This is something many of my clients find tricky. In this quick video, I talk through what you need and help you understand the rationale behind it.

When you understand the why, it’s easier to remember the what.

If you’d rather read this tip, just scroll down.

When you make a payment to someone, you need to keep something that shows:
  • Who you paid
  • How much you paid
  • When you owed it (the date)
  • What you paid for
The question has come up a few times lately for my clients: if what you’re paying someone for is reimbursement of a cost they incurred, what do you need to keep?

Drawing of an old-style train engineIf your coach bought a train ticket to come see you and are billing that expense to you, do you need the train ticket?

If your photographer bought a flash drive to send you the thousand photos they took and are passing that cost onto you, do you need the receipt from the shop for that flash drive?

If your website designer paid for your annual hosting on SiteGround, do you need the receipt from SiteGround?

No, you don’t.

Your coach, photographer, and website designer need those receipts for their own records.

They may choose to send you a copy of that receipt, but then, they may not. Either way, you don’t need them to.

They may just as easily choose to markup the expense. Markup means charging more than cost. Let’s say your photographer bought 100 flash drives for £464 from Acme USB Drives Ltd. That means she paid £4.64 per flash drive. She could decide to bill you £10 for yours, not £4.64.

Drawing of tiny people around a laptop showing an invoice, with a calculator and a stack of coins.Ultimately, what you need is the invoice from the contractor. This shows who you paid, how much, when, and what you bought. You paid your photographer £10 for that flash drive, so that’s what you need paperwork to show.

That receipt that shows her purchase of 100 flash drives for £464 from Acme USB Drives Ltd is not actually helpful for your records (or possibly for your relationship with your photographer, either)!

Life is not always straightforward. Another version I’ve been asked about is when you are running a limited company and billing it as a sole trader contractor.

Even though it’s you in both businesses, the above still applies.

For example, if you as a sole trader bill your limited company for travel that you paid for, your limited company only needs the invoice from your sole trader business. Your limited company doesn’t actually need the bus or train ticket; you’ll keep those in your sole trader paperwork.

This applies regardless of the type of expense.

Drawing of a dressmaker measuring a client and then using a mannequin.
What about the other way around?

When your clients or customers reimburse you for supplies, you do not need to provide those receipts to them.

This might be for materials that have gone into creating a product, or items you’be bought to provide your service, for example.

Drawing of a pair of hands using pliers to bead a bracelet.
As a crafter, your customer doesn’t need to know that the beads that went into their bespoke necklace they’ve paid you £55 for cost you £20. Really, you shouldn’t tell them that at all. They’re not paying for beads, wire, and a clasp.

They’re paying for your expertise in putting it all together so that it looks good and makes them feel good, be more confident, and make great things happen in their life.

Likewise, as a website designer, your client doesn’t need to know that you paid £100 for the theme on their website. They’re not paying for the theme.

They’re paying for your expertise in making their business look good online, which makes them feel good, be more confident, and do more and better business.

Remember that when you’re pricing!

Drawing of a computer with charts and graphs on the screen.

Still have questions? Ask in the comments.

Hi, I’m Sara-Jayne Slocombe of Amethyst Raccoon. I help your small business thrive using the power of your numbers, empowering you so that you have the confidence and knowledge to run your business profitably and achieve the goals you’re after.

I am a UK-based  Business Insights Consultant, which means I look at your data and turn it into information and insights. I separate the noise from the signal and translate it all into actions that you can actually take in your business.

I also facilitate the Power Pod Roundtable, which is a business discussion group, and the AIM HIGH Mastermind, which is a small group of business owners who want to move their businesses forward.

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Sara-Jayne Slocombe