Organizing Your Tax Forms and Supporting Documents
Tax season is now in full swing, and that means it’s time to start getting your documents organized and ready to file. If you’ve been collecting your income tax forms, receipts for deductions, and other relevant documents, but you’re not sure how to sort through and organize that pile of papers, keep reading for a few organizational tips that will make filing your taxes quicker and easier for both you and your tax preparer.
Take Them Digital
One of the most difficult things about getting all of those tax documents together is the simple fact that papers get lost. Your neat stack might get knocked over when your cat jumps on your desk, or your children might decide that the back of your W2 is the ideal place to create a new work of art. It’s easy for paperwork to go missing in the midst of your hectic life. But that doesn’t happen if you’re saving all of your tax-related documents in an online folder.
This doesn’t have to be anything complicated or high-tech. In fact, it’s as simple as taking a picture of each piece of paperwork and every receipt as you receive it. Save those images to a designated Tax Docs folder, and you won’t have to worry about losing anything. You can still store those paper documents in a filing cabinet, but the digital copies will be easier to manage and keep track of and will give you added peace of mind.
When gathering the tax documents, most people have a tendency to just toss everything into one file (be it digital or physical) and leave it at that. This doesn’t help you out much if you’re looking for a particular receipt and have to dig through all of your income forms and bank statements to find it. Instead, use subfolders within your tax folder to keep things more organized.
For example, you might consider including subfolders for the following types of tax-related documents:
- Income Tax Forms
- Retirement Accounts
- Medical Expenses
- Rental Property Expenses
- Charitable Contributions
- Business Deductions
- Education Expenses
Obviously, the exact subfolders you need will vary based on your unique tax situation. However, by utilizing these cascading folders, you’ll make finding the documents you’re looking for a much faster and less stressful process.
Here’s the thing about all of this supporting paperwork you need for your taxes: You don’t actually have to show the documents unless you get audited. Of course, you need to hang onto that paperwork just in case that happens; but, when it comes to simply filing your taxes, the numbers reflected on the paperwork are what matter most.
So, keep a spreadsheet at the front of each folder that totals the expenses or deductions for the paperwork in that particular folder. For example, in your Charitable Contributions folder, you can keep a running total of what you’ve donated in cash, items, etc., to charity on a spreadsheet at the front of the folder. All of your donation receipts would then be filed behind it. This way, when it’s time to file, you can quickly pull the number from the spreadsheet, enter it into the correct tax filing form, and hold onto the supporting documents in case they’re needed later.
If you’re using a tax preparer, they can use the numbers included on your spreadsheet as a reference point, and verify that everything included is accurately reflected in the supporting documents within the folder. This is a great way to ensure the utmost accuracy on your tax return.
Know What You’re Missing
Income tax forms are sent to you from whatever institution provided you with the income. This may be your employer, your freelance clients, your bank, or even the government, to name just a few. It’s important to have all of the correct income tax forms before you file so that you can ensure your income is reported accurately on your return. But how do you know what you’re missing?
Make a list of all of your sources of income, down to the interest you received on your savings account. Then, check to see if you have a tax form from that institution. (The exact type of form will vary depending on the type of income you received.) If you don’t, make a note of it and continue waiting for it; the deadline for receiving these forms has not yet passed, so be patient. Once you know everything you’re missing, you’ll be prepared to start filing the moment that last form comes in.
We hope these tips will help you to get your tax documents organized so that filing your return is as quick and painless as possible this year. If you want your taxes handled by an expert hand, be sure to give us a call and schedule an appointment with one of our professional tax preparers.
Camputaro and Associates
Certified Public Accounting Firm
136 N. Orchard Street, Suite 8
Ormond Beach, FL 32174