It is that time of the year when some are scurrying to complete their taxes or applying for an extension. I have talked to too many people who have procrastinated preparing their tax data. Even if an accountant processes your taxes for you, there is still work to prepare to give your accountant.
Is this you? Set yourself up for success in 2024 by following these three steps in 2023:
Create one spot for important papers
Anything that you receive that should not be thrown away or lost.
I recommend that this spot be a box or a bin, not a folder. We receive too much valuable paperwork throughout the year to fit into one filing folder.
Instead, add a few folders to your collection bin and file papers into the general category folders. Or wait until the end of the year to sort the documents into categorized folders. This system takes two seconds every time you file something rather than hours of stress every new year.
Create a folder in your email system for electronic receipts
Not all receipts or important papers are printed anymore. Be prepared to stay organized with electronic paperwork. Create one folder and title it “2023 Receipts.” As you receive receipts, move the entire email to this new folder.
I do not sort or categorize these files like I do paper receipts because it is easy enough to select “Ctrl” + “F” to find a document when I need it. Next year I will create “2024 Receipts” and continue this habit for the new year. By doing this, you will have all your electronic receipts for every year.
Download a spreadsheet of your bank transactions every month
Very few stores accept cash anymore. The majority of our purchases are made with automatic withdrawals, debit or credit cards. This is great when it comes to tax preparation. You don’t need software to collect your transactions. All you need is online access to your bank and credit card company. (You also can combine all of your financial data into apps like Mint.com.)
Every month, download your transactions to a document that is easily accessible. I like to use Microsoft Excel. Label one new column “Category” and populate this field for each transaction. Examples of categories that I have created include groceries, auto fuel, travel, utilities and home repairs.
At the end of the year you can quickly sort and total your expenses by “Category” and deliver these totals to your accountant.
Your bin and email folder will show details of each expense if needed. Otherwise, they are filed out of your way for future reference.
A popular Chinese proverb says, “80% plan, 20% do.” When you take time out to create and follow a system in preparation for the 2023 tax season, it’s an easier start to the year.