Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Filing For Taxes
Now is the perfect time to get your filing cabinet ready for your next round of tax returns. You want to have a systematized method for organizing.
Personally, I have a file drawer in my desk and that is where I keep our current year's receipts, statements, etc. At the end of the year, I transfer all of these file folders to a file cabinet in our study so that it's accessible for tax time and anything else that comes along. At the end of the 2nd year, I will box these records up and store them in the attic. It's best to keep the last 10 yrs of financial records stored. Then you can get rid of them.
In my file drawer I have several sections: Credit Cards, Utilities, Stan's Business, Medical, Insurance/Property Taxes, Dogs, Vehicles, House.
Credit Cards - I have a folder for each credit card and I keep the receipts and statements in their respective folders. If a credit card was used to purchase something for Stan's business, or pay a medical bill, etc then I make a copy of it to put in the respective folders. That way I have the original receipt in the credit card folder but I have a copy in Stan's business folder, or medical folder, etc.
Utilities - I keep a folder for all utility bills and payments (I use our bank's bill pay and I print out the transaction and keep it for the confirmation or transaction #'s).
Stan's Business - I have a folder for Accts Receivables (invoices, income that comes in and deposit slips) and Accts Payables (anything he purchases for business use).
Medical - I have a folder for all doctor's bills and medicine purchases.
Insurance/Property Taxes - Two folders, one for property insurance and one for property taxes. I keep receipts and statements.
Dogs - I keep a folder on each dog with all their papers in them including vet bills, microchip information, etc.
Vehicles - I keep a folder on each vehicle and I keep all titles, purchase agreements, repairs, purchases in that folder. If I have a vehicle loan, then I keep a separate folder for that where all the loan papers go along with statements and payment records.
House - Our mortgage statements go in one folder and all receipts for expenses in remodeling/yard/additions/maintenance go in the second folder.
I keep a large binder on my desk where I put all my general receipts (by month) and bank statements.
I have a file drawer that contains all our manuals and warranties. Whenever I buy something that has a warranty, then I always take the original receipt and staple it to the manual. Then I jot down the purchase date, where purchased, warranty time, serial numbers and model numbers on the outside of the manual and then file in this drawer. I have this drawer in sections too. I have computer equipment (desktop, laptop, printers and their driver software and setup software), cameras, watches, kitchen appliances, laundry appliances, furniture, guns, audio/video (includes TVs, DVD players, stereo, mp3 players, etc).
As I said, this is how I do it personally.
But you might just use an accordion file or a binder with pockets. Maybe you don't want to keep all the statements, bills, etc after you've reconciled your accounts. Maybe you don't keep receipts that aren't for tax deductible items. This is just the way I do it and it's worked for me over the years. For instance, we bought a TV one time and had to have it serviced immediately. The company didn't stand behind it's warranty and we ended up having to pay for it's repair despite following all their recommendations. Eight years later, there was a class action lawsuit and we were notified that if we had had a problem with the TV and could prove our cost of repairs we would be eligible for reimbursement. I went up to the attic, picked the box of stored financial documents that were marked for that year, flipped through the file folders until I found that credit card and there was the receipt. I mailed it in and we finally got reimbursed for that repair. It didn't take me 5 minutes to find that receipt and it was worth $150.
Just throwing every little scrap of paper into a shoebox or a plastic bag doesn't exactly help you when it comes to tax time. Because I assure you, you will procrastinate when January comes. It's too big of a job and you will keep putting it off. Procrastination creates it's own stress, then the stress of having to sort through it all, and, finally, you get to actually filling out your return. So avoid all that stress, by keeping organized throughout the year.
When I'm ready on my end, then I print out transaction reports and income statements for that year and put them in a binder. Then, when February 1st comes, I'm ready to do my return. I have all my stuff filed, I have my reports in my binder and it's just a matter of starting the tax software and answering the questions. It's really no hassle. When I'm through, I make sure to print me a copy to put in my binder and I keep all 10 yrs worth of tax returns and supporting reports in those binders on a shelf in my study. If I'm every audited I can pick the binder and go. If I need more supporting documents, I can go up in the attic, pick the marked box of financial documents and go.
These are my tips for today!
For more on organizing your home office check out these posts: http://sharonscrapbook.blogspot.com/2010/03/filing-system-for-home-offices.html
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