by Sarah Welch
I was one of those standing in line at the post office on April 15th last year, bleary-eyed and swearing to myself that I’d get a grip on my taxes before the last minute next year. And even with that bad memory lingering, I still can’t seem to get motivated to get a head start on tax prep. Any ideas?
Some of Obama’s cabinet picks have unfortunately learned the hard way in recent weeks that you just cannot be disorganized when it comes to paying your taxes. As tax season approaches this year, make the time to get yourself organized to get them done right! As with all things, a little preparation will go a long way in making the entire process more efficient, less stressful, and importantly - correct.
#1 Make a Tax To-Do List
What you write down gets done. So, if you want to finish your taxes on time and without feeling too rushed through the process, make a tax to-do list this week, breaking out all of the major work steps involved in getting your taxes ready. Even if you decide to have your taxes prepared by a professional, you will still have plenty of things to get organized and ready. Once you have your master list, assign due dates for each item so that your total return will be completed by, say a week early April 8th. Then make appointments in your calendar to ensure you have adequate time to work on each piece.
#2 Wrangle Receipts Early
Set aside time in the next week to search those filed, folders and bins for relevant receipts. Your goal is to put your hands on any receipts, canceled checks, and other papers related to money coming in to you that you need to declare as income or money going out of your accounts that can be deducted. Be on the lookout for important forms like W-2s and 1099s in the mail as well as receipts for charitable donations made over the last year. If you’re looking for a good checklist, the Tax.filer by Buttoned Up has an extensive one, as do software programs like TurboTax. Don’t worry about the specifics of each receipt or form at first, just gather them in one central location and sort them into two logical piles: income, deductions.
#3 Look Back
Don’t end up like Tom Daschle or Nancy Killefer. Consider all of the life events you have had over the past year and ask yourself whether or not they might pertain to your taxes. Things like the arrival of a new baby, a death, a move for business purposed, a new job, stock sales, or buying or selling a home all have implications for your tax return.