Are you ready? April 18th is right around the corner and for most of us, that’s the deadline for filing our 2017 tax returns. There’s nothing I can say to make the process conceptually exciting (as in, “Yay! I get to file my TAXES now!”) but I can offer some suggestions to make the process a little less stressful.

If gathering the necessary documents felt like a scavenger hunt this year, take action NOW to streamline the process for next year.

You need a hanging file folder for each return you need to prepare. Label it: Current Year Tax Records. Voila! You’re done. Now, every time you get a donation receipt, a 1099-Div, or a W-2, you have a place to drop it. If your documentation is more than a standard folder can hold, get an accordion pleated one that expands to 3″ or 5″.

The same goes for documents you get electronically. Put them into an email file labeled, “Tax Documents”  or if you use Gmail, slap a “Tax Documents” label on them and hit “archive” and they’ll be there waiting patiently when you need them.

If you get a blank donation receipt for items you drop off at a local site, make note of what you donated while it’s fresh in your mind. I would never remember what I got rid of a year ago on August 3rd if I didn’t list it right away.

I’m sorry, but yes, it really is this simple. Hey, don’t roll your eyes at me, I’m the voice of experience! I prepare a tax return for me and hubby, and that return includes income property. I also prepare returns for each of our grown kiddos as well as for my elderly mom. On top of that, I must gather the appropriate paperwork for the accountant to prepare my corporate tax return.

If this system didn’t work, I’d be running around like that proverbial chicken with its head cut off. Instead, all returns were filed by the middle of March.

It doesn’t matter if you do your own taxes or have them done for you. However, if you use a professional, don’t be that person every accountant hates to see coming with your over-stuffed shoe box full of random bits of scrumpled papers. Eliminate that hot mess and you might save money on preparation fees, too!

 

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