Canadian taxes: Do I need to keep paper receipts for all this?
March 22, 2014 9:44 AM   Subscribe

Short version: As a Canadian Freelancer, if I track all my expenses carefully in mint, and pay for pretty much everything with credit/debit cards, do I still need to keep all those paper receipt?

Longer version:

I'm in Canada, and work as a freelancer doing a mix of writing, facilitation, teaching, consulting, and other stuff.

Over the past year, I've been using to track all my tax-related expenses (previously). It's not flawless, but I like it a lot. Every week or so, I go in and categorize everything. I usually add notes on what the expense was: "Bought book XXX" or "Had business meal with YYY".

For some reason: I'm very good at organizing stuff on the computer, and not-so-great at organizing bits of paper. I'm confident my records are very very accurate. I'm not so confident whether my box of receipts is really complete, and I'm curious whether I should work harder to ensure that it is, and hoping I can just forget about all that paper.

How important is it that I still keep paper receipts? If I have a record in my books explaining the expense and the date, and there's a record in my bank card or credit card, is that not sufficient? Or do also need to have the paper receipt?

(Also - I know I could scan all the receipts. But for me, I don't think that adds much: My guess is that having to scanning them all, even with a fast good scanner, is still the sort of paperwork I'd be lousy at. Exeperiences to the contrary are welcome...)
posted by ManInSuit to Law & Government (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
They ask that you hang on to all documentation for 6 years. I'm pretty certain that this includes all your receipts.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:52 AM on March 22, 2014

I don't actually know Canada, but this comes up in the U.S.: your credit card statement doesn't have itemized detail. You can't prove that restaurant charge didn't include alcohol. You can't prove you bought office supplies at Wal-Mart and not a video game. So it's not the same. Better than nothing, but not the same.

There are systems specially made to scan and organize receipts that you might find helpful.
posted by Sequence at 11:43 AM on March 22, 2014

Mint doesn't break out the tax, so it won't have enough detail if you've bought some zero-rated items on a receipt. Keep the paper; the CRA, though patient, has no sense of humour about missing records. In an audit, you can't claim the tax on something for which you don't have a receipt.
posted by scruss at 1:19 PM on March 22, 2014

As a Canadian Freelancer, if I track all my expenses carefully in mint, and pay for pretty much everything with credit/debit cards, do I still need to keep all those paper receipt?

Yes. Absolutely, 100%, yes. I am not sure if an electronic version is even sufficient (in the sense of a scanned copy of your receipts) -- the CRA can advise you on that. But you absolutely will need every single receipt in case of an audit.
posted by jeather at 1:44 PM on March 22, 2014

I agree that CRA isn't going to accept your records as truth without receipts to back them up. I don't know for sure about electronic versions--almost all my charitable donation receipts are electronic now, received via email, so maybe that is enough. As for ease, I don't scan anything like that anymore, but instead take a quick snap with my phone. You can even do it as you pay, if you get into the habit.
posted by looli at 4:05 PM on March 22, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks, all! That is super-helpful to know.

(I assume that, of course, in cases where there is *only* an electronic receipt, that is sufficient. I realize this increasingly covers a lot of my purchases - books bought online, cabs paid with through Hail0, etc, etc. So maybe some day soon I can stop worrying about all this paper...)
posted by ManInSuit at 4:15 PM on March 22, 2014

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