If I had a dime for every crumpled, faded receipt I’ve found at the bottom of a client’s bag, car, or stashed in a planner, I’d be able to pay your taxes for you. It’s easy to ignore the crumpled stashes until you look at the calendar in March and realize what’s happened: it’s tax season and you’re screwed (Sorry Mom – She hates less-than-squeaky-clean language in my newsletter, but I don’t know how else to put it!). I’ve written a lot about managing receipts. As with any system, there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. You may be panicking because your tax organizer sits there unfilled and you don’t know if you spent $1,000 or $10,000 on client dinners last year. You need answers fast, or at least a plan for 2013 so you can easily slide into home this time next year.
I’m going to break down for you my own personal system as well as give you every other idea I can come up with.
It took years, but my system for my own receipts is down pat. An exact replica may not work for you, but pieces of it will likely give you some ideas for setting up your own system.
My receipts are always in one of four places:
1. My wallet
2. My “2013 Biz Receipts To Scan” file
3. My “2013 Scanned Biz Receipts” file
4. The trash
The “2013 Biz Receipts To Scan” file actually lives in my dining room. This is where they land, so I don’t fight it. I’d rather have a file folder on my credenza than a wad of receipts on the table. I hand this folder off to an assistant monthly who scans them into Dropbox. I have a virtual assistant, but this assistant only scans receipts. From Dropbox, my bookkeeper retrieves them and enters them into Quickbooks. When they’re returned to me, they move upstairs to my “2013 Scanned Biz Receipts” file in my file cart, clipped by month. No, I do not keep personal (non-deductible) receipts.
There are as many ways to organize receipts as there are readers, so here are the top systems I’ve implemented for clients over they years:
- Have a “Receipts 2013” folder either in the very front of your file drawer or on your desk.
- Have two folders: “Biz Receipts 2013” and “Personal Receipts 2013” either in the very front of your file drawer or on your desk.
- Have a “Receipts for Bookkeeper” folder.
- Create an array of tax receipt files by deduction type, such as “Biz Supplies 2013,” “Biz Dining 2013,” “Professional Memberships 2013”
- Create separate files just for your largest receipt generating areas, such as “Medical 2013” in addition to a general “Receipts 2013” folder
- Totally adverse to folders? Designate a box for receipts as I explain in this video. As long as they’re all in one place, you’re ahead of most people!
Did you notice that I date every receipts folder? If you don’t, I guarantee 2018’s going to roll around and your folder will be a “best of” the last five years.
If you record receipts, then give yourself one and only one place to drop them before they’re ready to be entered. Even digital systems need to be accompanied with a hard-copy system on the front end.
If you don’t have a landing pad for receipts they’re going to end up not just as confetti at the bottom of your bag, but as your worst nightmare come next tax season.
7 Day Inspired Office Challenge
Where are your receipts? If you’re in tax season panic mode, then start by gathering like with like. If you’re onto 2013, make sure you have a receipts landing pad immediately. For most people, a basic “2013 Receipts” folder is light years better than what they had before.
What is your biggest challenge with receipts? Where are your receipts right now? Are receipts your highest organizing priority? If not, what is? What is your system for organizing receipts? Please share in comments!