Paperless bookkeeping is elementary, but why leave PDF behind?

Kapitali kaasamine_

When it comes to "green accounting", the first thing that often comes to mind is stacks of paper, which today can be replaced by digital documents. In fact, green thinking goes much further in the world of accounting, and digital "paperwork" also needs to be put in order. What does and how does Estonia's first paperless accounting company think in this direction Grow Finance?

Grow Finance partner Ulvi Tallo recalls that she started doing trainings about five years ago, where she taught how to become paperless. Back then, at least half of Estonian accounting companies still used paper invoices, if not more. There are still companies where invoices are printed on paper. "Today, this part is marginal, but it is still being done," says Tallo.

Why go PDF-free?

However, paper freedom is only the first step. In 2022, you should already think about how to be PDF-free. Unfortunately, in Estonian accounting, most of the invoices are in PDF format. "It is a peculiarity of Estonia that PDF is sent and not much thought is given to how big the PDF footprint actually is. It must be reduced," says Tallo. Instead of PDF, e-invoices should be introduced, the footprint of which is many times smaller.

A typical phone or internet bill can be only a few kilobytes in PDF format. Doesn't it look too bulky? Ulvi Tallo explains what the problem is: "The PDF size range can be very large, sometimes it is tens of times and sometimes even a thousand times larger than the e-invoice. The difference is that the e-invoice moves from one program to another, but the PDFs remain in emails and elsewhere, where they are not deleted."

Because many accounting firms only moved late towards paper freedom and PDFs have not been managed for a very long time, the problem may not appear today or tomorrow, but in the distant future. "Today's footprint may not be that big, but if the PDF is never deleted, it keeps piling up and getting bigger and bigger. Offices that have only recently become paperless should already think about how to get rid of their archives as easily as possible in the future," Tallo emphasizes.

A simple example that is also familiar to those who are not into accounting: we click a bunch of pictures with our phone and think that we will sort them out someday. The reality is often different - instead of sorting pictures, you end up buying a new phone that is more powerful. "If you spend 10 or 50 years there, the footprint grows exponentially," warns Tallo.

This is not an abstract scare story, but a warm recommendation from pioneers in their field. “Because Grow Finance has been digital for so long and edited with PDF, we already see this archive volume today. Others are so much newer that it is not yet felt," says Tallo.

There is still room for development

So who is development behind? The introduction of e-invoices should not be so difficult. Since Grow Finance operates internationally, Tallo knows firsthand that Estonia is a "runner up" when it comes to e-invoices. "Nothing will change until sending e-invoices is made mandatory," believes Tallo. Currently, sending e-invoices is mandatory only for the public sector. "Grow Finance can send and receive e-invoices, but if they are not sent to us, we cannot do anything," says Tallo.

There is still a lot of room for improvement in the retail trade, for example in grocery and hardware stores, where invoices are still printed on paper. "mTasku's solution is very nice, but for some reason many companies have not joined it. In fact, there could be one central place where you can receive the check without paper," Tallo dreams. So it's not just accounting firms that are stuck with paper and PDF.

Green accounting however, is not limited to e-invoices. Since accounting can be done essentially from anywhere, it supports Grow Finance also home office work and online meetings. "We encouraged the use of the home office even before the corona era. In fact, you don't have to drive everywhere and meet up, it reduces the transport footprint. Fortunately, it has now become very natural," Tallo is happy that something good came out of the pandemic.

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