Saving and Tracking Receipts

Paper receipts for expenses are a pesky detail that requires attention. September 30, 2010

Here's the paper-trail question: do you file all those pesky receipts by job, by vendor, by category (e.g. tools, supplies, cogs, etc) or date? Or do you use some hybrid of two or more of these? Do you make copies of receipts and store in multiple locations? How do you not lose those zillions of home depot receipts? Thanks for your help. I'm not very good at this.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor G:
The physical receipts I store by job category, whether it is a business expense or a job expense with a title. Then I have a ledger that everything gets printed to. It is organized the same way but by chronological date order.

From contributor Z:
Every invoice that comes into the shop gets scanned, gets a distinctive name and put in the job folder on the computer. I can go to any clientís folder and there will be a separate folder for each vendor with the invoice scanned in. I created a simple excel spreadsheet that has the date, vendor, invoice number, I.T. number (Internal Tracking number that is the same as the name assigned to the scanned invoice) description and cost. I separate the spreadsheet into materials, hardware, labor (plumber, electrician etc.) and misc (truck rental). All the numbers add up on another tab that give the totals and percentage of cost (total and by category). You can create a bar graph or pie chart to get a simple graphic representation of where your money went.

From contributor C:
I am a cabinet maker and not an accountant. I prefer the easiest possible way to get this stuff safely out of the way. My receipts get stored in a single file (actually, it's not a file but more like one of those accordion files). Receipts from January go in the first slot, February the second slot and so on. However, they do not go directly to my file. First they go into a box on my desk that is designated for new receipts. From there I enter them into Quickbooks (I highly recommend using this program) where I can classify them any which way I choose. I tell the program which account I used to pay for the items and which job they were used for and bam- I'm done! All the info is there for my accountant at tax time. I make a copy of my Quickbooks file and e-mail it to him. He does my taxes and it's that easy. Once, the receipts have been entered their only use is to be available in the unlikely event that I get audited by the IRS. So it's off to the accordion file!

From contributor A:
I file my receipts by date and make a note in my job files as to how much was spent on materials for the job and where the purchase was made. I don't always separately order materials per job and a lot of times I use stuff already on hand.

From contributor A:
Itís not only the IRS you are keeping things organized for. We are about to go through a routine state tax audit, where they sent out a letter basically asking for every document created by the business for 3 1/2 years. I hope in practice they will look over the ledgers, ask for exemption certificates, a few other things, and get bored because everything is in order and realize their time is spent better chasing someone else.

From contributor L:
I second the Quickbooks recommendation.

I second the motion to use an accounting software package. Personally I prefer Peachtree over Quickbooks. Talk to your accountant and let them help you decide.

From the original questioner:
I do use Quickbooks, but not for job costing. Credit card transactions are downloaded into Quickbooks so I don't need most of the receipts to do the simple cash-base accounting.