How to scan receipts and organize them for taxes.

A woman scans receipts using her smart phone so she can organize them digitally for taxes.

Find out how to scan receipts and digitize them to help you stay organized next tax season.

Keeping receipts for taxes is vital for individuals and business owners, so learning how to scan receipts for taxes is imperative. After all, receipts are the only way to prove you’ve spent the money you’ve claimed as tax deductions.

Paper receipts are notorious for fading over time, so digitizing them is the best way to organize them. Here’s everything you need to know about scanning receipts and organizing them for tax purposes.

Do I need to keep paper receipts?

The IRS recommends keeping receipts for at least three years, but there are no legal requirements for whether or not the receipts need to be physical paper receipts or digital copies. It’s typically a good idea to keep the physical version of official business documents, invoices, and records of large sales or purchases since these will account for a significant portion of the claimed deductions. However, since there is no legal requirement for receipt types, the decision to keep a physical or digital receipt is entirely up to you.

How to scan receipts for taxes and digitize them.

Using a scanner or a mobile photo scanning app like Adobe Scan to digitize your paper receipts will make accessing and sharing your receipts a breeze, especially when you save your receipts as PDFs.

Most online retailers will give you the option to save order confirmations as PDFs or email you a digital copy of your receipt that you can download and save as a PDF file. However, if you’ve saved your emails in other formats, you can use PDF editing software like Adobe Acrobat to convert the emails to PDFs instead.

If a retailer gives you a physical receipt, you can easily scan it with your phone or desktop and turn it into a digital receipt instead.

How to scan receipts on an iPhone.

To scan a receipt using an iPhone, you’ll first want to download an app like Adobe Scan that can use your phone camera to create PDF files. Next, follow these steps:

  1. Place your receipt on a flat, solid-colored surface.
  2. Open the scanning app.
  3. Position your camera to include all edges of the document and ensure the camera is focused on the document so it’s clear and easy to read.
  4. Capture the image and follow the in-app steps to name and save your scan.

How to scan receipts on an Android.

Scanning receipts on an Android is very similar to the process for scanning receipts on an iPhone. Start by downloading a reputable scanning app like Adobe Scan, then do the following:

  1. Place the receipt on a flat, solid-colored surface.
  2. Open the scanning app and position your camera parallel to the receipt. Also, ensure your camera is correctly focused on the receipt to get a clear scan.
  3. Capture the photo, then use the app to adjust the scanned area and crop as needed.
  4. Follow the on-screen prompts to name, save, and share your scan.

How to scan a receipt on a desktop.

If you have a scanner or access to a printer with scanning capabilities, follow these steps:

  1. Place the receipt face-down on the scanner. Ensure it lies flat without any wrinkles or folds that might obscure information and make it difficult to read the receipt.
  2. Place the lid down to hold your receipt in place and provide a solid background for the scan.
  3. Follow the device instructions to begin your scan.
  4. Once the scan is complete, the file will be saved to a memory storage device that you can then remove and connect to your desktop to download the file. Or, if your scanning device is Wi-Fi enabled, you can send the file directly to your email or desktop computer.
  5. On your desktop, preview the scanned receipt to ensure you can easily read all relevant information, then name the file and move it to the proper location for storage.

Best practices — how to organize receipts for taxes.

There are many different ideas for how to organize receipts for taxes. The best way depends entirely on what makes the most sense to you and helps you quickly locate receipts when needed. Here are a few best practices for tax receipt organization.

Merge receipts into one file.

It’s a good idea to keep related receipts together. Rather than storing multiple PDF files in one folder, you can instead merge related receipts into one PDF file. This way, you can reduce file clutter and find your receipts faster. To merge several receipts into one file:

  1. Open Acrobat.
  2. Select Tools > Combine Files.
  3. Choose the files you would like to combine and determine the file order.
  4. Click Merge Files to download the merged PDF.
  5. Assign the file a name and save it in the proper location.

Alternatively, you can also use Adobe Acrobat online services to merge PDFs.

Compress your PDFs of receipts.

You’ll likely need to share your receipts with an accountant or tax officials at some point during your tax preparation process. Sending large PDFs can be time-consuming and present challenges, as many emails put a cap on the size of files sent as attachments. Compressing your PDF files makes them much easier to share.

You can use Acrobat’s Optimize PDF tool or Acrobat online services to compress PDF files:

  1. Open the application.
  2. Select the PDF file (or files) you want to compress.
  3. Once selected, Acrobat will automatically compress the file and reduce its size.
  4. Download the compressed file and share it using your preferred method.

Back up your files of receipts.

Once you’ve scanned and merged your receipts, save them in at least two locations to ensure you won’t lose them.

After scanning receipts:

  1. Download and save the receipt on a physical hard drive, such as your desktop computer or an external hard drive.
  2. Save a second copy of the receipt on your preferred online file storage platform.

How long should I keep receipts?

Most tax experts agree you should keep receipts for at least three years. The IRS audits typically cover only three years of data at a time. This length of time may differ, though, depending on the type of receipt. For example, in cases where you filed incorrectly or claimed a loss, it’s recommended that you keep receipts for seven years.

What receipts to keep for taxes.

The exact types of receipts will vary depending on if you’re filing personal or business taxes. In general, it’s a good idea to keep:

What receipts should I keep for personal taxes?

A good rule of thumb for personal record-keeping is to keep all receipts related to deductions you plan to claim, which could include:

What receipts should I keep for business taxes?

You should keep receipts for any business-related operations and expenses, including:

More resources to organize and digitize documents.

After you scan receipts and organize them for taxes, there’s plenty more to do. Consider these resources:

Learn more ways to work with PDFs online. Discover everything Acrobat can do to convert, sign, and share tax documents and other PDFs.