As any business owner knows, keeping your expense receipts organized is often tedious and, at times, painful to do, but it comes with the job of running a business. However, that doesn't mean that we can't employ time-saving tools to help us, right? Evernote is one of those tools that I've personally discovered to be indispensable when it comes to keeping a record of all my expense receipts. In this blog post, I'll describe ways that you can use Evernote to improve your bookkeeping productivity.
Evernote Makes Digital Receipt-Keeping Possible
These days, we receive receipts by email, postal mail, and fax and on our phones. Having multiple formats of expense receipts has historically prevented business owners from adopting digital record-keeping systems because they viewed it as either too much trouble, or they feared that their data would either get lost or be compromised in some way. Hard-copy receipts would have to be scanned into their system. Even digital receipts are difficult to file neatly because there are many different digital formats that a receipt can be sent, the most common being .PDF and .HTML. Having different file formats presents a challenge when you're trying to perform a search for a specific receipt or you're preparing a package of receipts for delivery to a tax professional or the IRS.
Evernote and imaging technologies like scanners and smart phones, have really opened up the gates to make digital record-keeping possible for the business owner. Scanners and smart phones have made it possible to convert paper into digital files, whether it be in the office or in the field. Evernote allows for the easy capture of information into one platform and its OCR capabilities allow it to search the text contained within your image documents and most popular formats.
Use Evernote to Keep Digital Copies of Your Expense Receipts
If you hate the clutter of maintaining hardcopies of your business receipts, then go paperless by storing them digitally with Evernote. Here are the ways that you can transform paper into digital files:
By email. Evernote provides you with a special email address that you can use to forward emails and their attachments to, making email receipts a breeze to file. It's as simple as forwarding an email receipt over to your assigned Evernote email address. It helps to have your Evernote email address on your email speed dial so that you can quickly forward your emails. You can also add simple coded text in the subject line which will assign the appropriate tag or notebook to that particular email. If you want to file an email to a particular notebook, then simply put an @ symbol followed by the name of the notebook in the subject line, i.e. @work, @home, @receipts, etc. If you want to assign an Evernote tag to a forwarded email, then use a # symbol followed by the tag that you want to assign it within the subject line of that email, i.e. #2013, #perdiem, #services, etc.
By scanner. You can scan hard copies of your receipts into a folder on your computer and then send those files to Evernote, or if you have an Evernote-compatible scanner, such as a Doxie Scanner, you can scan your document directly into Evernote. Here's a list of endorsed scanners and other hardware devices that work well with Evernote: http://trunk.evernote.com/hardware. Many of the newer multi-function printers with scanners built in also have Evernote integration. The Brother MFC-8950DW has a direct scan to Evernote so you do not need to email the scan into Evernote.
By smart phone. It used to be that you would need a scanner to get paper receipts into your Evernote. That’s a thing of the past now because your smart phone can pretty much do the same thing. The application of this method is well-suited for those people who do a lot of work-related traveling and need to keep detailed expense receipts and records. By using the Evernote app to snap a photo of your receipt, you can not only digitally record your receipt, but also leverage Evernote's powerful OCR technology that will make the text within that image searchable. So as long as your receipt shows the vendor and other identifying text, you'll be able to find it within Evernote. This cuts down on the amount of tagging and filing that you need to do.
By Shoeboxed. If scanning and taking photos seems like too much hassle for you, then you can use a service called www.Shoeboxed.com that will send you pre-paid envelopes which you can stuff with receipts, business cards and any other documents that you want to have digitized and they’ll do it for you and also upload them directly into your Evernote. So long as you don’t need those receipts immediately, this is a great, inexpensive, time-saving service for those with quite a bit of expense receipts to file every month.
But Wait, Will The IRS Accept Digital Receipts?
Well, my disclaimer here is that I'm not a tax professional or attorney (nor play one on TV) and you should consult your tax professional for approval before you dump your existing expense record-keeping method in favor of Evernote or any digital platform. That being said - the answer to your question is "yes." The IRS has actually been accepting digital receipts as far back as 1997. According to Rev. Proc. 97-22, electronic receipts are accepted by the IRS for both tax and audit purposes, provided that the digital receipts are legible and are indexed in a system that allows for easy retrieval. There are quite a number of business owners out there that have transitioned successfully to a 100% digital receipt-keeping system, so it's not exactly a pioneering effort, but if you've been keeping paper receipts your entire life, then adopting it may come as a shock to you. But there's no need to completely dump your hardcopies in favor of going digital. Keep those hardcopies if you want until you've gained full trust over your digital platform. The beauty of going paperless is that you can transition over as fast or as slow as you want.