Oct 5, 2007

[Geeky Advice] Why You Should Ask for a Receipt

Flickr: sallylondon - Receipt

Receipts are essential to any business transaction although most of the time, you can't help but consider them to be useless trash. Unless you need to liquidate your expenses for the office or your folks, very few people keep their receipts in this country - some don't even bother claiming them from the cashier. Since tax computations aren't as complicated here, we just don't bother.

But they are very important and it pays to keep a close eye on these little pieces of paper. Here's a few good reasons why you should always ask for your receipt:

Track Your Expenses - While I know this sounds cliche, but there's no going around it. A primary reason to keep your receipts is to help you understand just how much you're spending. Some people think designing a budget is as easy as setting a fixed amount per spending category and try to stick to it. I find it's also important to first understand how much you're spending now. Track things on a spreadsheet on your computer or in a traditional ledger if that works better for you. The results may surprise you like just how much you spend at specialty coffee joints or if you're really saving by having your laundry done elsewhere.

Keep the Cashier Honest - People make mistakes, that's a given. You could say it's part of human nature. Knowing this, why do we allow ourselves to be fooled time and time again. Always check your receipt to ensure you're paying for the right items or getting the discounts promised at the rack. While it may say 20% above the item, sometimes cashiers don't remember the correct discount mark-downs or the right item codes and strange things start creeping onto your receipts.

Help the Tax Bureau - A lot of smaller stores and restaurants try to get away with paying less in terms of income taxes by not tracking all sales on receipts. Copies of receipts but be available to the tax bureau and the totals of those receipts are used to compute the total income taxes those business will pay. Thus not having a receipt for your transaction is just as good as pretending it never happened, thus it doesn't have to be taxed. Fair is fair right? If you have to pay taxes on your hard-earned money, so should they. Besides, less taxes collected now may mean an increase in tax rates for all of us in the future.

And my most important reason for getting a receipt:

Protect Your Personal Data - It's great that credit card companies make sure their machines obstruct most of your card number so you can only see the last four digits. However if you check the tape receipts for your purchases, you might be surprised to see your entire credit card number at the bottom. For some reason, most cash registers in the Philippines record and print your complete card number including card type and expiration date - certainly not information you want just anyone to have. Be sure to shred or tear up your receipts when you do eventually throw them away, especially when any personal data - even just your name - are present on the receipt.

Seriously - a little effort goes a long way to better financial planning and for securing yourself from another avenue for identity theft. I'm sure you have your own reasons - I'd love to hear yours as well. Either way, the point remains very clear - Always ask for a receipt!

Photo linked from sallylondon's photostream.

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