You know that junk drawer, cabinet or folder you use to store your tax documents and other random odds and ends?
It’s time to organize it.
We’re in the midst of tax season, so it’s the perfect time to pull out your receipts, grab your W-2s and dust off your old tax returns for some spring cleaning.
Keeping tax documents organized and stored safely can reduce the chances of identity theft. And, if you get organized now, you’ll be thankful next year when you don’t have to spend hours digging around for your receipts and other documents.
Here are six ways to keep yourself organized this tax season.
1. Use an Accordion Folder to File Tax Documents
The first time you filed a tax return was a walk in the park. You probably had one W-2 from a high school gig and nothing else to report. Am I right?
Fast forward to your adult years, and you may get a stack of W-2s and 1099s for one year alone. That’s not to mention other tax forms from your investments, mortgage, rental property income…the list goes on and on.
Get an accordion folder and label each section with the year (ex: 2015, 2016, etc.) Then, place your tax returns from years past into the corresponding folder. When tax forms arrive in the mail, add them to the compartment for the current year.
Once your taxes are filed, include a copy of your return in that folder as well. That way, if you need to reference past tax forms, you can quickly grab them.
2. Keep a Spreadsheet to Track Charitable Donations
In order to take advantage of a tax deduction for charitable donations, you must have proof of your giving. You either need a bank record or an official note from the charity acknowledging how much you contributed and the date of the contribution.
If you give often, create a spreadsheet with the date, gift amount and charity you gave to in case you need to request official documentation of your donation. This way you won’t need to scramble at the end of the year to meet the requirements for the deduction.
3. Label Your Receipts
Write down the reason for each expense on your receipts ahead of time. Get in the habit of doing this every time you make a purchase.
Whether you hire an accountant or do your own taxes, this practice will make life easier by taking the guesswork out of analyzing each line item on a receipt.
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4. Scan and Save Your Receipts
A few receipts go missing each year. It never fails. If you run a business or charge expenses for work that are unreimbursed, you have a lot of receipts. A receipt scanner can be a big lifesaver.
You won’t need to hunt for long-lost receipts and once scanned, they can be organized on your computer by tax deduction, making your life much easier.
Best of all, you can write off the receipt scanner as an office expense on your tax return next year.
Not ready to invest in a receipt scanner? Try an accordion pocket folder meant for checks or coupons instead. It’s relatively the same in size and it’ll keep your receipts in one place.
5. Establish a Secure Place for All Tax-Related Documents
Don’t throw your tax folder into a random drawer. It’s a good idea to keep your personal documents like your tax forms and passport under lock and key together, organized and secure. A filing cabinet has enough space for you to store a few files and other valuable items.
6. Shred Documents You No Longer Need
Lastly, every household should have a paper shredder so that, after referencing applicable IRS look back periods, you can securely dispose of tax documents that are no longer necessary.
The list of items that should be shredded before tossed in the garbage is not limited to tax documents–the same should be done for old bank statements, junk credit card offers and mail with your personal information on it.
If getting your own shredder isn’t realistic this year, you can check out Office Depot’s 2015 taxes guide for a coupon for five pounds of free bulk bin shredding now through April 23 at Office Depot and OfficeMax retail stores.
Any organization tips to share? Comment below!
And if you’re still deciding whether you should tackle taxes on your own or hire a tax preparer, be sure to check out this post.
Tiffany “The Budgetnista”
My Lisa Rule: I have 4 sisters and Lisa is the baby (we’ll she’s not a baby anymore). Of all of my sisters I’m the most protective over her. Before I share any product or service with you, it must pass my Lisa Rule.
What’s the Lisa Rule? If I would not advise Lisa to use a product or service, I won’t advise you to. YOU are my Lisa. I feel protective over you and your financial journey.
Office Depot’s organization tools pass my Lisa Rule. Office Depot and they sponsored this post, but I would not recommend a product or service that I didn’t believe was helpful and useful. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience. I’ve used and enjoyed their organizational tools in my business and personal life.