When you’re running a small business, keeping a digital or paper trail is a foundational part of your business’s operations. If a customer buys an item or makes a return, a sales receipt is proof of purchase and record for accurate inventory. At tax time, business expense receipts document claimed expenses. And for gifted merchandise, a gift receipt is typically accepted before an exchanged item is returned to stock.
Regardless of the type, receipts are valuable in maintaining accurate records and tracking the success of your business. Here’s more to know about receipts and why they are necessary for any retailer.
Table of Contents
What is a receipt?
A receipt is a printed or electronic record of a business transaction, otherwise known as a proof of purchase. A receipt proves that a customer paid for items or services, shows how much it cost, and confirms that the merchant delivered the product. Other receipt details may include the date and time of the transaction and payment method.
For a business owner, receipts act as a record of your transactions, which help you understand the sales volume of your business.
Why are receipts important?
Retail (or sales) receipts are important for several reasons:
- Returns and exchanges. Receipts make it easier to issue returns or exchanges. If a customer tries to make a valid return without one and is denied a refund, you might lose them as a customer for good. A great deal of positive shopping experiences hinge on this basic practice and procedure.
- Tracking sales. Receipts track which products or services your customers purchase most often, providing a clear piece of data that can guide you toward tailoring your business offerings to best fit your target market.
- Basket size. While this concept is similar to tracking sales, basket size is specifically about how many items of a specific product you sell. From there, you can assess which parts of your business generate the most revenue.
- Bookkeeping. When it comes to bookkeeping, receipts are absolutely essential to doing business as a retailer, including documenting business sales and revenue for your profit and loss statements.
- Business taxes. In the event the IRS audits your business, they’ll want to see your receipts for transactions. Copies of receipts issued to customers prove how much money your business brought in—and when. Receipts also document the sales taxes a customer paid in the transaction, as all but five US states (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon) have state sales taxes. A receipt should clearly outline the taxes paid as a separate line item. To keep track of these transactions and taxes, a receipt should accompany every transaction.
What information is included in a receipt?
There is a variety of information that you can expect to see on a receipt. Among those receipt details are:
- Business information. This includes your business’s contact details, including name, business address, phone number, and email address.
- Purchase information. Purchase information outlines a description of the product or service, the associated stock keeping unit (SKU), and the quantity of items purchased.
- Payment details. Your receipts should outline the amount due for the purchase as well as the customer’s payment method.
- Purchase date details. This includes the purchase date, time, and, sometimes, the name (or employee number) of the associate who rang up the customer.
- Receipt number. A receipt number is the unique identifier associated with the purchase. Some merchants prefer for their receipt numbers to begin sequentially throughout a workday or week.
- Appropriate language. Any receipt should have the word “Receipt” clearly printed on it to avoid confusion with any other type of sales document, like a bill of lading or an invoice to be paid later. Custom receipts can also include your return policy on the bottom for reference.
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How to create a receipt
- Solidify a template
- Plug in sales information
- Provide to your customer
You can have different types of receipts, but similar processes when it comes to creating them. These are the key steps:
1. Solidify a template
Whether you use a free online receipt generator or make your own template, adding business details as a part of your template can save time down the road.
2. Plug in sales information
At the time of sale, add the changing details to a receipt, such as the price, amount of product purchased, SKU, and card information for credit or debit sales.
3. Provide to your customer
You can provide a paper copy of a receipt or an electronic one, but this is the most important part of the process: You have to provide your customer with their copy, unless they decline it.
Options for creating a receipt
Depending on your business and the types of goods or services sold, there are multiple ways for you to address receipt management. You may opt for a handwritten or printed receipt, or a free receipt generator online, which is a third-party website or outlet that provides templates based on your industry. Once you have a template, you can customize receipts and ring up purchases quickly.
A receipt generator is a straightforward and cost-effective way to swiftly and simply issue receipts. Plus, if you have a lot of SKUs, a free online receipt maker can be a time-saver. Popular online receipt generators that can assist you in customizing or providing a standard sales receipt template include:
- ExpressExpense. With ExpressExpense, you can pick a template that lines up with your industry—like restaurant receipts or taxi receipts—and use it to make custom receipts for your business. Pick one of the free receipt styles available, or choose from additional options with paid membership.
- MakeReceipt. This vendor’s receipt template is utilized across 84 different countries so you can easily apply various currencies and taxes. You can either use two free receipt templates or become a member to tap into more options.
- Shopify POS. Shopify POS allows Shopify members to seamlessly create custom printed receipts. You can then share receipts via SMS text or as emailed digital receipts after a purchase.
How to create a receipt using Google Docs
- Open Google Drive
- Select New Sheet
- Generate your template
- Add company details
- Save your template
If you’re just starting out, another free receipt template option is Google Documents, also known as Google Docs. To create a receipt template in Google Docs:
1. Open Google Drive
Open up Google Drive by going to the right-hand side of your Gmail inbox to the box formation. Hover your cursor there until “Google apps” displays. Click the box and pick “Drive” from the list.
2. Select New Sheet
Click the “+New” button on the left-hand side of your screen right below the Drive icon at the top. Hover your cursor above Google Sheets and move it to the arrow on the right. Select the drop-down option “From a template.”
3. Generate your template
From the template gallery, choose the “Invoice” option that best aligns with a traditional receipt. Double-click to view and generate your own. Rename the document “Receipt” and replace the word “Invoice” in the header with “Receipt.” Delete any fields that are not applicable to your business.
4. Add company details
Plug in data like your company name, business address, and contact information in the top left-hand corner. Create or rename a field to fill in the method of payment for a customer. That way, when you generate a receipt in the future, you can simply plug in the date and details of the purchase in the line items.
5. Save your template
Save the document as “Receipt Template.” Each time you use it moving forward, you can input sales transaction details in the line items and update the receipt number. From there, you can resave accordingly for each new transaction. Email or print PDF receipts when you give them to your customers. Save a copy for your own records.
Creating a receipt FAQ
Are you required to issue a receipt to customers?
While you are not federally required to issue a receipt to customers for goods or services, it may be required by your state in order to keep records of what you’re collecting in state taxes with each sale. Regardless, issuing receipts is one of the simplest ways to analyze your cash flow for your business each year
How can I make a professional receipt?
Use a receipt template or generator that aligns with your specific industry. Look for—or create—one that allows you to customize the top with your logo and other business details. The more details you include, the more professional your receipt looks.
Are there any laws or regulations regarding the design of a receipt?
One required receipt regulation is truncating credit card information so that full credit card numbers cannot be displayed on a receipt. Expiration dates for credit and debit cards must also be hidden. These customer details are particularly sensitive and have to be handled with care on receipts to help protect customers and their personal data from being exposed to cyberfraud. Credit card information that can be included on the receipt is the type of credit card and entry method, such as chip. Other regulations and statutes may be applicable, depending on the state, including how sales tax is presented per sale. Check your state’s tax rates and item exemption rules to understand their impact on your business.
What makes a receipt legal?
Documenting each detail of a transaction thoroughly will make a receipt stand under scrutiny. For example, document your business details along with the date, time, quantity, and descriptions of the items purchased, sales total, taxes due, and payment method on any issued receipt.
Do I need to keep a copy of all receipts?
It’s strongly encouraged that you keep a copy of all receipts. Without them, you won’t be able to document the profit and loss of your business accurately. If there are any inquiries into your business by the IRS, your receipts show what you sold and when. Remember: Keeping track of receipts is the first stage in collecting and organizing the large amounts of paperwork it can take to run a retail business.