According to USA.gov, Americans consistently choose the same types of resolutions. While many attempt to find ways to better their financial situation by cutting back on fancy coffee or ditching cable in the new year, why not prevent a potential money hazard instead? Start early by getting ready for tax season.
I know it isn't as exciting as taking off to a tropical island or hiking Mt. Everest, but you can rest assured that you crossed the filing finish line without any major money mishaps or undue stress. Consider getting a jump on preparing yourself for tax season now.
Here are 5 surefire ways to get organized for tax time
1. Save the date.
Set up an appointment with your tax preparer. If you do your own taxes, mark a date on the calendar so you don't end up waiting until the last minute.The appointment imposes a deadline on yourself and you can better pace the tasks on your tax time to-do list accordingly.
2. Check out a checklist.
Get a checklist of what to do from your preparer or find one online to make sure you complete vital tasks. While income documents find their way to you in the mail, a reminder of other needed information in list form can keep you organized during tax time. Take a look at this tax prep checklist so you don't forget anything. It provides an outline to reference what you need to do. They have them for both personal and small business use. Print this to start getting ready.
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3. Location, location, location.
In real estate, the location of a home makes a big difference. Well, the same is true for where you put your needed financial information. It’s important to assign a set spot so you can find needed items when the time comes to file. Keep track of business or deductible receipts in an accordion file or set them aside in an online folder that you can easily access. Whether digital or paper, be sure to store them in a set location. They will be easy to find come tax time and you won’t potentially leave money on the table.
Also, set a spot to gather up tax mail after the first of the year. Just in case you aren't able to find something, check IRS.gov to find missing documents like income statements. For example, you can get a tax transcript, which is a synopsis of your filing info, online immediately and for free. (To get actual document copies takes longer, so be sure to leave yourself ample time to do so.)
4. Prompt yourself.
Set reminders to serve as a timeline of mini-tasks to accomplish. Maybe compiling income data that comes in the mail is your first task. Then going through a few months worth of receipts is the next. If you complete a task or two every week starting in January, it will give you ample time to pace yourself so it won’t feel like such a burden and you’ll prepared to file in no time.
5. Plan to file early.
Getting organized beforehand and filing early has its benefits too. If you get a tax refund, you can get your hands on it earlier. (Editor's note: Clark would prefer you reduce your withholding so you *don't* get a refund.) Did you know that it also helps to avoid fraud? According to the Huffington Post, if you receive a letter explaining that more than one tax return was filed for you, that could be a red flag that someone has committed tax refund identity fraud.
It can be a little daunting to prepare to file your taxes. Avoid scrambling to tackle a mound of paperwork come April by starting now to get your paperwork in order. Once you overcome the dread of getting started, use the tips mentioned to get needed materials in order and you’ll be well on your way to beating the April 15th deadline.
About the author: Karen Cordaway is a former shopaholic who spent years wasting money until she learned how to stop by reading personal finance books and teaching herself how to budget and save. Karen’s writing is found on U.S. News Money and MoneySavingEnthusiast.com. Her work has also been featured on Yahoo Finance, The Consumerist, Huffington Post, Fox News, Daily Finance and many others.