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  • Jennifer Wehinger

Be a Receipt Boss

Gone are the days of paper. Check out some 101 advice on keeping digital business receipts...

The Internal Revenue Service requires that receipts for business transactions be kept for three years, in fact they can audit up to six years of financial records. Today we see less and less paper and that’s a good thing. Going paper-free and digitalizing all contracts, receipts, and business documents is environmental, money-saving, and gives way to a cleaner desktop (your actual physical desktop).

In today’s e-commerce world, we order many of our business needs online. It’s easy and fast to click through an order and wait for your new shiny office phone to show up on our front porch. The order is recorded on the merchant’s account, and often is emailed to us. Nowadays, we are rarely given a piece of paper to shove in a shoebox. Remember grandpa’s shoebox of business receipts? What a mess that was! But don’t snicker too much, because we still have a much bigger and scarier version today—the “digital shoebox.” By this, I mean an unorganized heap of emails on our inbox. At the end of the year, Grandpa’s disorganized mess doesn’t hold a candle to what accumulates in our inboxes.

Organizing our business papers in the digital age still takes some effort. But I think it’s easier and can be streamlined.

It begins with awareness and habit.

At the moment we place the order or receive the emailed receipt is the easiest time to snap a screen shot and save it. Put all your files in a folder for business receipts. Alternatively, you can set up a folder in your inbox and move all receipt and order emails to it.

Don’t wait until the end of the year to face them (see Start Early). Little tasks that get away can become a big pain later.

Met that client at the coffee shop for a consultation? Use one of many dynamic online apps to instantly snap a photo of that receipt and save it in your books right there on your smart phone.

Many bookkeeping systems now offer easy methods to email or simply drag and drop your receipt to the books directly. They also identify dates and amounts to help match the receipts to the transactions. Try out Hubdoc, an app that gathers your business documents, statements, and anything you upload to it. This app is available for your smart phone and can be used on the fly to shuttle your important documents to a safe cloud-based storage. Many of today’s bookkeeping products such as QuickBooks Online and Xero offer smart phone apps that can click and save those receipts.

Screen shots are the new paper. Besides the keyboard’s “screenshot” button, there are convenient tools, such as the Window’s Snipping Tool, that allow you to frame exactly what you want from the screen before snapping a picture. It’s a quick click-and-save and you’re done. Now it can be ready to attach to your bookkeeping transactions.

I notice these days a lot of stores don’t offer or ask if you want a receipt. Unless I think to ask for it, I’ll just walk away without it. Most vendors are defaulting to no receipt, unless we ask for one. This is especially important for cash transactions.

Today, we have it easier than Grandpa did. With a greater percent of our paperwork in digital formats and camera phones in our pockets, it’s easier than ever to store, send, and organize receipts. Let me teach you how.

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