"It's a rare company that uses a ledger system to track individual machines," says Murray Alter, tax partner at Coopers & Lybrand in New York City. Faster than tracking receipts and serial numbers is using bar-coded labels to identify equipment and permanently store purchase dates and other information. Barcode Anything, from Zebra Technologies (801-576-9700, $379 suggested retail price, scanning wand included, not available for the Mac), has made the process relatively inexpensive for small businesses.

Barcode Anything allows the user to print and structure bar codes so that when they're scanned, they tell a PC any information the user needs to know. For example, a bar-coded label can store a date, a description, and an identification number into Microsoft Excel or into FoxPro or a dozen other databases.