TAXES. Blecky. Ugh. Yucksters! Ptooey!! Yes, tax season is upon us again, and we all gotta do ’em. “We all prisoners, chicky-babe. We all locked in.”
That quote from Herbie, The Love Bug makes me smile — but taxes do NOT. What I’ve found, though, is that the whole mess becomes a bit easier if you start out organized. Then filling in those blanks and reading those not helpful help tips and consulting those tables is not as much of a “I HATE THIS” as just a chore to be gotten through. Kinda like cleaning the toilet. You just gotta do it, but then you’re done and don’t have to think about it again for awhile.
This post is part of a new collaborative series called How to Organize Your Life in 30 Days. I’m honored to be joining other amazing bloggers to bring ideas and info for organizing all aspects of our lives! Plus there will be a giveaway!! All of the details are at the end of this post, so read on until you get there! :-)
Getting your finances organized for tax season does not have to be difficult.
In my experience there are only four basic steps:
1) Compile your documentation. This has to begin EARLIER than January 1, even though that is usually considered to be the start date of tax season, because much of the information you need is from bills that you paid before then. Such as:
- Homeowner’s insurance
- Property taxes
- Personal property taxes (We have these in our state. You might not.)
- Auto registration
- Paperwork from a home sale/purchase/refinance
The key is to set these aside as you pay them. You KNOW you will need them for taxes, so don’t file them with your other paid bills. Instead, put them in a designated place just for tax documentation.
But don’t make it a difficult place to get to, or you’ll pile them somewhere else and forget about them, or not be able to find them when you need them. (Don’t ask me how I know.) Initially, I use a bin in a cabinet — open the cabinet door, throw them in the bin, bam. No lid to raise or close. Easy and quick. Then later I move them to a specific file folder.
After January 1 is when everything else you will need for tax season starts to arrive in the mail. Keep your eyes peeled for these things:
- W-2’s from all jobs worked
- Year-end statement from retirement/401K
- 1098T from colleges — will show what you paid in tuition and what scholarships were received
- Mortgage interest statement
- Student loan interest statement
- Statements for charitable contributions
- Unemployment benefit statement
- You might have others, like an interest income statement, etc. We don’t get one of those. LOL.
- Another one you might get is a health care coverage statement. We also don’t receive that, because of how we handle health care for our family.
And guess what? As these come in the mail, throw them in the same pile as the other stuff. Then when it’s time to sit down and crank out that 1040 (of whatever variety), all you have to do is grab your pile and you’re good to go.
2) Make sure all your accounts are balanced through December 31. This should not really even be a step, because you should have done this on or around, well, December 31. But just in case you haven’t, it is definitely necessary to accomplish it before you try to do your taxes. Otherwise you won’t have the correct data for your expenses.
If you are finding yourself not balancing your accounts in a timely manner, you may have a larger problem than just tax season, lol. You might need to think about developing a system for organizing your paperwork. Here’s mine, if you need ideas (you know it will be simple and doable!): How to Organize Your Life — A Simple Paperwork Filing System.
3) Find the data for all the expenses you don’t have paperwork for. THIS is why you have to make sure step 2 is done — because you want all of that data to be accurate. This is another reason I love YNAB. It is a budget software program that categorizes all of my expenses, so when it’s tax season I just need to run a few reports to obtain the numbers I need. If you are not using budget software, you might want to look into trying it. Using a paper check register at a time like this could be a recipe for frustration. At least for me it would be…
Examples of this type of data would be: uniform expense for work, office supplies for your home business, union dues, etc. You might have receipts for all of these, but you’ll need a grand total.
Another biggie is social security numbers — do you know the numbers for your children?? I keep those on a single piece of paper in a folder entitled “information to keep handy.” Soooo businesslike, right? :-)
4) Compile your tax forms. I can remember the days when we had to go to the post office to get our 1040EZ. Or another option was to go to the library and pay to make a copy on their Xerox machine. And how many times did we scramble around to do that on April 14, going from one post office to another because they were out of forms?? Yikes. Now it’s just a matter of jumping online and printing. Craziness.
I’m all about making things easy, so I’m going to save you a search: IRS Tax Forms. Boom. There you go. :-)
There were several years that we used Turbo Tax — the old fashioned way, by buying the CD’s at Costco and installing it on our computer… but now you can get that online, too. Right here: Turbo Tax website. And it might even be free! Or, if you sign up for Ebates, you can get cash back on your purchase!
Or you might use a tax guy. That’s been our M.O. ever since our attempt at entrepreneurship a few years back. But even he requires that we fill out a multi-page questionnaire and submit all our documentation to him for verification. It sometimes seems just as bad as doing it myself!
(Speaking of tax guys — I am NOT one. I am not an accountant or professional tax guru, so I am not to be held responsible for anything you may miss while you do your own taxes… just a small point…) :-)
I can’t really make the actual filling out of the forms any easier for y’all, although I wish I could. But doing that job will be easier if you start out with all this other stuff already taken care of.
My last piece of advice is: DON’T DELAY. The earlier in tax season you get your taxes filed, the quicker you’ll get any refund you might be eligible for, and the quicker you can plan how to spend it! Woot!!!!
How to Organize your Life in 30 Days
I am so excited to be partnering together with some amazing bloggers to bring you a 30-day challenge that will change your life! We have some great posts planned for you and are excited to join with you to make our homes more relaxing in the days to come!
I’m contributing three posts to the series. The first one, which incidentally kicked off the entire challenge, was Start Getting Organized with a Home Management Center. There will be another one from me at the end of the month. In the meantime, head on over to the Hip Homeschooling blog to see the entire list of everyone’s posts as they go live each day. Click HERE!
All you need to do to join the challenge is check out the main page (click here: Hip Homeschooling Blog 30-Day Organizing Challenge) and start working through the challenges. You can join in at any point, there are no rules! Share your before or after pictures on Instagram and use the hashtag #30dayorganize for a chance to win a $10 gift card to Hobby Lobby (3 winners)! The more you engage on social media, share the image at the left, etc., the more entries you’ll have!
This is going to be a great series, so don’t miss a single day! :-)