Organized Joy's #1 Tax Organizing Tip

 

People will tell you thousands of different tips about doing your taxes around this time of year. It may be deductions you didn't know about, how to properly file after a divorce, or how to get the biggest refund. I honestly don't know anything about all that. 

 

What I do know is this: the easiest way to keep track of all of your tax paperwork throughout the year. Why is this so important?  Because we are a nation of procrastinators and a good portion of us will wait until the last minute to file our taxes. At the eleventh hour, I'd hate to be just starting my search for tax documents, and then have to spend the time (after you are already frustrated from your search) to file them as well. 

 

So here is what you need to know now: Put an empty hanging folder in your current filing system or command center on your desk and label it "Taxes." Then get out your tax return from last year and look through the supporting documents that you kept. Figure out what categories you typically keep documents for and create labeled manila folders inside your Taxes hanging folder for each one.  Your categories might include:

  • Donations

  • Medical Expenses

  • Education Expenses

  • Work Expenses (mileage, meals, etc that you are not reimbursed for at your job)

  • Forms (where you will put all the 1099s, W2s and the other documents you start to receive in the mail starting in January)

These folders will make it so simple all year long when you have a document that you think you might use for your taxes that year. It eliminates that dreaded sorting you used to do before you could even start your taxes. Or if you hand off everything to someone else to do for you, this will eliminate hours of work for them, thus costing you a lot less for their services.

 

If you don't have a system like this in place, please do it now, tonight even, to save yourself a lot of future trouble. The great part is you only have to create the folders once and you can reuse them every year. Just take the documents out when you file your taxes, paperclip each group of papers together, and store them all in the folder you create each year for that year's return. Then your folders will be sitting empty and ready for the next year's documents to be placed in them all over again.

 

If you like to scan instead of file, that's great, too. Just scan and shred. But keep the folders because I can guarantee you will receive papers throughout the year that relate to your taxes.

 

A Bonus Tax Filing Tip For You:

 

When you create the folder to store your return and supporting documents for each year, don't write out 2014 or 2015, but instead just write Year 4 (for the year ending in 4) and Year 5. This way you can self-purge your files every 10 years by shredding the old stuff in Year 4's folder (from 2004) and replacing it with 2014, and then 2024, and then 2034. Plus you can reuse your folders without having to create a new one. Yes, you should shred your taxes and only keep 7 years' worth, not 10, but a lot of people tend to forget to do it. So at least with this system, you know you are purging yearly because, well, you have to!

 

If you need any more help, please post a comment and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have here or more privately via email. Happy tax organizing!

 

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