Invoice scanning and OCR - a way of storing and managing accounting records

06/12/2021

The number of invoices and other bills kept by businesses can be overwhelming. Their physical delivery to the accounting department on an ongoing basis is frequently difficult and as a consequence could lead to periodical hold-ups. Further problems emerge when large numbers of these documents need to be stored and protected against destruction or loss for such a period as is required by law. Or when an invoice for specific equipment from several years ago needs to be found, for example, during a tax audit. The solution is to scan invoices using OCR.

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Image author: wocintechchat, source: unsplash.com

Optical character recognition (OCR) is a technology used to capture data from graphic files, e.g. scans. Although it is mainly used with printed characters, the most advanced programs already recognize handwriting. This type of tool allows the content of graphic files to be copied and searched – just as in standard text files.

 

How to scan invoices

Scanning invoices makes sense if their digitised versions can replace the originals. Therefore, the scans need to replicate the paper version and allow for easy reading of all information contained within them. This allows invoice storage to be replaced with a digital archive.

When using the scanner, you need to be aware of the settings required to achieve the desired scan quality. Resolution is key. The higher the resolution, the higher the quality, but also the larger the file size, which is important when scanning and storing large numbers of invoices. Resolution of between 150 and 300 dpi seems to be optimal. It is also important to save the scans in colour, possibly in grayscale. Saving in black and white may lead to extensive image distortions, which will hinder or even completely prevent the reading of the data from the document.

 

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A traditional scanner is not necessary to digitize invoices. Any smartphone will now perform this role. All you need to do is take a photo of the document. This solution allows the accountant to be provided with every bill on an ongoing basis.

 

OCR of scans

The scanned or photographed invoice can be run through the character recognition process with the support of appropriate software. Of course, there are times when the computer makes a reading error. Fortunately, some programs allow for a manual correction.

A full-text search can be used on a file prepared this way. It should be stressed that an OCR scan of an invoice is best saved in PDF format. This allows the digital mapping of the original document to be retained along with the text layer.

 

Conversion to e-invoice

Scanning and OCRing invoices protects them against loss and makes their daily use more convenient. But why not go one step further?

With the support of appropriate tools the paper invoices can be converted to structured electronic invoices (e-invoices) which will be introduced in Poland in 2022. This format significantly speeds up the process of entering data into accounting systems. Automation of this process enables time and, therefore, money to be saved.

 

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Conversion of traditional invoices into e-invoices is offered by Banqup platform. Although this will be a new solution in Poland, Banqup has proven itself in serving customers in other European markets where e-invoicing is already in place, for example in Belgium or France.

Banqup uses Procurement DocAI technology delivered by Google Cloud to streamline the entire text recognition process and the conversion of paper documents into e-invoices. In addition, Banqup has an accuracy control centre that monitors the entire process and corrects any potential mistakes to eliminate errors in the automatic reading of invoices.

Every businessperson and accountant has their own digital archive on the Banqup platform. This solution ensures the safety of the financial records stored and eliminates the need to store bulky files containing invoices at the office. It also provides constant access to all these documents via a mobile app or a computer.

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