Every year I had the best of intentions to file our taxes EARLY or at minimum really get ‘ahead of it’. It’s taken us a couple years to find a system that works for us, but I’m really happy on how organized we’ve become in preparing our taxes. Now granite, we do not DO our own taxes. We have an accountant that handles that tough work for us. Between selling our old condo, getting married, and purchasing a new townhouse over the years along with me being self-employed, it makes more sense for us to use a professional.
While we may be paying someone to assist, we don’t just hand over a wad of messy paperwork and wish him well. Being organized and ahead of the game not only saves us time, but it saves our accountant time. And that means it’s saves us money. So it’s a win-win all around.
In early January, I make a list of all the documents we’ll need to collect on my Tax Checklist. This includes any earnings documents (such as w2s and 1099s from our employers, checking accounts, savings account and investments), deductions (donations, mortgage tax credit) and general documents that our accountant will need (copies of our drivers license, checking account information for refunds or payments, copy of last year’s return).
It’s extremely helpful to do this step first before I try to compile any documents.
I keep the Tax Checklist in a clear folder near our entry where I place our mail. It makes collecting and storing these documents easier.
As I receive a tax document in the mail, I add it to the folder and highlight it on my Tax Checklist. It’s an easy visual way to know which documents I still need to collect.
Some of the documents we’ll need may not come in the mail as we elect to have a lot of paperless statements. For those, I simply go online to the account and print them off.
By mid-February, I make sure that we’ve compiled all the documents from the list.
There’s some documents that I save throughout the year in a small plastic pouch including charitable donation receipts and paid property taxes. I add these to our clear tax folder to supply to our accountant.
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Before handing the tax folder over to our accountant, I scan each document electronically. Yes, this may seem a bit time consuming when there’s a lot of documents to scan. After all the time it takes to compile the documents, it’s worth it to me to have backup in the event that something happens to the ones we turn in to our accountant. (Note this has never happened, but it does make me sleep soundly knowing it wouldn’t be a problem!)
Instead of a huge bulky scanner, I use a Neat Desk Scanner. It’s extremely easy to use and compact enough to store easily once I’m finished using. Highly recommend!
Save Finalized Documents
After our accountant completes our taxes, he packages everything up and provides us a folder of all the documents. I file this each year in a binder with the year labeled in case of an audit. Each year I simply add an additional folder with the new year labeled. I rotate out the taxes from over 7 years ago yearly to make room for the new year’s documents.
I also scan the finalized documents from our accountant, adding this to the already scanned prep documents. It’s just great to have a digital copy of everything.
To summarize my digital system:
I have a folder titled ‘Taxes” within My Documents. The level of sub folders are for each year of taxes:
Within each of year, I have folders for Deductions, Earnings, Additional Documents, & Finalized Taxes from Accountant
I hope these tips make tax season a little easier and more streamlined!
I always treat myself to a cocktail when I’m finished!
** All these tips and checklists are personal use only. I love to organize, but I’m not a tax professional! Always consult your tax professional for tax advice. **