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Manual or paper record keeping for businesses

ATO information about manual or paper-based record-keeping for businesses with less complex business affairs.

Last updated 20 May 2024

Manual record keeping may mean more time spent on paperwork, but it can be suitable for business owners with less complex business affairs.

Paper record keeping

Some paper record-keeping tools you might use in your business are:

  • sales dockets or cash register tapes
  • receipt books
  • petty cash book
  • wages and superannuation payment records
  • stock records
  • daily, weekly or monthly sales reconciliations
  • cash books – a cash payments book, a cash receipts book, a combined payments/receipts book or a simple money column account book
  • bank reconciliations.

Cash register tapes can be discarded after one month if:

  • you keep Z-totals, and
  • they have been reconciled with actual sales and the amount you banked.

If you don't keep the Z-totals and reconciliations, you must keep the full rolls of tape for 5 years.

If you keep paper versions (or hard copies) of your paper records, make sure you understand how to keep your business records safe and secure.

Digital storage of paper records

You can store and keep paper records digitally. We accept images of business paper records saved on a digital storage medium, provided the digital copies are true and clear reproductions of the original paper records and meet our 5 rules for record keeping.

Once you have saved an image of your original paper records, you don’t have to keep the paper versions.

Creating a digital version of paper EFTPOS merchant receipts is a good practice as the details on some of these can fade over time.

Benefits of digital record keeping

We're progressively moving towards digital reporting for tax, super and employer obligations. Where possible, we recommend businesses use digital record keeping.

Keeping your records digitally should make some tasks easier and save you time once you have your system set up. You can claim a tax deduction for some digital record-keeping expenses, for example:

  • capital expenses, such as computers. If you're an eligible business, you may be able to claim the business portion of the expense of the asset in the same year you buy it, under instant the asset write-off rules
  • expenses of commercial off-the-shelf record-keeping software you use in your business, including subscription fees.

For more information, see: