The word “receipt” comes from the Old Norman French word for recipe and the Latin word to receive. A receipt is “a written acknowledgment that a specified article or sum of money has been received.” More precisely, receipts contain two main elements: the clearance of goods or services and the settlement of payment. Many countries require receipts to be provided at the point of sale or upon receipt of goods sold. Furthermore, some countries mandate that tax also be included on all receipts. There is no set form for a receipt, though receipts often contain the details of payment and transaction such as a list of goods and services provided, the cost of those individual goods, the tax on those goods, the total before tax, and the full total after tax. Receipts often contain the name of the seller or vendor along with the vendor’s address.
Receipts are different from invoices, though in some cases receipts and invoices are combined. Receipts document the receipt of payment and list the goods and services provided. Receipts can also be provided either by the buyer or the seller. Invoices are the agreed-upon terms of a transaction provided to a buyer by the seller. Essentially, a receipt indicates a complete transaction while an invoice usually implies money is owed.
The concept of a receipt has been around for at least 5,000 years and represents one of the oldest known examples of writing. This cuneiform clay tablet lists clothing along with their prices and was used in Ancient Mesopotamia. Some expense experts define this more specifically as an invoice or shopping list since it doesn’t document receipt of payment.
Receipts have come a long way from clay tablets. Most receipts today are paper documents automatically printed at the point of sale. Before the sales terminals printed receipts, they were drawn-up by hand—and some are still handwritten today. Paper receipts can be written for less frequent transactions or when there is no computer terminal available.
Soon, though, paper receipts may go the way of the clay tablet. The logical next step is the move to digital receipts. Digital receipts are widely used today by some retailers and will most likely take the place of paper receipts completely. In addition to taking up wallet space, paper receipts account for 640,000 tons of paper used in the US each year. Services like Itemize can capture receipt information in 15 seconds when scanned with a mobile phone, reducing the need for physical receipt storage. While this goes a long way to reducing the space needed to store receipts, it doesn’t solve the resource issue. Digital receipts can virtually eliminate this problem. By emailing or texting receipts to customers instead of printing the receipt on paper, paper receipt waste is reduced and ultimately eradicated. Itemize also helps organize digital receipts by connecting with email accounts, making the transition from paper receipts to digital receipts even easier, and helping to keep everything organized.