With the books closed on 2015, it’s natural to start thinking about taxes. It’s also natural to avoid dealing with them until the last second, and then have a mountain of receipts to contend with. We’re starting our tax series well ahead of April 15th, and dealing with storing tax receipts first, because if you don’t have a plan it can be a nightmare.
Back in the day, people painstakingly taped individual receipts down to sheets of paper at tax time, then added each category up: travel here, meals and entertainment over there. But there are many good reasons to avoid paper receipts entirely. There’s the clutter factor, for one, and two, receipts mysteriously fade, like invisible ink. On a scary note, many receipts contain a chemical called Bisphenol-A (BPA), an endocrine disruptor, so it’s best to limit your exposure to them. The IRS has been accepting digital versions of receipts since 1997, so if you still have paper receipts fluttering around your desk, wallet, and glove box, it’s high time to let tech solutions help out. Here are some ideas.
Send Them Away
If you have piles and piles of receipts, consider shoveling them into a “Magic Envelope” and mailing them away to Shoeboxed. The company scans and digitizes your receipts for you, and you can opt to have the paper returned to you, or shredded and recycled. When you’re out on the go making purchases, use the free Shoeboxed app (iOS, iPad and Android) to snap an image of your receipts. The app will scan for data, such as the amount paid and the name of the establishment, and will add it to your expense tracking. The app can even use your phone’s GPS to track mileage. Also, if you connect Gmail to your Shoeboxed account, you can auto-import receipts from your inbox.
Scan and File
As you scan your receipts, save them in ways that will be helpful in the future, naming them with details such as, “dinner_Joanne Smith_potential client.” Otherwise, you have a random receipt for $64 worth of lobster rolls, and your accountant is like, nuh-uh I don’t think so. Not that that’s ever happened to me, of course. I never forget a lobster roll.
You don’t need to clutter up your desk with a giant scanner—nor do you need a desk to use a scanner at all. With portable scanners, you can scan receipts before they pile up, even when you’re on the road: scan from your van, your hotel room, pup tent, wherever life takes you. Portable scanners create searchable, multipage PDFs and JPEGs and can send them to your mobile device or to cloud services like Dropbox, Google Docs and Evernote for easy filing and storage.
The Doxie Go is about the size of a rolled-up magazine and is powered via a rechargeable battery; after 100 scans, recharge it via a USB cable just like you would a digital camera. You can store up to 300 scans in the scanner’s built-in memory before synching it with your computer, or insert a flash drive for even more storage.
Weighing in at a mere 14 ounces, Fujitsu’s ScanSnap iX100 Wireless Mobile Scanner connects to your existing wireless network, and can scan wirelessly to a smartphone, tablet or computer. It comes with ScanSnap Receipt software to organize receipts for efficient tax filing, automatically extracting data from the receipts.
Is that a Scanner In Your Pocket?
These apps let you scan receipts and other documents using your smartphone.
Hold your iPhone or iPad over the receipt, and Evernote’s Scannable (iOS) automatically crops, rotates and adjusts the image. It exports images to email, or straight to the Evernote platform, where you can create a notebook to easily browse and search receipts, all in one spot. Genius Scan (iOS, Android, Windows Phone) excels at enhancing the images it takes. Then you can email the scans or save them into a PDF to export to cloud services, including AirPrint, Box, Dropbox, Expensify, FTP, Google Drive, OneDrive, OneNote and WebDAV. Another scanning app option, Scanner Pro 6 (iOS) also allows for PDFs to be uploaded to Dropbox or Google. This app has a cool other feature: Scan Reader, which will look through your Photo Library to find receipts and other documents for you.
The Whole Caboodle
If you’re running a small business or are a solo entrepreneur, a more comprehensive system—one that incorporates receipt wrangling into the larger picture of business expense management—will be a better fit for you.
Expensify can streamline the way you keep track of receipts, as well as keep tabs on cash expenses, credit card transactions, and mileage. Expensify imports expenses and receipts from credit card statements and emails and works in conjunction with its mobile app to take scans of receipts when you’re on the go. The scan reads the receipts and automatically creates expenses or matches them to transactions imported from your credit card. The system can also create IRS compliant eReceipts for imported bank transactions under $75.
Neat started off as a company dealing with receipts and business cards, and has a whole line of cool scanners, including NeatReceipts, a portable scanner that’s USB-powered, and NeatConnect, a Wi-Fi model with a 150-foot range. Neat offers a suite of monthly service plans designed for leading a more organized, paper-free life, with desktop software, a mobile app and a web-based app. Best of all, you can export receipts directly into TurboTax and H&R Block Tax Software, making filing your own taxes a breeze.
For more even more help with the tax man, check out my 9 Tax Time Tools.
Photo borrowed from Appointed