Financial Record Keeping: Best Practices for Small Businesses

Financial record keeping is essential for smooth tax preparation. Keeping the process of recording all financial transactions thorough, accurate, and precisely helps a business succeed and helps its finances meet all regulations and the required standards of operation.

This article will suggest six financial record keeping best practices for small business owners to simplify their bookkeeping. 

Incorporate a good document management system into your business

As you grow your business, your business documents and files expand, too. Instead of stacking your desk and drawers with piles of paper, try to go paperless so you can access your records easily, at any time, from anywhere. 

You can then implement a digital document management system to organize all your business documents. Then set a document control system that specifies how often to review and update documents.

Back up and secure your records

We live in a time where data breaches and natural disasters are rampant. Take time to back up and secure your records to avoid catastrophe. Whether you store your records on paper or a hard drive, remember to back them up in at least two places. 

Digitizing all your important documents is also a good idea as it protects them from being lost, stolen, or destroyed. However, storing records digitally increases the risk of theft. So when you store your business records online, secure your account with a unique and strong password, and enable two-factor authentication.

Understand the lifecycle of records 

Every record will have its own lifespan, and some financial documents must be kept for a certain amount of time. It’s necessary to ensure that all retention and disposal schedules are correctly applied to each type of record generated in each department. 

Here are the essential documents you need to keep and the time you need to keep them.

Seven years or longer

When it comes to taxes, it’s a good idea to preserve any tax records for at least seven years. The IRS’s audit statute of limitations is three years. In some situations, they can go back as far as six or seven years (e.g., if you underreported your income by 25% or more.) State statutes of limitations vary, so you can consult a tax professional to understand your state’s limitations.

You should also keep for up to seven years any records that corroborate the information on your taxes, such as your W-2 and 1099 forms, receipts, and payments. Keep receipts for any assets you own for as long as you own them, such as receipts for home renovation work. 

One year

Records that you need to keep for at least one year are the following: 

  • Non-tax-related bank and credit card statements
  • Investment statements
  • Paycheck
  • Medical bills 
  • Receipts for large purchases

If you need to support your current-year tax preparation or have an unresolved insurance dispute, don’t throw away these records for at least a year!

Many banks and credit card companies now provide electronic statements, so it’s not necessary to keep paper versions on hand. However, if you still want to keep a copy of those records, you can digitize them by scanning them with a receipt scanner before discarding the original paper documents.

Less than a year

Some documents do not need to be kept in your home for an extended period of time. Don’t bother about keeping receipts unless they’re related to:

  • Product warranties
  • Your tax returns
  • Insurance claims

You can throw away most monthly bills after paying them or after they have been deposited into your bank statement. If you need to go back to verify anything later, see if you can access past invoices through online account access. Many service providers store past bills and invoices available online for the past few months or longer.

Start a new file after each year

Starting a new file at the start of each new year is a simple method that can help you save a lot of time and make going through your information much easier. 

It will also make it easier for you to remove records you no longer need for whatever reason, such as when the five-year retention period has expired.

Keep records of transactions for bank reconciliations

Bank reconciliations help small businesses detect errors and better understand their financial situation. It’s also a good opportunity to double-check that you have records for all of your business dealings.

Some accounting software allows users to attach documents to each transaction, so anyone who opens your books can view the associated record. It’s good to match every transaction in your accounting software to a record during your monthly bank reconciliation. Make sure you have a corresponding invoice, receipt, or contract as you go through your company activities.

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Choose accounting software that can generate records

Today, many accounting software can generate reports from customers’ invoices. For example, Shoeboxed, the painless receipt scanning and expense management app tailored for freelancers and small business owners, can take over the heavy task of preparing reports from your plate. 

After scanning your receipts with OCR engines, Shoeboxed will automatically create clear and comprehensive reports so you can send them out for approval immediately. Shoeboxed can help small business owners save time and effort, allowing them to spend more time on the business’s core. 

The bottom line

Keeping financial records properly can be challenging at first. Still, as long as you keep these financial record keeping best practices in hand, you’ll be able to run your business smoothly even if you don’t have an accounting background. The most difficult part is collecting the information. After you’ve formed the collecting habit, the rest will be in place. 

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Shoeboxed blog for more helpful accounting and bookkeeping knowledge and best practices for small business owners! 

About Shoeboxed

Shoeboxed is a receipt management application that turns your receipts and business documents into a digital format in just one click by taking a picture straight from your smartphone or scanning a pdf. It automatically extracts, categorizes, and human-verifies important data from your receipts so that you can go over and check your records anytime with ease. Shoeboxed ensures you will always have your receipts securely stored and ready for tax purposes.

Access your Shoeboxed account from your web browser or smartphone app. Stay audit-ready with Shoeboxed for FREE now!

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!

What Is a Purchase Receipt and How to Make One?

As a business owner, you have to deal with numerous receipts every day. While it’s important to store and keep your receipts organized for accounting and tax purposes, many often neglect or find it difficult to systemize hundreds of documents. However, you can easily get your receipts categorized and neatly stored with some effort and the right knowledge.  For example, you might want to try sorting receipts by type such as sales receipts, travel receipts, bank receipts, etc. This article will look in detail at a very common type of receipt — the purchase receipt. 

Once you know the features of a purchase receipt, you’ll be able to distinguish them from other types of receipts, ensuring a smooth and orderly system of storing your receipts. On top of that, you will also find useful tips on how to create a purchase receipt if you are a supplier as well. 

What is a purchase receipt?

When you receive materials, goods, and services from a supplier, they will issue you a purchase receipt. This is normally done against a purchase order. However, some suppliers still give you purchase receipts without one. Purchase receipts can be printed directly from a cash register or handwritten.

What is the purpose of a Purchase Receipt?

A purchase receipt mainly serves as proof of ownership. This receipt is issued when you accept and pay for goods and services from your suppliers or from you to your customers when they buy your products.

Generally, this document includes details of a specific purchase of a service or product. It also clarifies the contract between you and your suppliers – what, how many, and how much you buy. 

Purchase receipts are also kept and recorded for accounting purposes. You can always go back to examine and double-check if the details of transactions tally. By being able to do so, you will keep track of your expenses more accurately and timely and ensure your accounting system runs more efficiently, which leads to better business results. 

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What information is on a purchase receipt?

Though it varies between businesses, a purchase receipt normally includes the following information:

  • Date and time the transaction occurred
  • Customer information: company name, possibly a contact person, address, phone number, and email address.
  • Purchase description: date, purchase order number, quantity, a brief description of each purchased item with prices
  • Payment information: payment method 
  • Additional charges: shipping fee, delivery cost, and taxes
  • Return policy. Detailed explanation on how the customer may return, exchange, and/or receive a refund for a purchase

What does a Purchase Receipt look like?

Below is a basic template of a purchase receipt:

Example of a purchase receipt
Source: Templatelab.com 

A purchase receipt is fairly straightforward, so you can easily customize a template for your business using Microsoft Excel. Many websites on the Internet also have free downloadable templates for purchase receipts. If you need a free Purchase Receipt template, check out these links below:

Another way to issue purchase receipts is to use paper receipt books. They are widely available online and easily found on Amazon. 

How do you write a Purchase Receipt?

There are two main ways to create a purchase receipt: manually (by hand) and digitally. 

Write it manually 

Make sure you have a printed template ready or a receipt book that looks professional. It’s fairly easy to create a purchase receipt this way as you only need to fill in the blanks with the relevant specific details. Keep your handwriting neat and tidy to avoid any unnecessary misunderstandings. Also, don’t forget to double-check your calculations!

Write it digitally  

If you already have a good template prepared, just type in the transaction information whenever you get a new order from your customers and have the receipt printed out. A great tip is to save your regular customer’s basic information in the template, like their company’s name, address, and contact information. Then, you won’t have to spend time typing that information all over again the next time they buy from you. 

Alternatively, you can download and use specialized accounting software like Quickbooks, Xero, etc., to create purchase receipts. It may be difficult to get the hang of it at first, but once you get used to it, you will enjoy the convenience and effectiveness it brings.  

What is the difference between an invoice and a receipt?

A receipt indicates payment of the items and that the sale is complete, while an invoice serves as a payment request. They both include details of the products ordered, prices, taxing information, contact details, and credits. 

What’s Shoeboxed? 

Are you tired of seeing paper receipts laying everywhere in the office? 

Shoeboxed can help you. 

Shoeboxed is an online application that helps you clear your piles of documents by creating digital copies in just a click. This app automatically extracts and categorizes important data from your receipts, which then gets approved by a team of data experts. You can scan their receipts, manage expenses, store business cards, and track business mileage easily, helping you boost productivity and bring in more revenue. 

Quick, reliable, and trustworthy, Shoeboxed guarantees it will organize your receipts in the best way possible! 

Go paperless for FREE with Shoeboxed