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Ask the taxgirl: Scanned Receipts

February 24, 2009 · 6 comments

Taxpayer asks:

I want to ask if scans of receipts are acceptable as proof for the IRS. I’ve got receipts that are only one year old and they are already unable to be read due to fading. If we are somehow able to scan the receipt and save a digital copy of the information, do we still need the physical receipt?

Taxgirl says:

It doesn’t get a lot of press but the IRS has accepted scanned receipts since 1997. The applicable rule is Rev. Proc. 97–22 and it basically mandates that your scanned or electronic receipts must be as accurate as your paper records. Additionally, you must be able to index, store, preserve, retrieve, and reproduce the records. In other words, you need to have your records organized and be able to produce them in a hard copy form if needed.

So long as you have faith that your electronic system is sufficient, there’s no reason to keep your physical receipts. It’s worth noting that the integrity of the system is on you, and the failure of the system is not a valid excuse for not having accurate records. So choose a system that you trust – and make sure that it works!

Like any good lawyer, I need to add a disclaimer: Unfortunately, it is impossible to give comprehensive tax advice over the internet, no matter how well researched or written. Before relying on any information given on this site, contact a tax professional to discuss your particular situation.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 DrOne September 16, 2010 at 9:03 pm

So I can scan, edit and then print as many receipts as I want?
If I scan a receipt, I can easily photoshop the date, amount, item or whatever.

2 John Beckman March 25, 2011 at 5:40 pm

As a Masters level in computer/software, the integrity of the electronic receipts
is better than paper receipts, but only if you follow my guidelines.
Short term receipts must be two differing media, eg 1) receipts scanner with memory
and 2) USB memory stick backup in case scanner breaks.
Long term must have 3 media: eg 1) DVD 2) hard drive 3) USB stick

Paper receipts can become lost or destroyed by accident.
The above method is more reliable. (c) John E. Beckman :-)

ps Dual redundancy is good enough for airline flights,
with life and limb, then it is also fine for tax receipts.

3 Cindy May 12, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Thanks for the advise, my files were getting pretty crowded. Also, my receipts have been disappearing. I took a look at an old box and most of them are completely blank.

4 Robert July 15, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Sorry for posting on this old thread…is a photo (.jpg) copy equally acceptable?

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