If you have ever been to an accounting office, you will notice that it contains many filing cabinets, and that is by design -- accounting tasks require lots of paperwork and great organization. Not only do accountants need to safeguard documentation, they also need to find the paperwork fast. Good filing is a must. Accounting office filing procedures must be simple and straightforward to be effective.
Most accounting files and binders should be kept in a central location that is located in a safe and private area. Each type of transaction should have its own filing cabinet or at least a specified drawer or shelf. For example, revenues shouldn't be mixed with expenses or other documentation. Only authorized personnel should be allowed to review the contents and remove files from the accounting area. If filing cabinets are located in an area that cannot be locked, such as inside an accounting office, then the cabinets should be locked up at all times.
Filing for accounts payable is segregated from all other files and is organized by year and alphabetically by vendor name. Each drawer should be clearly marked outside to make it easier to find specific files. Depending on the space available, accountants keep current expense records nearby, while files for prior years may be archived in storage. Note that files for fixed assets are separated and kept nearby the office on a long-term basis -- not put in storage.
Filing for accounts receivable transactions is based on deposit dates to facilitate bank reconciliations at a month's end. For example, suppose you see $200 as a deposit in the bank statement at a certain date, but you have only recognized $180 in the accounting records -- you will need access by date to identify the reason for the discrepancy. Filing for receivables can be done in monthly or weekly binders, depending on volume of transactions.
Because of confidentiality issues, payroll documents are kept totally separate from the rest of the accounting records, usually in the payroll professional's office. Reports and records are kept locked and away from public view at all times, accessible only be a few authorized employees. Payroll reports are filed by payday together with time sheets for the period. Note that old payroll records should be archived separately with much more security than other records.