When is it that you DON’T need a receipt

In addition to proof of payment, the IRS generally requires that you keep documentary evidence, such as receipts, canceled checks, or bills, to support your expenses. That’s a lot of paper! Fortunately, there are some exceptions.

For travel, entertainment, gifts, or transportation expenses, the IRS guidelines state that documentary evidence is not needed if either of the following conditions apply:

If Your expense, other than lodging, is less than $75.
If You have a transportation expense for which a receipt is not readily available.
What this means to you is that, if your expense is less than $75 and it is for travel, entertainment, transportation, or gifts, the IRS does not require you to keep a receipt (except in the case that the travel expense is for lodging). The $75 limit is waived if the expense is for transportation and you can’t get a receipt. For hotel expenses you always have to get a receipt.

If you expense meets the above requirements, the IRS will take your word that the expense is a valid business deduction, as long as you keep a written or electronic record of the following:

Amount
Date
Place or Description
Business Purpose/Relationship
(The above list will usually do, but is simplified–for the full details check out Table 5-1 of Publication 463.)

If you use Xero for accounting, it’s easy to record this information on a daily basis. Just connect your accounts using the bank feeds feature. When Xero downloads your debit card or credit card transactions from the bank each day, the amount, date, and payee will already be there. Just add the business purpose and relationship to the description and click “OK.”

Xero bank reconciliation example

In the case of cash expenses, you can create a account in your  software called “Petty Cash” and record those expenses as Spend Money transactions in that account. Offset the expenses in the Petty Cash account by coding ATM withdrawals as transfers to Petty Cash.

Remember, for most expenses over $75 (and lodging expenses of any amount), you still need to hold on to your receipts as they are required.