How To Track Business Expenses 15 Best Tips & Tools

You can’t run a business without spending money. No matter which industry you’re in, expenses come up. 

Some expenses are inevitable, but they are not always necessary and don’t always benefit your bottom line. 

One way to find out if they do is to meticulously track your business expenditures. Although this process can be complicated and time-consuming, it doesn’t have to be.  

In this guide, you will find the best 15 tips & tools to simplify and improve your expense tracking systems. 

How to track business expenses guide

What are business expenses? 

Business expenses are the money you spend on running your business. Salaries, inventory, equipment rentals, or phone and Internet fees are all business expenses.

Companies have to show their expense details in a statement of profit or loss. In other words, they are a deciding factor in determining your net income and taxes. Mistakes made while recording expenses could lead to serious consequences. 

Why tracking your business expenses? 

Being aware of your spending is one of the most effective ways to manage finances. Knowing how to track business expenses gives you an insight into what brings results and what doesn’t. Additionally, keeping a close eye on expenses can help your business:

Prepare for tax time

Tax season – these two words can be a nightmare for many business owners. However, a good system of how to to track business expenses can reduce a vast amount of work going over receipts and bills come tax time. More importantly, many business expenses are tax-deductible. Incomplete and poorly categorized expenses could make you overlook potential deductions. This means you’d be paying more taxes than necessary. 

In other words, monitoring your expenses closely can help you save both time & money and be ready and prepared for tax season.  

Stick to your budget 

If you have a monthly budget, learning how to track business expenses is essential to keep you within your financial limits. It lets you know if you’ve been over or under-spending, and more importantly what causes the differences. You then can easily come up with solutions to cut or reallocate resources for better results.  

Improve internal control 

A lot of business expenses are produced by employees. Tracking this spending by keeping receipts or bills can give business owners an overview of why the costs were incurred and by whom. Being aware of how to track business expenses not only prevents fraud like faking numbers, but also helps companies become more proactive in internal control.

10 best tips to track business expenses 

Knowing how frustrating it can be to keep track of all expense records, we’ve listed 10 helpful tips on how to track business expenses that make the process easier.

1. Keep business and personal expenses separately

It’s important to keep your expenses separate from business-related ones. 

However, some freelancers or small business owners neglect this and claim it all as an expense. This mindset would cost time and money. Especially during tax season, when you eventually have to distinguish the expenses for tax returns and any mistakes could draw attention from the IRS for an audit. So the simplest way to avoid lots of hassle is to record these two types of expenses separately.   

2. Get a business credit card

Get a dedicated business credit card if you’re struggling with separating your personal spending from business expenses. It will simplify the process of tracking your expenses by digitally storing all of your transactions. You can quickly verify the money going out and into your business by looking through the credit card history. Additionally, credit card providers also offer rewards such as travel packages or discount vouchers for businesses.  

3. Keep receipts organized

Properly storing your receipts helps keep essential financial records in order while also taking away the fear and stress of tax preparation. 

Keeping your receipts organized also eases the auditing process and enhances the accuracy of your accounting.

Folders, files, and storage cabinets are great ways to store and keep your receipts accessible. You should also label and sort them into different categories. It’s also helpful to set up a weekly or biweekly check to organize the receipts. 

Yet, the best way is to digitize paper receipts. You can use software like Shoeboxed to scan and store all your receipts in the cloud. Shoeboxed can also automatically categorize and extract necessary data, making your life much easier. 

4. Record expenses promptly 

Make sure to keep track of your spending as soon as possible. Make it a habit, too. It will save you time in the long run since you won’t have to deal with paper clutter later. 

You don’t want to go through your company credit card and discover transactions that you don’t remember making. This also reduces the risk of forgetting or losing expense records.

5. Use an expense spreadsheet

If you’ve started your business and know how to track business expenses without using an expense tracker apps or accounting software, consider making a spreadsheet to keep track of your expenses manually. You can make it on free programs like Excel or Google Sheets. 

In this case, you can design the spreadsheet template based on the nature of your business. Here is a basic example of using a spreadsheet to record expenses:

Date  Category Vendor Amount PurposeMethod 
10.9.2021Advertising & Marketing Facebook$10Promotion for a new post Credit card 

You can add any relevant columns or categories to match your business model. 

6. Hire a bookkeeper 

When you don’t have accounting skills or simply just don’t want to deal with the hassle, employing a bookkeeper can be handy. The bookkeeper will take care of all of your financial records, including expenses. They can also give you professional advice on how to optimize profit and cut unnecessary expenses. 

7. Integrate your software

Many businesses choose tools or software to automate as many daily tasks as possible. This sometimes leads to various databases, and you have to manually insert or move data for different jobs and processes. It’s reported that 40% of productivity is lost to multitasking and task-switching. After all, it’d defeat the original purpose: automation.  

That’s why you should use software that can integrate with the others already working in your system. For example, if you’re looking for a receipt scanning tool, use one that links with your accounting software. It optimizes time, increases productivity, and centralizes work.   

8. Clearly categorize your expenses 

Some of the most common expense categories include utilities, travel, office supplies, and rental expenses. However, every business has different types of costs. Breaking down expenses and classifying them can help you understand and manage your company’s spending habits better.   

We recommend you follow the categories listed in the Schedule C form from the IRS if you run a sole proprietorship. Developing categories that match your business and a tax return file can make the tax filing process more straightforward and smoother and ensure you get all the deductions you are entitled to.  

9. Have a backup of expense records 

Things can go wrong at any time, no matter how strong your internal system is. You may face problems like vital financial records missing, damaged files, or accidental deletion of data.

To avoid such issues, keep a backup of all expense transactions. You may physically maintain a backup by making extra copies for essential contracts or files. However, it’s best to store backup data on a cloud which can be from your software/tools or popular free files storage like Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.  

10. Review your performance frequently 

Tracking expenses only is not enough. You should often review the process to see if the system is functioning well or not and what needs changing. This will also reduce the risk of bounced checks or unpaid invoices. By going over your expenses, you can identify unnecessary costs that should be cut.

Top 5 tools to track business expenses

Software automation is an investment. Pure and simple. Technology has made it essential that businesses eliminate manual, repetitive tasks to focus more on profit-driving sectors. 

In accounting, almost 75% of tasks can be automated with software or tools. In other words, there are many apps available to speed up your accounting workflow. However, not all of them are good.  

We’ve listed below 5 of the best software to streamline your tracking expenses process:  

1. Excel 

Excel has been with businesses forever. It’s a good old-fashioned method to record and manage business expenses. You can find plenty of Excel bookkeeping templates on the Internet. Choose the right one for you and insert all expenses weekly.  

The best thing about Excel is that it’s free. If you’re a freelancer or start-up owner, Excel will be an ideal choice to save costs. However, you’d still need to manually put in data, categorize receipts, and so on. 

Though it doesn’t help you automate much, Excel is still an excellent tool to organize and record your business spendings.   

2. Quickbooks

QuickBooks is a household brand when it comes to accounting software applications for SMEs. It allows you to issue invoices, monitor cash flow, track profit & loss, and control payroll. Basically, Quickbooks can handle all of your finances. 

It’d be a bit challenging to take advantage of all its features when you’re unfamiliar with accounting. But you can always learn! Countless tutorial online videos can instruct you step by step to make use of the software. 

In the event that you’re only looking for an app specifying tracking expenses, Quickbooks may not be the best choice. You might end up paying a large sum of money for little use. 

3. Xero 

Xero is an alternative to Quickbooks. Employees can capture receipts on their mobile devices using the Xero expense claims app and submit their work expense claims. It also can assign staff a specific user permission so you can decide whether they have access to submit claims, approve claims, or both. Besides expenditure tracking, Xero offers many other capabilities like cash flow tracking, payment processing, bank reconciliation, inventory management, and financial reporting. Xero is easy to use for non-accountants.

One downside of Xero is that most of their plans don’t include this function, so you may need to add it as an optional extra. If you’re adding it as an extra, you may have to pay an additional monthly fee. 

4. Bench

Bench can take care of your bookkeeping, importing, reviewing, and categorizing your expenses every month. They provide you with a dedicated bookkeeper supported by a team of knowledgeable small business experts. It’s a huge relief come tax season and makes the process of filing easy!

However, Bench limits the number of financial accounts you can have and operates on proprietary software that doesn’t sync with other popular accounting software. That’s why Bench may not be a good fit for businesses that need to expand or transfer providers in the future. Plus, it’s pretty pricey compared to other bookkeeping tools in the market. 

5. Shoeboxed 

If you don’t want to install a professional accounting application just to simplify your expense tracking process, Shoeboxed is perfect for you.

Receipt management is vital in managing expenses. Shoeboxed helps you transform stacks of receipts paper into digital and categorized data in just one click. Your data then will be easy to search and stored in a secure cloud. Shoeboxed also integrates with almost all popular accounting software. 

The most significant advantage of Shoeboxed is the human-verified data feature. Wrinkles on the paper, faded print, or damaged receipts can make it really difficult for AI technology to read receipts, leading to inaccurate extracted data. 

With Shoeboxed, every receipt is scanned thoroughly by a team of data experts to verify and make necessary corrections. 

Say goodbye to manual entry, missing receipts, and erroneous data with the help of Shoeboxed! 

Conclusion

Tracking expenses can help you improve the overall financial performance of your business. 

It improves your money management, makes you more aware of your spending, and allows you to cut costs and save money.

Complete and accurate expenses records provide vital data on your finances and drive you to make better decisions for the future growth of your business. It also prepares you for tax season with accurate financial statements, reducing stress and saving time when dealing with the IRS.

You can choose to track your expenses manually or invest in reliable, time-saving tools and services like Shoeboxed to smoothen the entire process, saving you time and giving you peace of mind.

A Basic Guide To Business Audits

Companies usually prepare a set of financial statements disclosing business activities and financial performance once a year. The statements are a crucial source of information for shareholders, investors, and stakeholders. But how can stakeholders trust these reports and the figures they provide? 

That’s when an audit comes in. It assesses whether the financial statements are indeed above board and trustworthy.

This article will cover what a business audit is, why it’s important, and how businesses can simplify their audit process for expenses. 

What is a business audit?    

An audit examines relevant documents to determine whether the business provides accurate financial information and complies with accounting & legal standards. It goes through financial reports and accounting work in a systematic review process. 

Many business owners may immediately relate the word ‘audit’ to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) assessing their business’s accounting for tax penalties (which can happen). However, an audit more commonly refers to a financial inspection of a company’s financial statements and accounting books. 

The purpose of an audit is to get an unbiased opinion about a business’s records and transactions. It helps the business pinpoint where inaccuracies and inefficiencies are in the system. As a result, the company can understand its operating performance thoroughly and make solutions to improve finances and management processes.   

Different types of business audits

You, your employees, or a third party can perform audits depending on the purpose and the nature of your business. There are various types of audits. By knowing the differences between these types, you can choose the most suitable and beneficial audit plan for your company. 

Internal Audit 

An internal audit is typically carried out within a company by its employees. This type of audit helps the business address its significant ongoing risks and weaknesses. It examines both finance and management aspects to make sure everything is functioning correctly. 

When an internal audit team works independently, free of any outside influence, they will provide a deep insight into improving corporate governance and effectively managing risks. 

Large companies usually have an internal audit committee to update business performance to shareholders or board members. It helps them become more aware of their financial status, hence developing better strategies. That’s why an internal audit is also an excellent tool for decision-making. 

External Audit 

In contrast to an internal audit, an external audit is conducted by an outside source, like a government agency or a financial services company. 

The purpose of this audit is more likely to focus on financial statements. The external auditor will issue an audit report following GAAS (Generally Accepted Accounting Standards). This report gives the auditor’s opinion on whether a company’s financial statements meet these standards and accurately represent its financial position. 

Lenders or investors sometimes require a company to perform an external audit to prove the legitimacy and fairness in accounting records and financial reports. 

IRS 

An IRS tax audit takes place to check and verify the validity of a company’s tax returns.

If your tax return shows any discrepancies, the IRS might select you for a tax audit. Sometimes, unfortunately, it’s random. Yet, the chance of being audited by the IRS is extremely low with less than 0.5% of all businesses audited in 2020. 

But you can never be too careful!

Stay alert of some common triggers that may catch the attention of the IRS such as math errors, unusual donation amounts, or claiming 100% business use of a vehicle. It’s best to avoid the triggers and file tax returns correctly by keeping a sound expense tracking system.

Why is a business audit important?  

Business owners may be terrified of the word ‘audit’. As scary as it might sound, auditing can be a tremendous help for businesses. Think of an audit as a doctor checking your business’ health. It diagnoses problems and inefficiencies in your business and prescribes the remedy to get your company in good shape.

5 major benefits of a business audit

Ensure regulatory compliance 

Sometimes, companies conduct an audit to see if they meet the regulatory standards in their industry. And if they don’t, an audit makes them aware of that. 

Non-compliance can mean paying large penalties, loss of customers, and a damaged reputation. These can cause serious harm to the business’s survival. It’s more than worth the expense and any temporary annoyance caused by an audit.

Improve accounting system 

An audit almost always starts with an accounting system. It goes through major financial transactions, bookkeeping records, receipts, etc. to check the accuracy and look for errors. 

Auditing provides an overview of how the system works and a chance to implement better practices to improve the whole accounting process. 

Prevent fraud 

Sadly, fraud is not uncommon in business, especially when it comes to money. Workplace fraud may go undetected for years and companies could pay a hefty price for that: bankruptcy.

An audit is a great tool to detect fraud or pinpoint where fraudsters can take advantage of the system. By enhancing internal controls, businesses can prevent this from happening again.

Strengthen reputation 

Do you want to raise your company’s capital? Are investors and lenders reluctant to part with their cash? 

An audit may solve that problem for you. It can offer an independent confirmation that your financial statements truthfully reflect the company’s status. It provides financial assurance that everything is as it appears. This can reinforce your image, and provide essential credibility and confidence to your clients, stakeholders, investors, or lenders.

Make better choices 

An audit includes an in-depth analysis of a company’s income, expenditure and management skills. Auditors also make recommendations for businesses on how to improve their performance.  Both give business owners a deep foundation to make decisions for future strategies and planning. 

Overall, a business audit may cost a lot to carry out and create inconveniences. But gaining a deep insight into your company is invaluable and can lay the foundation for future growth.

What is a business expenses audit? 

Audit of business expenses is a crucial part of a financial audit. Throughout this process, auditors gather evidence from accounting entries, receipts, and relevant documentation to check their validity. Then they will evaluate if the expenses were necessary and aligned with internal policies. Any non-business costs claimed as business expenses will be flagged and require further investigation.  

Whether conducted internally or outsourced to a third party, the goal of a business expenditure audit is to double-check the accuracy of expense records, identify any out-of-the-ordinary expenses and eliminate expenses fraud.  

Why should businesses audit their expenses? 

Expenses are a high-risk area for every company. Any incomplete or false records in expenses can lead to severe consequences. For example, an understatement of expenses will result in the overstatement of profit which means you will pay more tax than necessary. That’s only one of many reasons why businesses should conduct audits for business expenses. There are three more important reasons for auditing your business expenses.

Avoid false claims 

This fraud is typical in expense reports. When employees spend their money on business-related items, they will submit expense reports to get reimbursement. While many employees are honest and claim the actual spendings,  some seize the opportunity to use it for their ends. 

Fraudulent expense reports damage a business’ budget and profit and increase the risks of IRS penalties. Auditing expenses help the company examine the documents and related receipts claimed by employees to ensure everything is under control.

Tax returns 

Expenses are closely associated with your tax return. Since forever, businesses always have learned ways to minimize their taxable amounts. Many business expenses are deductible that can be subtracted from a company’s income before it is subject to taxation. 

To know which expenses are deductible and which are not, you need to keep detailed records of spendings and categorize them according to the IRS. However, when dealing with hundreds of transactions per day, it’s easy to make mistakes. An audit of expenses will check through all the data and show you where to adjust or provide assurance that your accountants have done a good job. Consequently, you won’t have to overpay for your income tax. 

Prepare for income statement 

An income statement is a financial statement including the company’s revenues and expenditure. That’s why having accurate numbers on expenses will save hassle later when preparing an income statement. Yet, how do you make sure that your expenses are recorded and calculated properly? Do an expense audit! 

As beneficial as an expense audit is, there can be challenges that make it counterproductive. One of them is the manual receipt process. When businesses still apply manual expenses management practices, auditors will need to review paper receipts one by one to ensure the numbers match the report which is time-consuming

Luckily, Shoeboxed can help you with that and more!

How can Shoeboxed help your business audit? 

Shoeboxed is a helpful tool to simplify your business audit works.

Digital receipts 

In the section above, we’ve mentioned the paper receipts challenge. A simple solution for that is to let Shoeboxed digitize all of your receipts. After scanning, Shoeboxed creates a digital version of your paper receipts. Our software extracts and human-verifies data then store them in a secure location. Quickly, piles of your paper receipts transform into fully categorized, organized, and searchable data that is available anytime and anywhere. The system is time-saving and efficient for auditors. 

Expense tracking 

The whole purpose of an expenses audit is to verify and reinforce the accuracy of expense records. If the company has an efficient process to stay on top of the expenses, the workload for auditing will be reduced and simplified.

Shoeboxed helps you organize all receipts and other audit-related documents into a well-categorized and searchable digital database. By doing so, you can always easily trace back any expense for further use.   

Audit-ready 

In the case of an external audit or a tax audit, both the Internal Revenue Service and the Canada Revenue Agency accept digital images of your receipts. Shoeboxed guarantees to have every receipt legibly scanned, clearly categorized, and always ready for audits!

Audit trails 

An audit trail is a set of documents validating your business transactions. It includes details like the transaction date, type, category, value, and vendor. Audit trails can be simple or complex, depending on the nature of the business transaction. For example, the audit trail of buying a notebook is the receipt, while that of a photocopy machine consists of a few more documents such as the purchase order. 

Shoeboxed creates the easiest system to organize your audit trails with extracting, data-verifying, and searchable functions.  Our software helps not only during audit time but also during daily management. 

It’s no fun with a business audit. But there’s nothing to worry about. Any kind of audit can be extremely useful and beneficial for financial planning and the future growth of your business. 

Besides, Shoeboxed is here to take away all the headaches! 

Try Shoeboxed free for 1 month!

Going Cashless? 3 Free Simple Key Must-Know Electronic Payment

Thanks to booming technology and the wide use of smartphones and laptops, it’s so simple and easy to go cashless with various electronic payment options. 

Electronic payment is any kind of non-cash payment that doesn’t involve a paper check. Methods of electronic payments include credit cards, debit cards, and the ACH (Automated Clearing House) network. The ACH system comprises direct deposit, direct debit, and electronic checks (e-checks). 

Types Of Electronic Payment Transaction

There are three types of transactions related to electronic payments. 

1. The one-time customer-to-vendor payment 

This method is used when customers shop online at an e-commerce site, such as Amazon. They click on the shopping cart icon, type in their credit card information, and click on the checkout button. The site processes the credit card information and sends out an e-mail notifying that the payment was received. On some websites, the customers can use an e-check instead of a credit card. To pay by e-check, they type in their account number and their bank’s routing number. The vendor authorizes a payment through the customer’s bank, which then either initiates an electronic funds transfer (EFT) or prints a check and mails it to the vendor.

2. The recurring customer-to-vendor payment 

This method is used when customers pay a bill through a regularly scheduled direct debit from their checking account or an automatic charge to their credit card. This type of payment plan is often offered by car insurance companies, phone companies, and loan management companies. Additionally, long-term contracts normally require this type of automated payment schedule such as gym memberships. 

3. Automatic bank-to-vendor payment 

This method can only be used when customers’ banks offer a service called online bill pay. Customers log on to their bank’s website, enter the vendor’s information and authorize the bank to electronically transfer money from their account to pay their bill. In most cases, customers can choose whether to do this manually for each billing cycle or have their bills automatically paid on the same day each month.

Benefits of Electronic Payment

1. General benefits
  • Complete and develop e-commerce: In many different ways, online payment can perfect e-commerce in the true sense of online transactions. With safe and convenient e-commerce payment, the development of global commerce is inevitable for a large and constantly increasing population.
  • Increase the circulation of money and goods: Electronic payment helps the payment process to be quick and safe, ensuring the interests of all parties, and minimizing risks.
  • Modernize the payment system: Electronic payment creates a new kind of money (Cryptocurrency) that not only satisfies banks but also meets the needs of buying ordinary goods. The transaction process is simple, fast, and transaction costs are significantly reduced.
2. Benefits for banks and businesses
  • Increase revenue: Electronic payment not only helps to expand the customer system but also increases access to the world market. Additionally, it helps to get more sales from existing customers and other value-creating services.
  • Reduce business costs, selling expenses, transaction costs, and at the same time increase business efficiency.
  • Reduce office costs, shorten operation time, standardize procedures, improve the ability to search and process documents.
  • Reduce staff costs, reduce sales and marketing costs.
  • Expand the market through electronic payment methods. Banks, instead of spending more money to open branches, can provide Internet Banking services to expand the scope of service provision.
  • Diversification of services and products: Banks can develop and provide new services to customers such as phone banking, home banking, Internet banking, money transfer, withdrawal, automatic payment.
  • Implement the globalization strategy without having to open more branches, saving money, and serving a larger customer base.
  • Trade promotion, brand promotion to the world: Through electronic payment, banks and businesses can post all financial information for foreigners to know, in order to increase their brand’s value. Intellectual properties and services serve the purpose of advertising promotion.
  • Facilitate the establishment and strengthen business relationships.
  • Create conditions to spread and popularize images and product brands with international customers.
3. Benefits for Customers
  • Fast, convenient: This is probably the first benefit to mention of the electronic payment method. In the past, to top up a phone, top up a game card, and pay the utility bills, customers had to go to a store or to a specific address to pay. Now, with just a computer or smartphone connected to the Internet, customers can pay for everything 24/7.
  • Save cost and time: Not only fast and convenient but an online payment service also helps to save money and time. Customers just need to sit at home, perform a few simple steps and it’s done. Moreover, online payment services at banks often apply promotions to help customers enjoy the best service at the cheapest price.
  • Information security: Online payment service providers all have the best information security mechanism for customers. So customers don’t need to worry about their account information being leaked out. Compared to using cash, online payment is much safer and more secure.
  • Flexible payment: Customers are provided with many different payment methods such as e-wallets, domestic bank accounts, international cards, making it more convenient to make online payments according to their needs. 

Disadvantages of Electronic Payment

Besides the benefits and advantages, electronic payment methods also have certain disadvantages such as:

  • Tampering and technical risks: Nowadays, counterfeiting is becoming more and more sophisticated and is an organized activity. Although the number of forgery cases did not increase much, the size of each case increased by a large amount. This is a potential risk for banks and their customers.
  • Need reinforcement and vigilance from many sides: Experts say that the risk of information insecurity coming from devices connected to the Internet is increasing. Therefore, customers themselves need to pay attention to strange points in cash machines, card machines, When using e-wallets, Internet Banking, users need to pay attention to their devices with programs installed. anti-virus program or not, be careful not to click on strange links.

Above are the key benefits of electronic payment methods. Hopefully, the article has brought you a lot of useful information.

We would love to hear your thoughts and questions on electronic payment in the comment section below.