29th October 2017 at 2:26 pm #476
Is it worth getting an app to process my expense receipts? Can’t I just take a photo of each one and send the accountant the photos for free?
29th October 2017 at 2:29 pm #477
I’m Matt Perkins, the UK Sales and Strategic Partnership Manager for 1tap, an app which is like a virtual bookkeeper.
Taking photos and then sending them to your accountant is definitely easier than dealing with the paper versions, but there are still a bunch of problems with it.
If you do that you’re still paying the accountant extra just for inputting all the information. You’d also still have to collate the photos on your laptop, make sure you don’t miss any, and make sure they all get processed for your self-assessment, or go over to your accountant in an organised way. You might still have to categorise them. They’d still be separate from your invoices which come in on email. And if you forget a receipt but remember some of the information about the purchase, you still have no unified way to capture that information.
And above all, you’d still have no idea what they’re worth as you go through the year, so you won’t have any visibility on how they’re likely to affect your tax liability.
In short, you still have a lot of the problems associated with collecting paper receipts.
We built 1tap to deal with all those problems, and some more.
We’ve currently got a 5 star rating on iTunes and generally get a 9 or 10 score.
Here’s how to use it.
After you download the app, you register by just putting in your email address.
Then when you’ve got a receipt, take a photo of it. Here’s one I did:
1tap then processes it automatically.
It finds the supplier – in this case Tesco – the date, and how much it cost you, and even suggests a category that the receipt should go in.
As you can see here it’s suggested ‘car, food, and travel expenses’.
We’ve put a lot of work in to get it to be as accurate as possible but if you need to correct it then you just tap on the section you need to correct.
When you sign up to 1tap we give you a dedicated 1tap email address. So if any invoices that come in over email, like a phone bill or even your google account for Adwords or something, you can forward that straight into 1tap as well so you don’t need to print it or pdf it. The information gets added in.
All of that is completely free by the way.
You can also see a running tally of your expenses, which looks like this:
If you hit ‘reports’ there on the bottom right hand side of the screen, you can see 1tap sorts your expenses into the appropriate category as well.
Yes, that is me there telling you how much your receipts have saved from your year’s self-assessment. I’ve had a haircut since that picture was taken.
On the free version you have a limited number of receipts, but for £4 a month or £40 a year you get unlimited receipt scans, 50GB of storage, a dedicated team to double-check your receipts, and you can export them all into a CSV file.
But the thing we’re really proud of is our accuracy. We’ve managed to get 1tap up to about 99% accuracy.
That’s probably even better than your accountant.
The way we do it is by using a combination of methods.
First we use OCR, optical recognition. That’s good for very simple data but with more complicated data it’s only about 60% accurate.
But then we use machine learning. So for example, if the name written in the receipt is Halfords, then we know maybe 30,000 other receipts from Halfords have been put into a certain expense category. So that helps 1tap make a well-educated guess about what category your receipt should go in.
But we have human backup as well. So when there are harder to read receipts, or handwritten receipts, we can deal with those as well. It goes to a human being. It’s anonymised of course – if it goes to a human they just see the data, the image of the receipt. They don’t know who it comes from. The team input anything that’s missing from the data.
It took a fair bit of trial and error to get to this stage but it’s been gratifying to spend so long working on this app and get such positive feedback from our users.
We’re only a small team at the moment: about 50 people, although we of plan to expand. As of 2017 it’s 12 developers, three doing full-time marketing and project guys, and our CEO.
We also have something else in the pipeline which is rather exciting where you’ll be able to submit information straight to HMRC through us.
So there’s plenty more to come from 1tap, and we’re pretty confident it saves you a lot of effort compared to taking photos of receipts and extracting all the information yourself.
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