Do You Have a Receipt For That? Each year the majority of Americans unite on one issue—procrastinating on filing tax returns. A major complaint? Too many documents to deal with. Documents are placed in piles, tossed in filing cabinets, and generally ignored until you’ve reached “crunch-time.” You can easily save both time and frustration by following a few simple tips that ensure you will find tax papers and receipts when you need them.
Check it Off. Look at your last few years’ tax returns and create a checklist of the documents you usually need to prepare the return. An electronic checklist can be easily updated and re-used year after year. Attach the checklist to the inside flap of an expanding file or tax organizer. Then, check off items as they are received and place them in the file or organizer. This way you will know which documents have arrived and which ones are still missing.
I Filed…Now What? After your tax returns have been filed, place your copy of the return and all supporting documents into the tax organizer, label it for the tax year, and store in a secure location with previous years’ returns. If you prepared and/or filed your tax return electronically, place a disk with backup copies of the files in the organizer for safekeeping. A secure storage location, such as a fire-safe box, will provide protection from potential harm but allow for easy retrieval of documents.
Get a Head Start! Finally, get a jump-start on next year’s tax return by setting up another tax organizer, with sections labeled for all the receipts and papers you gather throughout the year. If you store the organizer close to where you sort your mail and file the documents as they are received, the papers will be ready for you when you begin working on next year’s tax return.