Taxes? Sometimes life gets away from you. At first things were going along smoothly and then a dramatic event disrupts the normal flow. One client had been caring for her husband who was terminally ill for two years and then moved! It was about a year later she found me and requested assistance with getting her home under control. Because she had no structure for her paperwork she would simply pile all paper, mail, bills, magazines, etc., on top of each other in an assortment of bins and baskets.
She would buy new bins and baskets regularly to contain the volume of tax material but could never seem to tame the tiger. After setting up a filing system that had a place for all the different categories of paper that she decided to save she was able to find her required tax documents so that she could file the past two years’ taxes that she had missed due to her hectic life. The following tax year was also submitted on time. Here are some tips to help you get started in your tax organizing project.
Put it on the Calendar
Everything has to happen in real time so instead of putting it on your to-do list put it on a calendar day and time when you think you can apply your focus to the task such as a Sunday or whatever day is your down day. Best to file your tax related documents at least monthly into your system. Even if you end up moving it from one day to the next, the process of doing so may make you more apt to get to the project rathe than put it off again.
Check Your Withholding Tax Status and Review 1040 Schedule A
It’s worth taking the time to investigate which tax status you should select. If you go for a small refund you will have that extra money longer to collect interest in your own account rather than the government’s. It’s also worth reviewing an empty 1040 Schedule A for line entries to jog your memory of things you can claim at the beginning and end of each year. It’s possible you have purchase da new kind of category that can be deducted. In 2021 you can give up to $15,000 to someone without having to deal with the IRS. If you’re self employed you can claim $25 of each thank you gift you send to those who refer business to you.
Choose a space in your purse or wallet where all tax related receipts are put on the go so you know exactly where to go to clean out those important bits of paper nightly. Make sure you know what is tax-deductible or not ahead of time by asking your tax person or Google for help so you are not saving receipts you don’t have to which will only confuse this step.
When emptying your wallet/purse of receipts, hopefully daily or weekly, jot the category of deduction the receipt falls under while it’s fresh in your mind. Make sure you have an accessible tax filing system on the first floor in a container or file cabinet that opens easily or has no top. The harder it is to do something the less likely it will get done.
Everyone’s system is unique but generally it will be easier in the long run if you make a folder for each category of deduction so they are easy to file and easy to tally. I make my receipt holders as the receipts arrive thus having a system that is made from the “critical mess” rather than a pre-made system of categories irrelevant to your situation which only makes it more confusing.
Review Statements and Receipts
It’s easy to overlook a receipt or two in a busy life. Take the time to review credit card and PayPal statements for deductible expenses. I download the monthly statements at year end and go through them one by one, batching the job. I usually find some that have slipped through the cracks.
If you have both a paper and electronic system it might be beneficial to double check that all receipts are represented in each medium. I usually find one has been captured in paper but didn’t make it to the digital file a few times each year. Of course you want to back up the digital files to the Cloud or external thumb drive, whichever makes more sense to you and you feel most comfortable with.
Some of your categories might include:
Home and Office Expenses: Electric, gas, water, repairs, maintenance, renovations, internet, phone bills
Vehicle Expense and Mileage: Gas, repairs, maintenance, registration, licensing, tiers, rental,/lease statements, personal and business miles driven, car loan interest, parking fees, tolls, carwashes or depreciation
Education: Tuition, fees, textbooks
ChildCare: Payments via a reimbursement program through work or while you were doing charitable work.
Medical: Health insurance premiums or out of pocket expenses
Other: Moving, donations, tax planning and investment expenses, work uniforms, laundry/dry cleaning for work-related attire, business supplies
Do you have some taxes to file? Contact us for help!
Interested to learn more about hiring a professional organizer? Check out this New York Times article!