Organizing for Tax Time

It’s that time of year again… F and I filed our taxes back on 2/7 (and still haven’t gotten our refund check in yet, but that’s a topic for the IRS…) Our 2011 return required a sh!t-ton of organizing and tight record keeping because of our relocation, business travel and related expenses.

Here is what I did this year. It’s admittedly analog, but considering the fact that we ended up with a 104-year old man doing our taxes at our HR Block, it was the best solution in retrospect. (I’m not joking…F and I were wondering if we could get a discount on the service if he dropped dead mid-meeting, it was a distinct possibility). I’m sure there that presenting all of this info to our ancient peepaw accountant in any other format would have made him crap his Depends.

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The three-folder income tax filing system

  1. Income – place all W2s, 1099s, and other income statements in this folder. Create a cover sheet that lives on top – or stapled inside front (either handwritten or your favorite spreadsheet app) that details all information contained inside and totals it out.
  2. expenses and deductions – clip together by category: business expenses, medical, childcare, relocation, etc. Place a cover sheet as the top sheet of each category with those details noted. There should also be a cover sheet stapled to inside front of folder with a line item overview and associated totals.
  3. Investments – this is the home all statements (monthly, quarterly, annual), receipts, sale confirmations, dividend notices, etc. Again, the cover sheet – organized by line item – should go into this folder for quick reference.

The spreadsheets listing the receipts are KEY!

Finally, It would be in your best interest to peruse the instructions for the 2011 tax forms, just so that all of your expenses are deductible and that you’re not missing anything. I know it’s not exactly light reading, but it may get you a few bucks back in the long run, and who doesn’t love getting the money back that they so generously gave the US government?

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