We’ve all been there, on one end of the conversation or the other: it’s the end of the month and the finance team is missing receipts for charges on company credit cards. Cardholders get a list of undocumented purchases and begin the scavenger hunt.
Some are easier to find and forward to bookkeeping, such as online purchases that had an email receipt. Perhaps it was a recurring charge for some software or other subscription; that too should have either an email receipt or documentation available for download from the provider’s website.
Some Examples of the Problem
The credit card charges that will be hardest to find documentation for are commonly the purchases easiest to lose documentation for. Some vendors by nature provide only physical receipts.
Gift officers’ (and executive directors’) meal and entertainment purchases for donor stewardship are a prime example. The fancy tapas place in town is not fancy enough to provide an email receipt automatically when you pay for a donor lunch with a card you’ve linked with Square at the doughnut shop on your way into the office that morning.
Likewise, that parking garage you used to meet another donor on the other side of town, probably only gave you that little slip of paper that may or may not still be on the floor of your car. Purchasing green room snacks at Costco? That paper receipt, too, is probably on the floor of the artist assistant’s car.
The Solution in Your Pocket
However, all those people who, in the very normal course of their duties, are collecting paper receipts, very likely have just the tool they need to digitize them on the spot and maybe even get them to their finance colleagues in just a few minutes’ time. They are surely carrying a smartphone with a camera very well suited to the job. Such staff should at minimum get in the habit of taking a picture of the receipt for any work-related purchase right after receiving it from the cashier.
Take it a step further: your organization probably uses some cloud-based storage platform, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive. These services all have mobile apps that provide the ability not only to upload pictures from the mobile device’s camera, but even to directly create PDF files using the onboard camera. PDF is generally a better file format for accounting documentation, so staff should get in the habit of opening the app for the organization’s cloud storage service and creating a PDF of their receipt on the go.
A good file naming convention, such as YYYY.MM.DD_VENDORNAME, will also help, but if the scanning is done on the day of the purchase, the timestamp will go a long way toward easily matching with the credit card statement.
It all comes down to building the habit of good receipt management. Providing the tools (or just leveraging the tools you already have) and training on this minimum-effort process will go a long way toward shortening the month-end receipt scavenger hunt.