Organize Your Receipts Before Tax Time and Beyond

When I started my business almost 11 years ago, as part of the Accounting section of my filing system, I had a folder for each vendor I spent money with regularly (e.g., gas, light, Office Depot, etc.). When I found myself sticking receipts in a To Be Filed folder, I knew my system was too tedious. I was procrastinating about filing everything, and that told me I needed to simplify.

Here is a simple solution that works for me.

  • Create a home for all receipts for each month. This can be a file folder, tray, basket, or whatever works for you. I have a drawer for Accounting and keep everything nice, neat, and out of sight.
  • Create a home for all pay stubs from clients. For all checks you receive for the month, keep these pay stubs separately and in the front of the folder for that month.
  • Keep everything with that month’s bank statement. When the bank statement arrives, use a jumbo paper clip to keep all receipts and pay stubs for that month behind it. When I reconcile for that month, I put a big R so I’ll know it’s done.

This system is simple so it’s easy to maintain.

One thing though, I had to figure out a way to quickly find receipts for higher-priced products in case I needed repair, etc. I created a contact in Outlook called “Big Ticket Items.” In the text area of the contact I have a 2-column table that is similar to the one below. If I ever need to find a receipt, I’ll know which month/year bank statement to pull.

Date Purchased Description
5/15/2008 HP Laptop, Best Buy
5/29/2008 Office Telephone, Office Depot – ATT
8/6/2008 Luggage at TJ Maxx
8/23/2008 Headset for ATT phone, Office Depot
8/29/2008 Took iPhone back and got BlackBerry, AT&T

What system have you developed that works for you? Let me know. If you’d like more training on how to get organized, visit my Website. I also have a before/after organizing story and a page of records retention suggestions on how long you should keep files before destroying.

PEACE.

Peggy Duncan, personal productivity expert

6 thoughts on “Organize Your Receipts Before Tax Time and Beyond

  1. Getting receipts organized seems to be one of those age-old problems that just about everyone has to deal with. The good news is that now that the IRS accepts digital receipt images, those that would rather scan/computerize/digitize their receipts can do so, rather than trying to constantly keep paper receipts flied. Here's a practical and easy way to do it: download software from http://www.ProOnGo.com to your smartphone, and just take pictures of your receipts. Use the software to save off Excel spreadsheets of everything you spend (the spreadsheets include your receipt images as well)!

  2. Getting receipts organized seems to be one of those age-old problems that just about everyone has to deal with. The good news is that now that the IRS accepts digital receipt images, those that would rather scan/computerize/digitize their receipts can do so, rather than trying to constantly keep paper receipts flied. Here's a practical and easy way to do it: download software from http://www.ProOnGo.com to your smartphone, and just take pictures of your receipts. Use the software to save off Excel spreadsheets of everything you spend (the spreadsheets include your receipt images as well)!

  3. I totally agree….that’s why I recommend QuickBooks. You enter it once and that’s it.

    I’m with you…..not using technology in this day and age is giving your business a short shelf life.

  4. @Bernadette: Bernadette, I worry about people who are in business in 2008 and uncomfortable with technology…sure hope that’s not the case throughout their business.

    The filing system you mentioned is how I used to do it until I realized it was too complicated and made me procrastinate about filing. A person sitting there adding receipts could spend that time marketing and networking!

  5. Of course being a tax accountant and QuickBooks trainer…I recommend QuickBooks to my clients. However, I realize that some clients are not comfortable with learning a new software program so for those clients I teach them a manual system.

    In a manual system, I recommend filing the receipts by category (i.e. office supplies, travel, telephone, income, etc). This way you can simply pull the file and add all the receipts to get totals for your tax return.

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