Have you broken out in your usual sweat anticipating tax time? Do you find yourself dreading the hours it’s going to take to round up the papers you’ll need to complete your tax planner? Being ready for tax time is all about keeping certain paperwork separate from others.
The most simple way to keep your tax paperwork separate from other papers is to create a box labeled “TAXES.” If you want to get fancy, subdivide to create homes for:
- charitable donations
- childcare expenses
- medical expenses
- proof of income: W-2s, 1099s
- tax documents
The home can be a file folder, envelope, or even a dedicated box. Anything that is easy to drop things into throughout the year.
If you’re keeping every single receipt and account statement, it’s worth asking your tax preparer to give you a list of documents you actually need to keep. Typically these are receipts and statements that prove expenses you claim as deductions on your taxes.
For paper organizing, it’s important to understand the difference between a general living expense and an expense you can claim as a tax deduction. For example, gas station receipts are a general expense, but if you use your car for business they could become a tax-deductible expense. There may be other reasons you want to keep every gas receipt – budgeting, MPG tracking, etc. but you may not need them for taxes.
If you want to take your organizing to the next level, consider the following:
- use a money management tool such as Mint.com or Quicken® to categorize your expenses automatically so you just need to run a report at the end of the year (still need to keep your original deductible receipts)
- use FreedomFiler® to manage your filing
- have a professional organizer or bookkeeper come in monthly or quarterly to keep things straight
If you can’t get it together for 2013, it’s not too late to set up a system for 2014!