Is it possible to get ready to file your taxes and not hate it in the process? I really have no idea. I hate it, every time. Compiling that kind of paperwork makes me edgy and I do not like having my nerves on edge. So, what did I used to do? Procrastinate! When my back was up against a wall, and April 15th was closing in on me, then I would force myself to get it done.
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My dad was somewhat the same way. When we were kids, my dad did all of the income tax reporting from start to finish. He was a detail oriented kind of guy. Mom would warn us “be very quiet, kids, daddy’s doing taxes!” It was the one time of year that our mild-mannered hero was grouchy. We tip toed around, heeding her advice.
In my own case, I only gather the information and take it to a CPA (certified public accountant.) Even so, getting the paperwork organized is stressful! To reduce some of the pressure, and get it over as quickly as possible, I have developed an organizing plan that works for me. If you don’t have one of your own, you might want to give it a try.
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How To Get Records Ready For The Tax Preparer
How to get your tax information ready:
• Make an appointment with your tax professional. Do this first. It gives you a deadline, which will help to keep you on track. Have your personal calendar handy so that you do not accidentally double-book yourself. Write the appointment on your calendar. When I do it, I also set an alert on my phone to remind me of that appointment ahead of time.
• Clear off the work space. I cannot work in clutter. All I can think of is how everything around me needs to be put away! The kitchen table is my favorite work-space so I totally empty the table top and get all of the distracting contents out of view.
• Gather your tools. Collecting and recording information to bring to your income tax expert can be daunting. Getting everything in order helps me to focus on the task at hand. I try to keep it simple and add a little atmosphere to make it more bearable.
- New spiral notebook. I use this to make a short list of every item I will need. That way I can check off each task as it is completed. Typically, as I get into the process, I remember something else I will need to do. With a notebook sitting there, I can write it down so that I don’t forget. I try to pick out a notebook with a pretty cover that I really like. It is a just little special treat for me.
- Pencil or erasable pen. I would love to think I could write everything neatly the first time, but that never happens. Rather than scratching things off, it is nice to be able to erase errors. I love using a new pencil or pen just to make it feel more special – I did tell you I hate tax time, right? I guess it is my way to make it feel a little better.
- Coffee. Now, if you are given to spilling things, you might want to skip this. I work better with a hot cup of coffee at hand, in my favorite inspirational mug, of course. Not a coffee drinker? Select your beverage of choice.
- Calculator – use your calculator or let your spreadsheet do it for you. Simply put, you are going to have a lot of numbers to add up! Tip: If having your phone nearby is a distraction, don’t use the calculator on the phone. Use a portable calculator instead, turn the phone off and put it in the charging station.
- Folders. You may be ahead of the game and have folders set up. If you don’t, then get some new file folders. You will need them.
• Gather the pertinent tax paperwork* that you have received from employers, banks and non-profits to whom you have donated. *If you work online, you may have to access some of those income reports by computer. Print hard copies of them.
The IRS provides a list =>☑️ Tax Form Checklist
• Get out your copy of last year’s tax returns.
• Label your folders. Call them: donations, receipts, pay records, tax records, medical records, etc.
• Sort all of those records into the proper, labeled folders.
• Set up a tax record spread sheet on the computer. This is where you will record all of you tax information: income, expenses, etc. Your tax preparer will NOT go through your papers for you, except for confirming the legal documents. This is a job that you must do. Be sure to put your name, address, email address and phone number on it. When your spreadsheet is complete, save your work and print out a hard copy of it to bring to the tax preparation professional with the rest of your records.
• Record results on a spreadsheet on your computer.
• Review your work. Be sure that nothing is missing.
• Place all of your folders into a portable file. Depending on how much you have, an expandable file may work or you may want to move to a brief case or file box.
• Bring everything to your tax preparation specialist.
Note: this job may take you more than one day. If you know you will need to stop and start up again, have a safe place to put everything. Putting those folders into a portable file is probably the simplest way to do it.
More helpful information=> How To Get Ready For A Tax Preparer
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Note: this post is not meant to be tax preparation advice. It is simply a list of organizing tips to help to you to get ready to meet with your accountant or tax professional who will prepare your tax returns for you.