How To Keep Your Paper Receipts From Fading

“Do you want your receipt?”

Many people just say “no” when asked this question. It makes no sense to add to the paper clutter by keeping paper receipts for small, personal purchases. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, know that keeping sales receipts can save time and money down the road. Generally, small-businesses are not required to show receipts for expenses under $75. But savvy business owners know better than to get into an argument with the IRS — it can cost a lot more money and time than just keeping receipts. You might want to hold onto your receipts for reasons other than tax: may want to return items later, claim rebates, extended warranty or to simply protect yourself from unauthorized credit card charges.

Keeping receipts for valid reasons is important — but what happens when you have the receipt but it has degraded to the point of being unreadable? Just last week, a co-worker went in to a store to return a room heater that had stopped working. He purchased it a month ago and found the receipt from the stash in the kitchen drawer. The bar code and the serial number at the bottom of the receipt were barely visible. The store clerk tried several times to scan the bar code, but it didn’t work. Eventually, they gave him a new heater but it cost him 30 minutes. And let’s not forget the IRS. They require that the receipts be kept for as many as 6 years. Unreadable receipts will surely not please the inspectors in case of an audit or inspection.

It’s common knowledge that the text on receipts fades away — and it doesn’t take very long until all of it is gone. In this post, we’ll look at the reasons why receipts fade, how you can preserve your receipts and the legal implications of digitizing receipts.

Why do receipts fade?

Most retail stores use thermal printers and a special kind of paper to print receipts. Thermal printers produce printed image by selectively applying heat to chemically coated paper. The chemicals change color when exposed to heat. If you are in the mood for experimenting, place a receipt that you don’t need under a hot iron for about 10 seconds. The heat from the iron will change the color of paper to black.

Thermal Printer Mechanism

Since the paper is sensitive to heat and direct light, the printed text fades away gradually with time. Humidity and oil can make things worse.

While some angry consumers may call it a scam, the real reason why thermal printers are so popular is because they are low cost and low maintenance. There are no ribbons or ink cartridges that need to be replaced every now and then.

How to recover a faded receipt?

1. The easiest way is to capture a photo of the receipt using the Paperistic app. Choose ‘Readable’ or ‘Monochrome’ filter to adjust the color levels and darken the text to make it legible. Paperistic always stores the original photo as-is, so that the image isn’t tied to one filter (That is, filters can be changed on the fly). The app is free for Android and iPhone users. Alternatively, you can scan or photograph the receipt and adjust contrast and other settings with an image editing software such as Adobe Photoshop to make the text readable. Here’s a video tutorial.

2. If you don’t want to use the app or a software, here’s another way. Gently apply heat to the receipt until the text is visible. Use a hair dryer on medium setting, blowing hot air at the receipt from about a feet away. It’s not without risks so be careful. If you apply too much heat, too fast, the receipt will go black and become unrecoverable forever.

Too much heat destroys receipt

Legal implications of photographed receipts

You will be happy to know that photographs of receipts are within the guidelines of the law. IRS accepts digital photos of original receipts. Make sure the information on the receipt such as dates and amount is legible.

Please note that we can not give out tax advice, so check with your tax professional, accountant or attorney.

If you’re storing the receipt for warranty or return purposes, check the store policy. Most stores will accept digital or at least printed copy of the receipt. Just make sure that the receipt’s bar code and the serial number are clearly visible.

Paperistic – Capture and store receipts

Paperistic is a beautiful and powerful way to capture your receipts. Take a picture of the receipt right at the point of purchase and post to Paperistic — it’s that easy. Don’t worry about capturing the perfect angle or finding suitable lighting conditions, the app will do that for you automatically. Choose filters to transform your images to make them readable or to enhance the colors. Use tags or ‘folders’ to organize your receipts or don’t and simply use any text from the receipt to search for it (E.g. find all receipts for your books from Chapters by searching for ‘chapters’). Your receipts are stored securely on the cloud so you don’t have to worry about losing your phone or data. Use Paperistic to capture and store all paperwork in your life.

Want to use the Paperistic app to capture and store all paperwork in your life? Please visit  our homepage and enter your email address to sign up for early access to beta version.


3 thoughts on “How To Keep Your Paper Receipts From Fading

    1. > Good tip. Especially when purchasing luxury items, the receipt needs to be kept for around a year I think to allow the guarantee to work

      Absolutely 🙂

      Thanks for the feedback.

      – Paperistic Team

      Liked by 1 person

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