Top Receipt Scanning Apps for Keeping up With Expenses
Using receipt scanning apps to scan, categorize and store expenses can save you time, money and frustration, whether you manage your own books and prepare your own tax returns or hire an accountant to provide those services.
This is particularly true for small contractors, who are inclined to spread their spending across multiple retailers, or those who frequently pay for supplies or other deductible business expenses with cash. The Internal Revenue Service, meanwhile, requires you to save receipts used to prepare your income tax return for three to five years.
The caveat, of course, is that you must remember to scan all your cash receipts, although some app developers will even help you with that. The reward is that you don’t have to keep all those receipts crammed in your wallet, where they could fade before you get a chance to record them.
The glory of OCR
These receipt scanning apps generally allow you to photograph, mark up and store receipts, business cards or other documents online for free. Many also include free mileage trackers. But generally, you must pay to use their optical character recognition (OCR) technology, which is what really makes them such times savers. That’s because OCR reads and records key information from a printed or emailed receipt so you don’t have to enter that information manually. Typically, this includes the date and time of the transaction, the name of the vendor, the items purchased and the prices and taxes paid.
Most receipt scanning apps allow you to also tag individual receipts with additional information, such as the name of a customer or customer project.
App providers generally offer their subscriptions on both a monthly and an annual basis and set those fees according to the number of registered users and scans made per month.
If you already use a popular bookkeeping application to manage your business finances, you should investigate their mobile apps. The QuickBooks mobile app uses your smartphone camera to scan receipts and attach them as an expense in your books or to a specific customer invoice for billing. Xero and Alegra, meanwhile, have partnered with third-party app developers to create receipt scanning apps that integrate with their accounting systems.
In the list below, we summarize features and pricing for a few third-party receipt scanning apps as of December 2019. Generally, you can download and test these on a limited basis for free before deciding whether to subscribe. Just be sure to double check prices and features, including compatibility with your bookkeeping software and other mobile apps you use.
Shoeboxed: This app extracts the vendor’s name, date and total from a receipt and categorizes the expense into one of 15 standard Internal Revenue Service categories. You can also create custom categories that better suit your business. Shoeboxed can also be used to search and organize your receipts and create custom reports that can be exported to QuickBooks and Xero, converted to PDFs for attaching to invoices or converted to CSV files for viewing in an Excel spreadsheet. The app also digitizes business cards, supports one-click mileage tracking and enables you to email expense reports. Bonus: If you have a pile of old receipts and business cards you’d like converted into digital data, you can pay Shoeboxed to scan them for you. They also offer that service on a monthly basis if you’d rather not scan your documents yourself. Shoeboxed subscription fees range from $15 to $69 per month depending on the number of documents you mail in for scanning.
Zoho Expense: This app provides a great solution for small contractors because up to three people can use it for free (until five gigabytets of data storage are exceeded) to scan up to 100 documents per month, track mileage expenses and assign expense to specific customer projects. Beyond those limits, you must pay a set fee per user of $2.50 to $3.00, depending on whether you pay a monthly or annual subscription fee. You can use the app with Zoho Books to manage all your bookkeeping or use it just to scan and store paper and email receipts for export to other financial apps, including QuickBooks Desktop, QuickBooks Online, G Suite and Office 365.
Expensify: You can use this app to scan and store an unlimited amount of receipts online for free, but you will have to pay to use its “SmartScan” OCR feature. You can find a rundown of Expensify subscription plans and pricing here. It has accounting integrations with services such as QuickBooks, Xero and NetSuite.