Submitting Expenses via Mobile Capture

A practical application of mobile capture technology in expenses processing

Mobile capture can be used to submit receiptsAs mobile device technology has evolved, any employee who is away from the office now has the ability to use their smartphone not only for communication, but also to input productively into company business processes while on the road.

A highly practical application is the submission of expenses. Employees who incur expenses while travelling or working in the field can capture individual receipts using their smartphone camera and submit them as document images straight into their organisation’s expenses workflow.

Do tax authorities accept receipt records held in image format?

In the UK, it is acceptable to maintain tax records in electronic format and the HMRC accepts scanned images of invoices, vouchers and receipts as proof of transaction. HMRC guidelines state: “Records may be preserved on optical imaging systems, and the originals discarded, provided that what is retained in digital form represents a complete and unaltered image of the underlying paper document.”

The issue is therefore not that a record is held in electronic format, but whether it can be demonstrated that it has not been altered in any way. Using receipts in electronic format is therefore fine when used in conjunction with record keeping systems which store records securely and provide audit trails recording all actions performed on receipt documents during their lifecycle in electronic storage.

Since accounting records such as receipts need to be retained for upwards of 6 years, there is a further benefit of storing them in electronic format, as it will help reduce paper storage costs as well as enabling rapid retrieval in the event of audits.

Is the image quality good enough?

The picture quality from smartphone cameras is constantly improving. In the case of business documents, the level of quality required will be determined by what the document image is used for.

In the case of expense receipts, the minimum requirement will be for the image to be recognisable as a receipt and for relevant information such as amount and merchant to be legible. For more advanced, automated expense processing involving data extraction, mobile capture image quality needs to be very clear. To meet this requirement, the capabilities of the camera can be supplemented using sophisticated image correction Apps which automatically compensate for poor lighting, low contrast between text and background, paper crease lines, etc.

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Example of an end-to-end mobile capture solution - the Kofax System

Mobile capture solutions developed by the company Kofax support Apple iOS and Google Android smartphones and tablet devices. The solutions have the following components:

Image correction technology known as VRS (virtual rescan) ensures images captured by smartphone cameras are of consistently high “scan” quality allowing advanced data extraction processes. This technology can be installed on the mobile device or can be accessed on the cloud.

Capture platform for handling incoming smartphone images. The digitised documents can be transmitted via the cloud into capture-enabled workflow processes, such as expenses processing, which typically also receive documents from sources such as scanners, MFD’s or email systems.

Classification and data extraction technology allows businesses to release submitted receipts into workflows which substantially automate processing. Intelligent capture of data such as amount, date and merchant from receipt document images enables automated matching against credit card statements or bank transactions and delivery into back end accounting or ERP systems, eliminating the need to re-key the data manually.

Benefits of mobile capture in expenses submission

Here is a summary of benefits which businesses can realise in adopting mobile capture for expenses submission:

  • Reduces the time required to claim reimbursements, as expenses can be submitted immediately without having to return to the office.
  • No more messing around with fiddly paper receipts. Mobile capture eliminates the risk of paper receipts being mislaid or becoming damaged and illegible. Instead, high quality images of receipts are captured in an auditable process and transferred to an electronic repository for secure storage.
  • The quality of the images allows reliable intelligent capture of usable data from paper receipts allowing automated matching against credit card statements or bank accounts.
  • The mobile capture process enables a greater level of touch-less, automated processing of receipts and eliminates the need for manual data entry.
  • Electronically captured expenses can be classified by the user and attached to expense reports.
  • Digitised versions of receipts can be stored electronically for the number of years required by tax authorities, reducing paper storage costs, enabling rapid retrieval for audits and automated monitoring of records retention metadata.
  • Some electronic document storage repositiories such as FileStore EDM will create automatic audit trails for each receipt document, which helps ensure the legal validity of the electronic versions.

If you would like more information on implementing mobile capture, contact a DCS business consultant on 01753 616 720, or send an enquiry using our Contact Form.

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