A few years ago my employer, Catapult Systems, had a policy in place for submitting receipts when doing expense reports. At the time whoever put the policy together really didn’t consider all the challenges a consultant will actually face at the client’s site. Basically there were only three options. Us consultants had to fax in our receipts, scan/email them, or mail them in. There was another option but that required actually visiting a Catapult office and since never go into any Catapult offices that wasn’t an option for me. A lot of the consultants wanted to take photos and email them but at the time photos of receipts were not approved for whatever reasons.
Below are the non-detailed processes for each option
- Download and print a fax cover page.
- Tape the receipts to a/many 8.5 X 11 piece(s) of paper.
- Fax the cover page with all of the 8.5 X 11 pieces of paper.
- Stuff all the receipts in an envelope and mail it in.
- Scan all of the receipts.
- Email them.
I tried all three options and depending on the client, their hardware, and other things that changed from place to place the above options could be difficult to perform.
Faxing was frustrating. I had to access a internal Catapult website with a client’s machine and print something. Sometimes it took time to install a printer. If I used my Catapult notebook printing to a client’s printer on their network could take even longer as it’s not a domain joined machine. There was always the option of downloading the fax cover page from my Catapult notebook, emailing it to a client contact, and asking them to print it but I didn’t’ like doing that. The client is paying for your time and they shouldn’t be expected to help you with an expense report. Once I overcame printing the fax cover page I then had find some tape and sit there taping receipts to pieces of paper. That wasn’t an efficient use of my time. A lot of companies have long distance codes so when it came time to faxing it in I had to get the client involved. All of this was too time consuming and could have involved the client too much.
I really didn’t want to send in my receipts without first making a copy of them. Some problems I ran into making copies were some copiers needed a billing code, it was time consuming to copy all of my receipts, and I had to carry a stash of envelopes and stamps with me.
Come on, most places don’t have a network scanner and if they do you have to get with the client on how to connect to it and to retrieve your scans. Clients shouldn’t have to get involved with consultants submitting expense reports.
Out of the three methods I used the scan option most of the time. This was because I actually traveled with a battery operated portable scanner. I don’t remember the model I had at the time but I did up grade it to this model and I love it. This was the best option for me as I didn’t have to involve the client but it was still time consuming scanning, transferring the files from the scanner to my notebook, and it was one more piece of hardware taking up room and weight in my notebook bag.
I can’t remember when but Catapult eventually allowed photographs of receipts to be submitted as long as they were readable. This was a good solution and in the past few years a lot of software has come out that will do a great job turning a photograph into more of a scan so the text is legible. I use Evernote a lot(Sorry Microsoft OneNote but at the time Evernote was available on all of my devices). I can’t remember when or in what version it was implemented but Evernote allows you to take a photo of something that is a “document”. The result is almost as good as a scan with a smaller file size than a photo that is faster to capture than physically scanning it. What’s even better is I can use Evernote on my phone to capture all of my receipts and they sync with my desktop so I can email them. Of course the syncing also means my data is in more than one place so IF my phone were to die at least all of my Evernote files are in the cloud and on my desktop. Evernote also allows me to capture my receipts without having to hang onto them until I get to my scanner. Evernote also decreases the risk of me losing a receipt or two.
When using Evernote to capture your receipts it’s important to not only use the proper setting in the software but to properly prepare what you’re capturing. In the photos below you’ll notice differences. The three photos below I’m using the photo setting in Evernote. It’s basically just a photo. Notice the space around the receipt. Sure I could have held my phone closer but getting too close means it might not focus and holding my phone too far away it might be difficult to read without having someone zoom in.
In the photos below I’m using Evernote’s document mode(notice the darker bar in the phone screenshot). The first photo of the receipt is a giant white mess. That’s because the surface it’s laying on isn’t a contrasting color(see similar photo above). The second photo has a contrasting color around the receipt so it automatically zooms in and it appears to be more of a scan that a photo. That’s great as whoever I email that too doesn’t have to zoom in to see the numbers and letter.
Using Evernote’s document mode the size of the file is also smaller while retaining a decent quality image.
680KB photo non-contrasting background
311KB document non-contrasting background
762KB Photo contrasting background
As you can see by using Evernote’s document capture settings of a receipt laying on a contrasting surface I can quickly capture my receipts while out and about in a decent quality that syncs with the cloud/desktop.
I also use Evernote’s document capture feature to capture my personal receipts. I do this so if I have to return, exchange, or even look up what I bought I have it in an electronic format where I can access anywhere from any of my devices at anytime. I don’t need to run home and pullout a shoebox of receipts. Evernote also indexes PDF and JPG files so I can type a word and it will find it on my receipts!
If you’re interested in capturing receipts for personal or work purposes I highly recommend looking at Evernote and the document feature.