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FAQ: Must I retain original business expense receipts if I computer scan them?

No, taxpayers may destroy the original hardcopy of books and records and the original computerized records detailing the expenses of a business if they use an electronic storage system.

Business often maintain their books and records by scanning hardcopies of their documents onto a computer hard drive, burning them onto compact disc, or saving them to a portable storage device. The IRS classifies records stored in this manner as an “electronic storage system.” Businesses using an electronic storage system are considered to have fulfilled IRS records requirements for all taxpayers, should they meet certain requirements. And, they have the freedom to reduce the amount of paperwork their enterprise must manage.

Record-keeping requirements

Code Sec. 6001 requires all persons liable for tax to keep records as the IRS requires. In addition to persons liable for tax, those who file informational returns must file such returns and make use of their records to prove their gross income, deductions, credits, and other matters. For example, businesses must substantiate deductions for business expenses with appropriate records and they must file informational returns showing salaries and benefits paid to employees.

It is possible for businesses using an electronic storage system to satisfy these requirements under Code Sec. 6001. However, they must fulfill certain obligations.

Paperwork reduction

In addition, using an electronic storage system may allow businesses to destroy the original hardcopy of their books and records, as well as the original computerized records used to fulfill the record-keeping requirements of Code Sec. 6001. To take advantage of this option, taxpayers must:

(1) Test their electronic storage system to establish that hardcopy and computerized books and records are being reproduced according to certain requirements, and

(2) Implement procedures to assure that its electronic storage system is compliant with IRS requirements into the future.

Our firm would be glad to work with you to meet the IRS’s specifications, should you want to establish a computerized recordkeeping system for your business. The time spent now can be worth considerable time and money saved by a streamlined and organized system of receipts and records.

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