Business Receipts Basics: What You Need to Keep for Tax Seasons?

As a small business owner, you know that you need to keep track of your business’s financial documents for tax purposes. Those documents include business receipts, bank statements, purchase history, credit card statements, online banking records, and a lot more. 

However, staying on top of those documents isn’t as easy as a walk in the park. Which business receipts should you keep? And for how long? And in what form? This article will answer all these burning questions.  

Which receipts do small business owners need to keep?


According to the IRS, keeping good records will help you monitor the progress of your business, prepare your financial statements, and identify sources of income. From that, you can keep track of deductible expenses and prepare your tax returns easier.

On the other hand, the IRS doesn’t explicitly mention the possibility of being in trouble if you don’t keep the right documents. When it comes to keeping receipts for tax preparation, it’s a good idea to be “better safe than sorry” and keep all documents related to your business. It’s even better to consult with a professional accountant about this. However, as a starting point, here are a few types of business receipts that you should absolutely keep:

Inventory

Did you buy inventories to sell to your customers? Or did you sell things made from raw materials? If so, you should definitely hang on to documents that identify the payee, the amount, and proof of payment for the items. Try to get a receipt for all these purchases. However, if you can’t get a receipt, keep the invoice and canceled check (proof that the check has been paid.)

Business assets

The term “business assets” refers to the property you own and use in your business. Furniture, computers, vehicles, or machinery are typical examples of assets. If you’ve ever tried to file assets for taxes on your own, you know that you’ll have to deal with a complicated thing like “depreciation.”

To make tracking depreciation easier, you should keep track of when, where, and how much money you’ve spent on your business assets. For example, you can keep receipts of when you purchase your company’s computers. You’ll also want to keep records of when you sell one of your assets.

Other business-related expenses

Most of your business receipts will likely fall into this category. Though every business is different, here are the most common examples of business-related expenses:

  • Advertising: Advertising expenses include designing and purchasing business cards, online and offline advertising, billboards, web hosting, etc. 
  • Vehicle expenses: Vehicle expenses such as gas and maintenance fees are tax-deductible, so don’t throw away those receipts!
  • Education expenses: This expense applies when you hire a professional or an education service to train yourself or your employee. Don’t forget to keep your invoice or receipt and your bank records to prove that you paid for the education expenses. 
  • Professional services: This expense applies when you hire a lawyer, accountant, bookkeeper, or graphic designer to work for a certain period of time. You will need to keep the invoice and the receipt when you pay the bill. 
  • Entertainment: Entertainment expenses such as taking clients out for lunch can be tax-deductible, but you need to pay close attention. You have to keep both the receipt and records showing that your activities were directly business-related (e.g., an email invitation for a business lunch.)
  • Networking: If you attend a networking event or conference, you’ll need to keep your receipts, bills, and bank records as proof of purchase.
  • Office supplies: Extra office expenses, such as printers, staples, paperclips, scanners, etc., are tax-deductible. So don’t forget to take the receipts every time you visit office supply stores! 
  • Travel expenses: During your work, you may need to visit a client or attend a conference in another state. Though the IRS requires specific qualifications for deductible travel expenses, you can keep certain receipts or bills of your travel expenses to deduct all or part of a trip. You can check out our article on how to manage your business travel expenses effectively.

How long should you keep business receipts?

In general, you should keep business receipts for three years (from the date you file your tax return). In some special circumstances where fraud or severe tax underpayment is suspected, the IRS might require you to keep your receipts for up to six years. For example, if you underpaid your taxes by more than 25 percent, you will need to keep those records on hand. 

How Shoeboxed can help you digitally store your business receipts

Years’ worth of business receipts can result in piles of papers. Fortunately, no one says that you have to keep all your business receipts in their original paper form. So, what’s the best alternative to save all your documents for any potential IRS audit? 

The answer is to digitize them. As the IRS accepts digital receipts, you don’t need to store physical copies of your bank statements, purchase history, or credit card statements. Today, there are many receipt scanning apps that help you digitize paper receipts and save them for years.

Shoeboxed is an all-in-one receipt management app for small business owners and freelance accountants. With an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) engine and human-verified feature, Shoeboxed ensures that your business receipts are precisely scanned, clearly located, and easy to track. You can then create clear and comprehensive expense reports that include images of your receipts, export, share or print all the information you need for easy tax preparation or reimbursement… within a few clicks. 

Moreover, Shoeboxed‘s mileage tracking and business card storing features make it a one-touch app to store and access all your business’s important information. 
Sign up and go paperless with Shoeboxed today!

Your Complete Guide to the U.S. Tax Return Definition

Tax is the money paid by citizens and businesses to the government so that they can make roads, build and maintain public parks, fund the army, provide policing, offer schooling and education, and more. 

Have you ever wondered how the U.S. government decides how much tax each individual must pay? The government’s staff don’t go knocking at everyone’s door to examine our finances and then calculate our tax duty. No, in fact, we do the job ourselves — through a tax return. 

So, what is a tax return, exactly?

This article will introduce you to the tax return definition, give an overview of its three main sections, and answer the most frequently asked questions about this financial matter. 

Tax return definition 

A tax return, also known as a tax report, is a form or a set of forms issued by the government which you fill in to report your income, expenses, and other financial information. When you complete your tax return, you’ll know if you owe any money to the government and how much to pay. In the case that you overpaid your taxes, you can also request a refund by filing the tax return. 

The tax return form for individuals for United States federal taxes is Form 1040, whereas Form 1120 is for corporations, and Form 1065 is for partnerships.

See also: What Is Tax Season And How To Prepare For Your 2022 Tax Return

The three main sections of a tax return 

Typically, a tax return consists of the following three sections: 

Income 

The income section lists all your income sources, such as wages, salaries, dividends, self-employment income, and royalties. If you’re an employee, your income will be recorded in a W-2 form provided by your employer. 

Deductions 

Deductions, also known as tax write-offs, lower your tax liability, which essentially means the more deductions you claim on your tax return, the less tax you’ll have to pay. Just be aware and make sure you only claim deductions that you’re eligible for. 

Some typical deductions for individuals that you may be able to claim are interest paid on your mortgage or your student loans, charitable donations, and contributions to your retirement saving plans. For business owners, you can claim tax deductions for most expenses involved in business operations. 

Taxpayers can either take a standard deduction or itemized deductions. For those who opt for the former method, the standard deduction for the tax year 2022 is $12,950 for single filers, $25,900 for joint filers, and $19,400 for heads of households. The deduction amount may increase slightly each year to keep up with inflation. On the other hand, if you use itemized deductions for your tax return, you choose from various individual tax deductions rather than taking a fixed deduction amount. 

Tax credits  

Many people get confused between tax deductions and tax credits, so here is the key difference: deductions are subtracted from your taxable income while credits are subtracted directly from your total tax bill. For example, a tax credit of $1,000 will result in a $1,000 reduction in your tax bill. On the other hand, a $1,000 tax deduction lowers your taxable income (the amount of money you have to pay taxes on) by $1,000. So, if you are in the 22% tax bracket, a $1,000 deduction would save you $220.

Tax credits cover a wide range of expenses and situations: you can get tax credits if you purchase solar panels for use in your home, or for child-dependent care and education credits, etc.

See more: How To File Taxes For The First Time: A Complete Guide To All Your Questions.

Who has to file a tax return? 

While most U.S. citizens and permanent residents who work in the United States need to file a tax return — not everyone must do it. Whether you have to file a tax return depends on your age, filing status, income level, and source of money.

To find out if you need to file a tax return this year, check out this detailed guideline from the IRS (Internal Revenue Service): Publication 501 (2021), Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information

What happens if I make a mistake on my tax return? 

If you filed your tax return incorrectly or failed to include something, you need to notify the IRS. To do so, you would need to file an amended return with the IRS using Form 1040-X. You can file it yourself or have a professional prepare it for you. If you don’t inform the IRS of these mistakes yourself, you could face financial penalties and pay interest. 

How can I track my refund? 

You can use the IRS Where’s My Refund? tool or call the IRS directly at 800-829-1954 to check on the status of your refund 24 hours after you e-file. The IRS will give you an exact refund date once your tax return and refund are approved.

You’ll likely receive your refunds in less than 21 days.

Final thoughts 

Understanding the definition of “tax return” and how it’s calculated will help you become more confident in dealing with this important financial process. As a result, you’ll gradually learn how to file your tax return quicker and more accurately. 

A great tip for everyone who wants to streamline their tax return filing process is to have your receipts organized. Receipts help you record transactions correctly and serve as concrete evidence for your deduction claims. It might be too much of a task to do yourself — and that’s where Shoeboxed comes in. 

Shoeboxed is a well-trusted tool to help businesses, freelancers, and DIY accountants store and organize their receipts. It quickly scans and digitizes your receipts and documents, then automatically extracts, categorizes, and human-verifies important data from your receipts. On top of that, Shoeboxed also helps you manage expenses, store business cards, and track business mileage easily, helping you boost productivity and bring in more revenue. 
Go paperless with Shoeboxed for FREE today!

Bad Spending Habits That Could Hurt Your Business

As a business owner, the challenge of how to increase profits is on your mind all the time. Improving the quality of your products and services or investing more in marketing are usually the first methods businesses think of to make more money. Yet, stopping bad spending habits is also a very effective way to grow your income. You can avoid losing money on unnecessary expenses and reallocate that cash to value-driving factors. 

This article will help identify the most common spending habits that harm your business. Hopefully, you can steer clear of them to build a healthy financial environment for your business. 

The 4 spending habits to avoid for your business  

Here are the most common spending mistakes that every business owner should be aware of:

1. Spending without a proper budget 

This mistake is commonly seen in newly established small businesses. They don’t think a budget is necessary when their companies only have a few financial activities. This is in fact incorrect. Not having a reasonable budget can lead to multiple painful consequences like overspending, a high chance of going into debt, a lack of savings, and less financial security. 

Additionally, when your business operates without a budget, it makes dealing with unexpected expenses, cash flow management, and meeting your financial goals way more challenging. In short, a budget allows you to allocate money more wisely, resulting in saving more money.  

If you don’t know how to make a budget yet, check out our 7-step guide to create a business budget.

2. Inconsistently and insufficiently recording spending 

It’s disastrous when a business fails to record spending properly. This leads to being unable to keep good track of your expenses. You have no idea how much money was actually spent, making it impossible to determine your net profit. When you don’t have spending calculated accurately, you’re unable to evaluate your financial performance; hence no appropriate business strategies can be devised to create future growth. 

On top of that, poor spending records will guarantee that you have a miserable time when tax season comes. You’ll have no concrete data to file for tax deductions, meaning you’ll need to pay more than necessary to the IRS. That’s why you should always have your spending correctly recorded in your journals. If you don’t have enough time to do the recording, it’s best to outsource a freelancer or a professional bookkeeper.   

Another tip to avoid this bad spending habit is to keep your receipts. Every purchase goes together with a receipt. Keeping and organizing the receipts will help you better keep track of your spending and be ready to provide the IRS proof for tax deductions when required. 

Shoeboxed can help you do this with ease. Shoeboxed is a receipt scanner application that digitizes your receipts in just seconds. Your receipts will be safely stored in the cloud and easy to search whenever needed. Scanned documents from Shoeboxed are also legible and fully accepted by the IRS. 

Don’t lose money to Uncle Sam!  Get your receipts and bookkeeping records organized today! 

You might also be interested in: 7 Bookkeeping Practices Every Business Should Implement.

3. Not paying your purchase orders on time

Many businesses habitually pay their purchase orders as late as possible, which is fine as long as you pay them on time. This is because not paying on time can have serious consequences in the long run. The most obvious result is late payment penalties. 

While penalty costs may not be much for each purchase order if your payment is only a little late, those small penalty fees add up to hurt your profit. On top of that, late payments will severely harm your business reputation in the long run. Suppliers who may have heard about your history of late payments will be wary of doing business or offering you a good deal. 

Such problems won’t happen if you take extra care with your payment deadlines. Make sure you have the money/documents ready and processed at least a few days before the due date to have enough time to deal with any unexpected issues that arise. 

4. Using your personal credit card to pay for your business expenses 

Drawing a boundary between personal and professional spending can be confusing and difficult for self-employed individuals, small business owners, and freelancers. That’s why many of them end up using the same credit card for personal and corporate purposes for convenience. However, this habit may not be the best, and there are multiple reasons why. 

Using your personal credit card for business expenses will prevent you from building your business credit history. Without a good business credit history, you’ll find it challenging to apply for business loans, equipment leases, etc. because before lending you money, investors and lenders always check your business’s credit history. 

Additionally, a personal credit card has a lower credit limit than a business credit card. For that matter, your personal credit card will be of no use when you need to acquire something expensive for business purposes like machinery and equipment, office renovation, lease or rent, etc. 

Lastly, this spending habit makes your tax filing process painful. Trying to find business costs by going through your personal credit card accounts takes time, can lead to mistakes, and may even result in an audit. Keep these costs in one place – your company credit card – to make things easier for yourself.

You might also be interested in: Which Small Business Credit card is Best for Your Biz?

Want to read more about business? 

If you’re interested in entrepreneurship stories, business tips, or productivity tools, find more posts like this on the Shoeboxed Blog. Shoeboxed is a well-trusted tool to help businesses, freelancers, and DIY accountants store and organize their receipts. It quickly and efficiently digitizes your receipts and documents, then automatically extracts, categorizes, and human-verifies important data from your receipts. You can scan their receipts, manage expenses, store business cards, and track business mileage easily, helping you boost productivity and bring in more revenue. 

Go paperless with Shoeboxed for FREE today!