Tax Prep 101 – Year End File Organization
Although April 15th is still many weeks away, the tax deadline has a way of sneaking up on you and catching you by suprise. If you’re not careful, you may find yourself rushing around at the last minute trying to get your paperwork in order and attempting to find all the information you need to get started, much less finished.
Make your tax season much less stressful by preparing in advance. A little planning and some organizing strategies can go a long way toward helping you get through tax season early and with minimal stress.
Watch your mailbox for necessary paperwork. Keep all the information that comes in the mail in a dedicated “tax file”. If you don’t have a lot of paperwork to keep track of for your taxes, you should still keep it in a dedicated place for safe-keeping. Having everything in one place eliminates the last minute “scramble”. Here are some items to watch for:
W-2s from employers
Mortgage interest statements
Rental income statements (if you have rental properties)
Interest-income statements from savings accounts or divided income statements for shares you own
Student loan interest and tuition paid
Personal property tax information
Be sure you have the right forms. You can find them at post offices, libraries, and online at www.irs.gov. If you plan to use tax software, the appropriate forms should be included.
Gather deductible information such as any charitable contributions, child care expenses, insurance premiums, etc. Even if you don’t plan on itemizing, having this information available can help you determine if a standard deduction is the way to go. Itemizing may prove to offer a larger refund for you.
Have previous years’ tax returns on hand. You may need to refer to them for federal or state refund amounts or previous deductions you have taken. You can also scan through these to see if there were any documents you needed last year that may also apply to this year’s return. If you don’t have a previous return, you can order one from the IRS. Returns are usually available for the current year as well as the previous 6 years.
Double check your numbers! All dollar amounts for income and expenses should be checked throughout your return, but even errors in street address numbers and social security numbers can slow down the tax return process if a digit is wrong or left out.