I'll skip the anxiety-laden fretting and get straight to the obvious point: it's easier to do your taxes when you're organized. Even your tax preparer or accountant needs raw numbers, and gathering them can be a major feat in itself.
The good news: you don't have to be that organized to eliminate most of the pain of tax preparation. All you need is:
- a system
- a few low-tech, inexpensive tools
- a few minutes every week or month attending to input
The Staples PR team pitched a review for one possible solution using products from the Martha Stewart Home Office line. I loved this "tax organization kit" for its simplicity, affordability, flexibility, and easy accessibility (you probably have a Staples nearby, or you could cobble together your own "kit" with stuff you probably have at home).
The Martha Stewart version happens to look nice on your desk, which goes a long way toward making a dreaded chore (for me, at least) a lot more pleasant.
Set up tax-related categories in an accordion file and file documents, statements and receipts throughout the year.
I like that this version can stand freely on the desk, but can also close up and sit primly on a shelf or in a cabinet. Use a small poly accordion file to organize receipts, labeling each tab by month or expense category.
If you're the "paperless office" type, set up an electronic version of your system: folders for each tax category, then scan and file everything.
Shred anything that contains addresses, account numbers, or other important identifying information.
This MailMate Shredder has two features that have booted my old over-the-wastebasket model into the Goodwill pile:
- it's compact, so I can stash it inside a cabinet
- the tray slides out with a handle, letting me dump the shreds straight into recycling. No more shreddi-confetti all over my floor!
Save past returns in a binder with labeled tabs for each year so you can easily flip through your tax history.
* * *
That's it. A few minutes a month, and you're done. For those of you sweating this week, let this be your light of the end of the 2012 tax year…you'll never have to go through the pain of last-minute scrambling again.
WIN IT! I've got a tax organizing kit just for you. Inside, you'll find:
- Two Martha Stewart Home Office accordion files: one large (for papers) and one small (for receipts)
- A premium binder with dividers
- A MailMate shredder
To enter, leave a comment on this post with your best anxiety-reduction strategy at tax-time. We could all use it right about now.
Comments will remain open until Monday, April 9, 2012, 5pm PST/8pm EST. The winner will be notified by email. Good luck!
Giveaway open to US residents only. One entry per person, please. (Multiple comments will count as a single entry.) Please include your email address so I can get in touch if you win. Your email address will NOT display on the site, nor will it go onto any sort of mailing list (mine or Staples').
Disclosure: The Staples PR team provided me with a tax organization package for review purposes. I received no other compensation for this post, and all opinions are my own.
More: Hacks for financial management