7 Tips to Help You Prepare and Get Organized This Tax Season

If you are like a majority of Americans, tax season tends to sneak up on you. You turn the corner into the new year and before you know it, you are scrambling to gather all the documentation you need and get your taxes filed on time.

This is an extremely stressful process for most, but a little preparation and organization can go a long way towards taking the sting out of tax season. Ideally, you will take steps throughout the year to ensure you are prepared for tax season, but we will save such long-term organizational strategies for another day and another blog.

Today, we will focus on some easy, practical steps you can take to get organized for THIS upcoming tax season. April will be here before you know it, so don’t delay! Use these tips to start getting organized right away.

1) Start early

The single most important thing you can do to help take the stress out of filing taxes every year is get started early. Tax season officially started on January 19th and you should have received all of your W-2s and other required tax documents by the middle of February at the latest. You can start preparing your taxes earlier, but at the latest you should try to get started by mid-February. This gives you plenty of room for error, and time to break up the numerous tax tasks that lay before you.

2) Decide how you will file

There are many ways to file your taxes, and the manner in which you organize will be dependent on the manner in which you plan to file. Are you going to use tax software? Are you going to fill your taxes out on paper? Are you going to turn everything over to an accountant. Decide how you plan to file so you can know which organizational steps are necessary and which aren’t.

3) Mark up your calendar and set alerts

The calendar should be one of your best friends. Clearly mark any and all important dates. The deadline for filing your 2015 taxes is 4/18/16. However, you may want to choose a date earlier than that to set as your personal filing deadline so you have more time to correct errors or address problems if necessary. Also, break up the various tax tasks into smaller mini goals such as getting all of your receipts organized by a certain date. Set dates to complete each goal, and set alerts on your phone or on a digital calendar to remind you to meet those deadlines.

4) Gather all tax documents in one place

If you only worked for one company last year, this task will probably be pretty easy for you. However, if you worked for more than one company or performed independent contract work, you will likely be receiving all of your W-2s and 1099-MISCs at various times throughout January into early February. Gather all of the forms that document your income from last year together in one place.

5) Gather documentation for deductions

If you are itemizing deductions rather than taking the standard deduction, you will need to have comprehensive evidence of the various expenses you are deducting. Gather any and all pertinent receipts, 1098s for mortgage interest, 1098-Es for student loan interest, documentation of charitable gifts, etc. Preferably you will have kept a good filing system for these things throughout the year, but make sure all of these items are in one place, then organize them into categories based on the expense. For example, put all of your receipts from work related and miscellaneous expenses together.

6) Purge unnecessary documents

Decluttering is one of the most important things you can do to get organized for tax season. Go through all of the documentation you have that you think could relate to your taxes. It is easy for unrelated documents to get mixed in, particularly if you don’t have a good filing system, so you will want to purge anything you don’t need. That doesn’t necessarily mean throwing it away, but put it all together and get it out of your way. That way, if you later find that an important tax document is missing, you can search through the pile of unnecessary docs to see if it accidentally got mixed in.

7) Mark documents you’ve already used

As you go through your taxes, develop a systematic way to mark documents you’ve already accounted for in your taxes. For example, as you enter the information from a W-2, put a checkmark in the top right corner so that you can easily tell you have already entered that information. Put that same checkmark in the top right corner of any documents which you enter on your taxes.

For more tips and for professional assistance in getting your taxes prepared and filed this tax season, contact Desnoyers CPA today and let us help take the stress out of filing your taxes.

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Written by Desnoyers CPA

Desnoyers CPA

Known for her friendly, outgoing nature and her rare talent for financial foresight, Lydia Desnoyers has been serving individuals and small businesses in Florida since 2010. After earning her Master’s Degree in Accounting from Nova Southeastern University and her Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from Florida State University, she became a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Fraud Examiner.