Although this year’s tax filing deadline is right around the corner on April 18, I traditionally file my taxes in February or March. I figure the sooner the better and to just get the whole maddening business out of the way quickly. But more importantly I file early because things get pretty busy and hectic. This way I avoid the stress and anxiety as much as possible.
Before losing my vision I prepared my taxes myself. It was fairly simple and straightforward. But afterward, I lacked the confidence to do it on my own and some tax preparation products and tools were not very accessible or complicated. Even though tax filing has become more accessible over the years I still prefer to have a professional handle the paperwork. So, when I was recently in my tax guy’s office he was telling me once again how organized my paperwork was and how easy it was to file for me. He tells me this year after year, marveling at how I do this with vision loss. I just smile and say, “Thank you for the compliment.” But it got me thinking and led me to share some of my tax filing tips. The things that keep me stress-free and organized each tax year. Hopefully, you will feel the same after reading.
Make Excel Your Friend
The biggest tool I use to stay calm during tax filing is Excel. This software program is my friend. I use it daily for all kinds of things. To track my grocery spending. To track my Uber/Lyft ride amounts. To track my credit card payments. To track my out-of-pocket medical cost. Do you get my drift? Excel is a great way to track numbers for nearly anything you want. So, each year I track my freelance income and expenses. For example, on my freelance expense spreadsheet I create rows and columns for the date, company, expense description and amount. On a spreadsheet everything is laid out and easy to read. You can also sort and reorganize the columns and rows to crunch the numbers in different ways which my accountant loves.
Each year I create new spreadsheets with the year in the title so I know the difference. I usually will do a save as in Excel and just update the new one. I find this easier because the formula I use to calculate my totals stays the same each time. Then when I meet with my accountant I just hand him the thumb drive and he can clearly read and review the spreadsheets he needs for tax filing.
Create Email Receipt Folders
Now, how to deal with all those paper receipts. And no, I am not talking about stuffing them in a folder or shoebox. I have noticed nowadays most receipts are provided electronically. I can even get my grocery receipts sent via email. Now what I do is create folders in my email provider for receipts. I label the folder in accordance with what is in the folder. I use Outlook for this process. I have a folder for all my Amazon orders. Another one for house-related things. Another for medical. I refer back to these receipts for taxes when I need to. I can simply punch all the info into my spreadsheets and/or print out the receipt for verification if needed.
For receipts that are not electronic I store in a paper file folder for tax filing only. I have a dedicated folder strictly for this purpose. Throughout the year, as I get receipts, donation letters, home ownership tax statements and other documents, I place in this folder. Although the amount is minimal this step keeps me from getting stressed out later because everything is in one place and ready to go during tax time.
These paper receipts I store with a copy of my tax return and place in my water and fireproof safe. There I keep copies of previous tax returns for the future just in case the IRS comes calling.
There you go. My two biggest organizing tips for stress free tax filing. Some might be looking for a long laundry list of tips and tricks but for me it is really this simple. I have been doing this for years and it actually works. Hopefully, if tax season is stressing you out, my tips helped you feel better. With some organization and preparation this year’s filing could be your calmest ever.