Office Paperwork Evolved, from Game of Thrones to Grey’s Anatomy

Even in a digital world, businesses are still forced to handle mounds of paper documents. This post from our friends at RightSignature outlines just how far we have come since the early days of dreaded “paperwork.”

This is a guest post by RightSignature, a web service that provides the easiest, fastest way to get documents signed online.

Let’s look up from our computers for a second and think of a simpler time, before electronic documents allowed our businesses to communicate literally at light speed. If you had a message to send, rather than firing off an email, you’d simply write it on a scrap of paper, then tie that note to the foot of a bird. Your response would arrive days, or even weeks later—possibly including a body part as an “attachment”.

Luckily for us, today we live in a significantly more modern world. Our technology could solve the problems of many classic stories. Imagine how Romeo and Juliet might end if the two had smartphones: Juliet texts “i’m not really dead LOL,” and one of Western literature’s greatest tragedies is averted. Thankfully, we can also use fiction to troubleshoot the problems we find in our professional lives. Let’s take a look at the evolution of paperwork through the greatest lens on our culture: television.

Winter is Coming for Paper Documents

The show: Game of Thrones

The time period: Medieval-ish? Actually, we’re not quite sure

The problem: Slow, expensive, insecure documents

In the Kingdom of Westeros, setting for HBO’s fantasy hit Game of Thrones, the most important messages are delivered by trained ravens. We have just one question: what happens if it’s raining? Actually, we have a few more questions, mostly related to the cost of raising and training a fleet of messenger birds.

 As a result, important, official communications are plagued by a number of problems shared by anyone in today’s world still using overnight shipping, fax machines, or mail. Where a raven could take days or weeks to deliver that essential NDA or timely sales contract, RightSignature electronic signature software delivers documents for a legally binding, e-signature instantly.

A messenger bird can also get lost or be caught by someone else, but RightSignature’s biometrically enhanced electronic signatures protect your document’s security and authenticity. And, of course, what happens if you run out of ravens? RightSignature offers unlimited document sending, so you never have to worry about your business becoming too successful to keep up.

Compared to shipping or faxing your important paperwork, and the uncertainty it holds, RightSignature offers the perfect solution for instant, secure electronic signatures—all for less than a bucket of birdseed.

Don Draper and the Mountain of Paper

The Show: Mad Men

The Time Period: The 1960’s

The Problem: Paper records and receipts lead to inefficient extra work

AMC’s drama Mad Men is a marvel of aesthetic precision. Everything from the world of high-powered business in the 1960’s is preserved—from the overt racism and sexism to the fleets of secretaries and copyists on typewriters, pounding out every word and work order onto endless stacks of indelible paper. Is this any way we’d want to live today?

 With a reliance on paper records comes the need to sort, store, and search through giant file cabinets, which only grow as your business grows. Particularly troublesome are receipts—those little scraps of paper add up in a big way. You need them to track your business’s expenses, but sorting and storing them all is next to impossible. Not without Shoeboxed.

Shoeboxed lets you throw out all that clutter for a high-powered cloud storage solution. Simply scan your receipts yourself with the handy Shoeboxed app, or physically mail a bundle of receipts to Shoeboxed and they’ll handle the rest. Shoeboxed uploads your receipts into secure online storage, where you can search and sort them with the click of a mouse—no more wading through file cabinets.

Best of all, Shoeboxed makes your receipts ready for all your other needs. Shoeboxed receipts are fully IRS compliant for painless tax filing. And thanks to integrations with software like Quickbooks or RightSignature, you can import your expenses to your online accounting software, or get expense reports signed online effortlessly.

Grey’s Technology: Your Work Transformed

The Show: Grey’s Anatomy

The Time Period: Present day

The Problem: None!

When the latest season of ABC’s medical drama Grey’s Anatomy ditched the paperwork and gave the main characters tablets, it might have felt like a stretch at first. Was this simply window dressing to make the show and its young cast appear modern? Or would the new technology change their work for the better?

 If you dig a bit behind the scenes, the answer to the second question is a solid “yes”. Meredith Grey and her cohort use their tablets to access patients’ medical histories and other vital information with a simple tap on the touchscreen. This embrace of modern technology makes Grey’s Anatomy run smoother, allowing the characters to focus on the surgery, not the paperwork. This makes for not only better medicine, but better television, as well.

What could a similar paperless initiative and commitment to modern technology can do for your business? Don’t run your business like the Medieval times, or get stuck in the 60’s. Take a cue from the TV: RightSignature and Shoeboxed can help lead your business to the present, and into the future.

Easing the Tax Burden

We’re not the only ones who want to ease the tax burden, though! The national conversation about adjusting the Internal Revenue Code is resounding and there is an increasing push towards corporate and personal tax simplification.

“Death, taxes and childbirth!  There’s never any convenient time for any of them.”

Margaret Mitchell wrote this line in her 1935 book, Gone with the Wind, and almost 80 years later it still rings true.  While we may not have a solution for the inconveniences of death and childbirth, reducing consumer tax burden is something we pride ourselves on.  We want tax time to be as simple and stress-free as possible for you.  With your Shoeboxed account, you can easily store and organize pesky tax documents in the cloud that you used to cram in your desk drawer haphazardly.  Your account allows you to export tax information from last year to speed up this year’s process.  We also provide other strategic tips to get motivated and organize your life during that dreaded time of the year.

We’re not the only ones who want to ease the tax burden, though!  The national conversation about adjusting the Internal Revenue Code is resounding and there is an increasing push towards corporate and personal tax simplification.

Many controversies surround the idea of tax collection.  Very much a strongly divided partisan discussion, the debate includes talk of expansion versus elimination of tax loopholes, progressive rates and exemptions.  However, there is something that both parties can agree on in regard to taxes:

The current tax system is placing a huge paperwork and reporting burden on public taxpayers. 

In 2011, the American public spent a combined 9.14 billion hours responding to Federal information collections.  This estimate of public paperwork burden is an increase of 355 million burden hours from 2010, which is about 4 percent.  Additionally, the Department of Treasury accounts for 6.7 billion (74 percent) of these annual burden hours, which result mostly from the implementation of tax-related statutes.

So what can be done to ease this massive paperwork burden?

Congress requires most of the actions that account for the time it takes to complete tax paperwork.   A recent Time article suggested Congress’ implementation of three changes to the tax code could significantly decrease those 6.7 billion hours put in by the American public:

 1.  Streamlining the system

 2.  Reducing redundancies

 3.  Allowing less frequent and detailed reporting

Austan Goolsbee, former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, outlines another possible revision to the current tax system in his paper, The Simple Return: Reducing America’s Tax Burden Through Return-Free Filing.  Many American taxpayers receive all of their income from just one employer and one bank.  Most of the time, the IRS receives information about an individual’s income directly from his employer and bank.  So that’s it, right?  The Internal Revenue Service has the information and the income tax process is complete.  Not exactly.  As you well know, the IRS still requires individuals to gather up their tax documents and fill out lengthy forms, essentially duplicating the information they have already received.

Instead of this redundant process, Goolsbee recommends his program, The Simple Return.  In this alternative tax method, the IRS would continue to gather information from employers and banks, but then would subsequently send taxpayers a return pre-filled with the relevant information.  While this program would be voluntary to the public with the option to continue filing taxes with the current system, it would allow for millions of people to file a tax return by simply checking the numbers, signing the return, and then sending a check or getting a refund.  It could even be done electronically (and we always say yes to paperless)!

Goolsbee says this program could apply to 40 percent of taxpayers, saving them up to 225 million hours of time dedicated to taxes and up to $2 billion per year in tax preparation fees.  Sounds great to us!

California has already implemented a program along the lines of the Simple Return, called ReadyReturn.  More than eleven thousand California residents used ReadyReturn at the introduction of the program, and 90 percent of those users said ReadyReturn was more convenient than the traditional tax system and saved them time when filing their taxes.  European nations, such as Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Spain have implemented tax programs similar to the Simple Return, as well.

Programs like this could reduce the tax process to as quick and easy as five minutes of your time.  Would you use a program like the Simple Return that mailed you a pre-filled tax return?

Organizing the World: The Faces of Shoeboxed part IX (featuring the one and only Shoeboxed Australia!)

With Shoeboxed there has never been one “best” way to use our service to stay organized. And after scanning millions of receipts and business cards since 2007, we say that from years of firsthand experience!

Shoeboxed takes enormous pride in serving clients from around the country and across the globe, all of whom use our service in a myriad of ways to fulfill a whole host of organizational needs in both their personal and professional lives.

A friend at the Shoeboxed Australia office!With that in mind, in this issue of “Organizing the World” we are thrilled to feature our friends from down under. In May 2010, we opened the first Shoeboxed office outside North America in Sydney, Australia, and have been making friends with the locals ever since.

Users from far and wide have discovered how Shoeboxed can help them transform piles of paper receipts unto their favorite accounting, financial and CRM programs to integrate their data. The end result is that individuals and small business owners all over the globe get paperwork done faster, look more professional and spend more time focusing on what they love to do.

The Bright Side of Paperwork: Mark Katz and Southern Sun

This user success story highlights a business focused on skin cancer education, prevention and treatment for Australians. Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. Statistics have shown that around one in two Australians will develop skin cancer during their lifetime, and up to 1,200 Australians die every year from skin cancer. The overall cost of skin cancer is estimated at over $500 million with many millions more in absenteeism costs.

Shoeboxed User: Southern Sun HealthcareSouthern Sun Healthcare Pty Ltd (Southern Sun) was established by pathologist Dr. Ian Katz as a demonstration of his commitment to providing readily accessible first-rate skin cancer diagnosis, treatment, prevention and education to all Australians.  After graduating from The University of Cape Town Medical School in 1987, he continued his research  in Cape Town and Philadelphia for three years before he moved to Sydney in 1991. Dr. Katz obtained his specialization in Pathology with joint qualifications in Histopathology and Chemical Pathology in 1997 after 5 years training at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney. He then went on to receive his Fellowship from the Royal College of Pathologists for Australasia in 1997.

For the past eight years, Dr. Katz has focused almost entirely on the clinical and pathological diagnosis and management of skin cancer. Because of his extensive experience and research, Dr. Katz is happy to consult with skin cancer patients as well as perform biopsies and excisions himself!

Shoeboxed User: Southern Sun at an ExhibitionStarting out as a small business in 2002, Southern Sun has seen great success and has rapidly expanded. The company  now has seven clinics throughout the state of New South Wales. Providing early diagnosis, treatment and prevention of skin cancer, Southern Sun has recently been included in Australia’s BRW Fast 100, a list of the top 100 fastest growing businesses in the country. Rapid growth in business is thrilling, but sustained growth is a constant process.  A business that grows too quickly can run into problems if important fundamentals are not managed effectively, and Southern Sun found a great way to do just that by using Shoeboxed.

Shoeboxed User: Mark Katz and Southern SunMark Katz, Financial Controller of Southern Sun, began using Shoeboxed to help him manage the vast paperwork involved in expanding the business. He actually stumbled across Shoeboxed by a reference from a cousin at a family function!  Since then, the healthcare company has been able to successfully grow and effectively manage their accounting logistics. We are thrilled to help the Katzes continue growing their flourishing business and are honored they choose us to help manage their paper clutter!

Until then, stay tuned… and stay organized!

Are you a Shoeboxed user who has a success story and would like to be featured on our blog? Then we would love to hear from you! Please reach out to Carolyn at carolyn@team.shoeboxed.com for more information.