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What Is a Proof of Purchase?

By Felicia Dye
Updated Jan 22, 2024
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Proof of purchase is evidence that a product or service was in an individual's possession or that it was paid for. Examples include receipts and universal product codes (UPCs). This type of evidence is used for a number of reasons, such as obtaining rebates, qualifying for prizes, or benefiting from a warranty. It may also be required for legal purposes, such as to prove innocence in the event of theft accusations or to substantiate tax claims.

A receipt is likely to be the most common form of a proof of purchase. This document usually outlines the service or product that a person bought and the quantity. It generally shows how much was paid for the item, how much tax was charged, and the method of payment. Other important details that should be included on a receipt are the date, time, and location of the sale. Most of these details are important when attempting to get a refund or perhaps to make an exchange.

There are entities other than the vendor that may be interested in whether a person has proof of a purchase. One example is a manufacturer who is issuing rebates. A rebate is a return of a portion of the purchase price. Before remitting these funds, a manufacturer will generally want to ensure that the potential recipient actually made a purchase. Other examples of those who may require evidence of purchase include third parties who provide warranties or insurance or even law enforcement. A receipt is an effective means to prove that an item was not stolen.

Proof of purchase can be imperative when a person is filing taxes. The amount that a person owes or is owed is usually dependent, in part, on the deductible expenditures that are claimed. There are generally regulations that require individuals to be able to substantiate those claims with receipts. Otherwise, there may be financial and legal consequences.

A proof of purchase does not always confirm that a sale was made. In some cases, it only shows that a person was in possession of an item. For instance, soft drink companies are known for having contests and product giveaways, and proof of purchase is generally requested from participants. Soft drinks are commonly sold from vending machines, so requesting a receipt would be impractical. Instead, the requirement for evidence is often satisfied with either the bottle cap or the portion of the label containing the universal product code, which do not actually prove purchase.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By RocketLanch8 — On Oct 18, 2014

When my wife bought a new computer last year, the store and the manufacturer were both offering rebates. I couldn't believe how much paperwork was involved in applying for those rebates, however. She had to submit a proof of purchase label from the computer box itself, plus a copy of the store receipt and a special proof of purchase form containing a code.

If any of these items were missing from the rebate application, there would be no rebate. I can understand why companies want a definitive proof of purchase receipt to prevent fraudulent rebate claims, but it's human nature to lose a few pieces of paper once in a while. Fortunately, we did find the missing store receipt and she did get her rebate eventually.

By Ruggercat68 — On Oct 18, 2014

I remember some cereal manufacturers used to offer "free" toys through mail order, but they required proof of purchase first. There was usually a small badge printed on the top of the cereal box that my mother would have to cut out and put in an envelope. I think we had to have at least two of those proof of purchase labels in order to get anything.

There was also a fundraiser involving cans of soup. We'd have to bring the proof of purchase label to school, and the soup company would donate a certain amount of money later.

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