regulatory retention period.

All stored documents have different retention periods. When doing the filing, it is important to keep the so-called current and intermediate archives handy. These are useful when, for example, a dispute arises with the tax authorities, a customer or a supplier.

The accounting documents and supporting documents mentioned above must be kept for a period of at least 10 years. It is only after 3 years that you can choose to keep an electronic invoice only in paper format.

Depending on the size of your e-commerce business, you will also need to keep documents related to legal life such as:

  • Minutes of meetings
  • Management reports
  • Certificates of deposit for the annual accounts
  • Contracts for the acquisition or sale of real estate or land
  • customs declarations
  • Freight transport documents and more.

Knowing their retention period is very important if you decide to store your accounting and administrative documents yourself in paper form. You can then better organize the archive space, keeping the items you will need most often accessible.

Prepare old accounting documents for preservation

The preparation of accounting documents is a particularly important step when you opt for virtual storage. The legislation allows you to directly edit digital invoices to send them by email to customers. You can also digitize the documents that you initially have in paper version.

With the arrival of electronic archiving with probative value, your electronic documents retain the same legal value as those on paper. If you choose to keep only digital copies of your supporting documents, these must meet a number of conditions.

Digitization is supposed to produce information related to the copy, and to guarantee its integrity. The authenticity of each document and the attributes that characterize it must be ensured by time stamping and sealing before archiving.  

Any digitized document must also be kept in PDF or PDF A/3 (ISO 19005-3) format to guarantee the readability and durability of the data.  

If you plan to merge your folders , make sure they are properly stored.

Store accounting documents by category in binders or folders

As mentioned above, you need to put in place a filing system for accounting documents that allows easy access to information. This applies to both paper archiving and virtual storage.

Filing is a tool for optimizing the accounting management of your e-commerce business, by limiting the loss of documents. One of the best ways to do this is to categorize them into binders or folders.

You can choose to classify by type of document:

  • Sales invoices
  • Purchase invoices
  • Tax documents
  • Social documents
  • Bank receipts, etc.

It is also possible to opt for storage according to a chronological order (customer invoices for example) or alphabetically (case of supplier invoices).

Remember to number the binders or files from year to year to easily find yourself in the chronology of your accounting documents.

Conclusion

In accounting, the retention period for certain documents ranges from 1 year to more than 5 or 6 years. However, there remains at least 10 years for supporting accounting documents.

You can store your old accounting documents on paper or virtually.

Regardless of the method adopted, always be sure to store them in binders or folders numbered year by year.

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