As a small business owner, you're likely making purchases every day. With each purchase or bill paid, comes a receipt. If you pay your bills online, keeping track of those receipts is easier: You have a record of what you paid each month or you can quickly record the paid amount in your accounting software. What do you do with those other receipts though?
If you're steadfast in staying organized, you try to save every receipt and file them away. Maybe you're better about it than others, who sometimes throw out a receipt carelessly, lose them or simply misplace them. Even if you scan your receipts and keep the images on your computer or flash drive, you still have to search each image anytime you need to reference an expense for taxes, a warranty or replacement.
Instead of keeping your receipts in a shoebox or file cabinet, you could convert them using optical character recognition (OCR) software.
If you have a scanner, you can easily add receipts to your computer or cloud drive in a photo format. That in and of itself is useful, but OCR software takes it a step further by then converting those images into a text format. Now you have text files of all of your receipts, which means you can easily search wherever you store data for a particular receipt.
Scanners aren't as common as they once were, but you can still take advantage of OCR software. Simply take photos of your receipts with your smartphone and upload them into the software. The program is able to recognize characters by comparing the characters in the image to font libraries. Most applications even use spell check to ensure it's the word that was likely intended.
It's difficult to find an OCR program that offers 100 percent accuracy, but many claim to at least come close to that level of perfection. The technology has improved over the years, though, and like voice recognition software, it's getting better and better. Still, you may want to check the final replication for errors.
Using OCR software makes life much easier for your tax preparer as well. The trick to getting back the most money from the government is to know where you can claim expenses and keep a detailed, organized paper trail of receipts. In today's world, though, that paper trail can now be electronic, which is easier to manage. You can search for a particular business, type of expense or date, once your receipts are scanned and converted.
Beyond receipt and recordkeeping, you can use OCR software to replicate documents that you may no longer have the original copy of. For example, you could snap a picture of your menu, if you run a restaurant, and then convert it to text so you can edit it as you see fit – all without having to retype anything.
Handwritten receipts and notes are also easy for OCR software to convert to text. This is helpful when you have a receipt from a mom-and-pop shop or prescription from a doctor. Regardless of what it is, whether it's something you want to keep it for posterity, tax purposes or you need to edit your own notes but you don't want to type it yourself, OCR software can help. In addition to simplifying your life, OCR software increases your efficiency, and you can remove clutter from your office space that's taking up precious space.