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Organizing your Papers: Tax Time Tips

 

 

tax tips

It’s that time again!  It’s easy to procrastinate.  Incoming mail shouts out “Important Tax Papers Enclosed.”  There’s no avoiding it, it’s time to get organized for your taxes.  It’s better in baby steps with these tax time tips.

Create a master file for all tax related papers
Even before your 1099 papers arrive, start a master file using an expanding accordion file (affiliate link) or file folders.  Label the files with the important tax categories –W-2 information, interest and dividend income, capital gains and losses, charitable donations, medical and dental expenses, deductible business expenses, and miscellaneous deductions (educational expenses, safe deposit boxes, financial planning). Even before your papers arrive, this file will be their “home” and papers will not get lost! And to prepare for the current year, begin a master file for incoming documents for the current year, so you will not have to search for them at this time next year.  Not sure what papers you will need? Turbo Tax has a list for you!

Set aside time on your calendar to collect tax related information
At the beginning of February, mark your calendar for a 2 hour tax session with yourself! Go through your checkbook, bank statement and files to find important items to copy for accounting purposes. Three weeks later, mark another 2 hour tax session to wrap up those loose ends and file your documents in your master file. If you use an accountant, you are ready to send in your papers.  If you file yourself, break your filing sessions into manageable chunks like 2 hour sessions too!  You can always break these sessions into one hour segments too.  Most importantly marking these on your calendar commits you to work.

Use technology as your assistant
So much has changed about paper and the IRS.   You can use scanned documents as records for your tax deductions. According to the IRS, “The electronic storage system must also index, store, preserve, retrieve, and reproduce the electronically stored books and records.”  You can scan any kind of paper and receipts as back up documentation. If you choose to scan, be sure you back up your documents and create an online file system that you can easily use and access.

There are lots of other ways technology can help.

  • Can’t find your most important tax papers? Look online for your property tax payments and mortgage interest expense.  It’s easy to locate these records on your mortgage or banking websites.
  • Medical expenses are easy to track online at your medical provider’s website.
  • Need values for your donations?  Click online at TurboTax Its deductible Online Charity Tracker.  It’s a free, easy to use online tracker for your donations throughout the year.
  • File electronically with the IRS is the way to go.  Upon receipt, you will receive confirmation. Keep the confirmation with your tax papers, just in case.

Tax time and tax preparation is much easier by being organized.   After you are done, treat yourself to a little reward!

Need help with your tax preparation?  Let me assist you.

Enjoy a little time away from your taxes.  Check out my pinterest pages Warm Winter Fun!

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Last minute tax time tips

last minute tax preparation

 

If you are paralyzed about tax time, here are a few ways to get started and unstuck.

Items you can get off the internet if you don’t have the papers you need.

  • Use your year end credit card statements.   These are already categorized for taxes.
  • Go online to your mortgage company and download your mortgage expenses and property tax for your 1098.  Property taxes  and mortgage expenses are the biggest deductions in Texas.
  • Use your online pay stubs to find the taxes you paid on your final paycheck for 2010.
  • Visit your online banking and print statements out needed for income and expenses.

If you have papers, but are overwhelmed and not sure where to start.

  • Go through your papers and mail to find all the 1099s, 1098s and any other envelope marked important tax document on the outside of the envelope.
  • Spend one hour sorting income and expenses.  Spend 30 minutes sorting income into interest and dividends and then stocks for capital gains.  Spend another 30 minutes sorting medical into doctors/dentists, labs, eyeglasses, out of pocket and deductibles.    Spent another 30 minutes sorting charitable deductions.  Spend another 30 minutes using  ItsDeductibleonline.com to tabulate your charity non cash donations. Finalize with 30 minutes of wrap up.
  • Group your credit card and other receipts by categories for your small business, such as advertising, meals (with the name of who you worked with and the work you did written on the receipt), office supplies, mileage and educational expenses.

The hardest thing about taxes is getting started! Just do it, jump on it, get help with a professional or tax software, and you will be very glad you did!