At this time of year, people tend to focus on cramming in some last-minute outdoor fun before it starts to get cold. One of the last things on your mind is getting your finances in order for tax season. At Schlenner Wenner, we believe it’s never too early to organize yourself for tax season. Keeping your finances and documents organized throughout the year will prevent you from scrambling and feeling overwhelmed come spring. Take a glance at some of our best tips and tricks to keep you organized for tax season:
If you keep excellent records of your financial documents and receipts, then you are already well organized for tax season. For those of you who may need more help, let’s start at simplifying what you already have. If you have financial documents that aren’t too important—like a fast food recipe from three years ago—chances are you can toss it or shred it. For financial documents that pertain to the next tax season or from important financial documents from the past three years, hold on to it. This first step will help you downsize the amount of paperwork you have.
Create a Filing System
For your important financial documents, create an organizational system that works well for you. Designate one area of your home or office to filing receipts. Use something as simple as a shoebox or three-ring binder with protective sheets to organize them. Don’t forget to categorize everything. Use different categories for major expenses, minor expenses, home, work, etc. Labeling is an important step if you want this process to run smoothly and effectively. Label folders for organization, and denote which receipts were used for which specific purpose. If you are on the go during the day or away on a trip, keep an envelope with you to store receipts and notes on your financial activity. This will prevent you from losing or forgetting about them.
Easier Said Than Done
Getting organized is a big step, but the hard part is committing to using your organization system regularly. It can be easy to toss a stray receipt or to create a small pile here and there, but without diligence, a small pile here and there will lead to paper caches all over your house and major disorganization. Dedication to the system is the hardest part, but it will help ease the stress and increase the rewards during tax season.
Spreadsheets are an easy way to create a detailed and comprehensive report of your financial activity. Transfer expense from receipts to a spreadsheet. Updating your spreadsheet as often as you can or at least once a month (perhaps when you pay monthly bills) will make your job much easier than having to do it all at the end of the year. Keeping a spreadsheet of your financial activity can also help you become more aware of your spending and saving habits.
Many people have gone electronic with bills, why not consider that for your tax organization? Online services and apps offer effective ways of managing your receipts from your computer and phone. Shoeboxed.com offers small business owners and taxpayers a convenient way of staying on top of things. Simply send in your recipes (through the mail, email, or text pictures) and Shoeboxed will upload them into a secure and personalized online database. There are also scanners and computer software available that allow you to do this at home.
Getting organized will help your tax season run smoothly, and perhaps even change your attitude about doing taxes. For more assistance on personal and business taxes, accounting services, and financial consulting, visit Schlenner Wenner & Co.