Here is the one thing you need to know about preparing for tax season – using the right tools makes just about any job easier.
That includes the dreaded tax return. Yes, preparing for tax season really does make it less painful. The key is getting organized. So whether spending a Saturday afternoon corralling papers is high on your list of pleasures, or the exact opposite is true, Bindertek has a system that will work for you.
Design your game plan
Start with a list of things you will need to pull together. This doesn’t have to be the great American novel, just jot your list in a notebook and review it in a day or two to be sure you haven’t forgotten anything.
Don’t skip this step or you may just be cheating yourself. There is something very satisfying about putting pen to paper – or on the page and off your mind. Releasing tasks to the page keeps them safe. You don’t have to worry about remembering them and you free up space to think about other things. Making a list also gives you something tangible to work from and cross off of for a feeling of accomplishment, which in any book trumps the usual feeling of overwhelm taxes can bring. Bindertek can help you get started with our wide array of notebooks from the award winning line CONCEPTUM by Sigel of Germany to our best-selling premium writing pads.
Save the date
Next give yourself due dates and post them on a calendar or magnetic glass board for a little extra elegance. Glass boards are available in sizes from 19×19, 36×18 and 47×35. Clearly visible dates help save your sanity because they are less likely to slip off your radar. For example, you may want to remind yourself to follow up on February 7 with anyone that hasn’t released year-end tax information (law requires that the information be sent by January 31). That includes your mortgage holder, employer and any other sources of income, investments and the like. Are there other things you need to check off your prep list? Break tasks into manageable steps and post a weekly to do list on your magnetic board or calendar.
You should also block out time to work on your taxes. Waiting until the last minute will make you feel anxious and more prone to mistakes. Again, write these dates on your calendar so you are more likely to honor them than blow them off.
Gather your tools
Part of what makes tax season feel overwhelming is the worry about being able to put your hands on the documents you need. Knowing that you have everything on hand and have prepared in advance can give you a feeling of confidence – an I’m on top of this situation feeling for stress free tax prep.
Locate all of your receipts and resolve to have them together by February 15 or so. Examples of things to gather include:
- Mileage records
- Childcare provider statements
- Bank statements
- 1099, 1099, W-2
- Investment, bank and mortgage statements
- Donation receipts
- Medical expense receipts
There are several good options for organizing these documents once you have them in hand. The most common are expanding project organizers like the QuickFile folder or divider books. A goal of organizing is to make things more easily accessible, so use a filing and coding system that makes sense to you and anyone else that may need to access your files.
Other good tools to have on hand:
- Sticky tabs to mark each place signatures are required.
- Correction fluid, staples, tape and paper clips— remember that neatness still counts.
- Plastic pocket envelopes for receipts – if you are feeling especially industrious you can use a notebook to record each expense. Be mindful that some receipts fade with time so in addition to recording receipts you may also want to make copies. Staple the original to the copy and include everything together in a notebook or binder.
April 15 will be here before you know it, but that doesn’t mean you have to dread the day you know will come. After all, any job is easier when you have the right tools. Bindertek can help you get organized with our office tools that make tax time a breeze.