Paperless Tax System for Canadians

Every year around tax season I always swear that I’ll be more organized next year. Then next year rolls around and I’m still matching up a box full of receipts with my credit card statements. In every other aspect of my business I have systems in place to keep me ultra organized, except when it comes to my taxes.

I’ve always wished that there was a better way to organize my taxes throughout the year. Ideally I’d like to ditch the paper receipts completely and go to an entirely digital system.

Ideally I’d like a system that:

  • Is entirely digital so I can get rid of paper receipts as soon as I receive them
  • Support the ability to import / forward receipts I receive by email since I do a lot of online shopping for business supplies
  • A mobile app so I can take pictures with my iPhone
  • Ability to save the GST/PST information from receipts separately for tax purposes
  • Ability to save receipts into different Tax Categories (Fuel, Education, Supplies, Meals, Etc.)
  • Support for exporting into TurboTax / Or has support to generate reports that makes doing taxes at the end of the year easy

I did some research and I found a few products and services that fill this market but none of them met all of my criteria. There were several solutions that were close but they didn’t have support for Canadian users.

OneReceipt

The first service I came across that looked promising was www.OneReceipt.com. Signup was super simple, and their service even scans your email looking for all of your invoices and automatically inputs them. Then you can use their app to snap photos of your receipts so you can throw them away right away. The only problem is that they only support a single “tax” field, and there’s no support for exporting into a tax program. 🙁

Neat (NeatCloud, NeatScan, NeatApp)

Then I was walking through a Staples store and I came across a product called www.Neat.com. Apparently they run a lot of TV commercials so you might have heard of them before.

This service looked fantastic! They had a cool scanner for your desktop so you can go completely paperless. Plus they had an app for the iPhone. Their website even said they had support for TurboTax.

However I started digging around their website and I couldn’t find out if they supported separate gst/pst fields. I asked customer support which wasn’t much help at all because they directed me to support pages that didn’t contain an answer. Finally I downloaded their 30 day free trail. I was very happy to see that they did support gst/pst fields!

As a test I downloaded the app and took a photo of about 30 receipts. The OCR text recognition wasn’t great but that’s to be expected with any service.

It wasn’t until I started testing the export options that I discovered an error when trying to export. Buried within a help found I found out that “Only US tax categories can be exported to TurboTax”. At first I thought that wasn’t such a big deal. I thought I could still generate another type of report then export and sort before doing my taxes… but that isn’t possible because the export options are severely limited, plus the report templates don’t even include gst/pst information. So even though its possible to input that information, there’s no way to get it back out.

By this point I was getting pretty frustrated. I had spent like 3 days playing with Neat just to be let down. So I’ve continued my search for another option.

Evernote

Then I remembered about Evernote. I thought it might be a perfect solution. They have a huge userbase, the application is flexible and there’s also an app. There’s even a specific receipt app for evernote called ReceiptMate.

The problem I came across is that there doesn’t seem to be any way to export the data once it’s in Evernote. Evernote is good for quick lookup searches if you’ve categorized everything correctly, but it isn’t really designed to generate reports or export into tax programs.

I have a feeling that there might be a way to make Evernote work, but I’m not sure what the solution is.

Mint

Mint is really popular with people who are looking to budget and manage their finances and I thought they might have a solution for me. Unfortunately, even though TurboTax and Mint are both owned by Intuit, they don’t play nicely together for Canadians either. Next!!

Paperless 2.0

Then I came across an application called Paperless. This looks like a great solution for a paperless environment because they support many different types of paper documents within their application like Neat does. They also have support for many types of scanners and you can organize the documents in lots of different ways. It even has the ability to create custom fields and make adjustments to the interface to suit your needs.

Paperless 2.0 application screenshot

The one big fall of Paperless is that they don’t offer any sort of App. This is a downfall because then I’m going to have to invest in a receipt scanner for a couple hundred dollars.

Also, in my research it wasn’t very clear if you can export from Paperless into something like Quickbooks and in turn export into something like TurboTax. Their help file on the subject seemed to suggest that it might be possible under certain situations, but in other situations it isn’t possible. That isn’t exactly the “100% supported” type stamp I’m looking for. The last thing I want is to find out during tax season that I can’t even get my taxes completed because my system isn’t supported.

Their support page said it was possible to export to CSV as well but I couldn’t get it to work with their free trial. Also it was unclear which information is exported and if the data would be usable enough to use for tax purposes.

Quicken

Finally I thought I had found the answer with Quicken. A household name for home-based business owners everywhere. You can manage the finances of your business and they even advertise an app for taking a photo of your receipt and matching it up with payments directly within your accounting system. It appears to be the perfect solution… the only problem? No Canadian support. 🙁

So as you can see I’ve tried just about all I can think of. I’m writing this post in hopes that somebody out there somewhere will finally have a solution for me so I can ditch receipts for good with a paperless system that also helps me complete my taxes easier with less frustration at the end of the year.

Do you have a paperless system? Do you have a good system for managing your taxes? Share your tips in the comments below.

Update (May 1/2014):

After posting this article a few people sent me some other recommendations.

  • Wave: Wave is an entire system for invoicing and billing clients and they also have a section for receipts. But unfortunately they don’t have separate GST/PST. Their invoicing system is pretty slick though!
  • EasyBooks: I received a recommendation for this program as well. I didn’t look into it too much because its mac/iOS only. Plus I couldn’t find out too much about how they handle receipts, but it seems to be an entire system for managing your business finances.
  • InstaTax: Finally a system designed specially for Canadians! But, it says its only for Quebec and Ontario, but I’m not sure why. The homepage says that an update will be available shortly, but the last release notes were from over a year ago so I suspect the developers aren’t keeping up with it. Plus it’s only an app and there’s no desktop link at all. 🙁