Organise yourself. Ask for receipts and keep them. In fact, file them – don’t just stuff them in a carrier bag to deal with later.
Handing over a shoebox of receipts to an accountant at the end of the year is a guarantee of a more expensive accountant’s bill and you paying more tax than you should have done. Good record-keeping will save you money.
It’s the easiest thing in the world to leave admin until later but it’s the hardest thing in the world to catch up months later. Try to schedule an hour a week or an afternoon a month to catch up with all your accounts and admin.
Keep a diary and make sure you check your receipts against trips out. Most of us can expect to have receipts for trains or taxis or petrol, plus some subsistence – coffees or lunches – as a minimum on a day out, but there may be other items too. Did you buy an important newspaper or specialist magazine that day? Did you get some photocopying done or buy some stationery or something for your computer? By checking your expenses against your diary you will spot missing receipts in time to find and file them.
Check your monthly credit card bill and bank statement. Is there any spending there that you have not included or for which you can find the receipt? Have you got the bill that’s been covered by a direct debit payment – often bills are no longer posted and you need to go online and print them out. It’s much easier to do this each month than to try and print out 12 monthly bills at the end of the year. If you bought something online have you printed out the emailed invoice?
It is often easier to have one credit card for business spending – but always pay it off in full every month. You can then include your credit card bill with your accounts as evidence of spending, even if you have misplaced a receipt.
But don’t shy away from cash if cash is the cheaper option. I have seen people in coffee shops try to buy their cappuccino by card, only to be told there is a minimum charge that requires them to buy a pastry too. There’s no saving there. Paying by cash and keeping the receipt is a better option, providing you are efficient enough to keep that receipt and file it as soon as you get home or back to your office
The key is being organised. Put in place a system that suits you – and stick to it.