Taxes are inevitable and whether you prepare for it or not, tax season is coming! Getting organized for tax season is not an easy task. It can be time consuming and sometimes frustrating depending on how well you stayed organized throughout the year.
Whether you decide to do your taxes yourself or outsource to a tax professional, getting the appropriate documents prepared in advance is important. Preparing in advance will save you tons of time and will help eliminate some of the stress.
Below we have identified 4 easy steps that you can do to help you prepare for this tax season. The great thing is that these steps are applicable whether you prepare your own tax returns or outsource them.
1. Schedule Tax Prep and Filing Time
Adding tax preparation and tax filing time to your calendar will eliminate a ton of stress and will make sure that you are not rushing to get your taxes prepared at the last minute. We recommend going through your calendar and blocking out one day for preparing or getting your taxes prepared. Then 3-4 weeks prior to that you want to schedule at least two days to prepare the documentation needed for your taxes.
2. Create a Checklist
Generally speaking, most tax return programs do a great job of prompting you with questions to make sure you do not forget anything. However, your tax filing process will be much more streamlined if you have all of your documentation ready to go when you begin. And nothing beats a good checklist when it comes to getting organized and remembering things.
We recommend a quick and easy 3-step process to prepare the ultimate tax prep checklist:
Write down everything you received and used to file your taxes last year. For example, list all of your bank accounts, mortgages, software that you use for your business, cars, etc. that you used last year for your tax returns. You can quickly gather this information by going through your tax return documentation from the prior year.
Cross off anything that is no longer applicable to this year. For example, if you sold the car or house that was listed in last years taxes, cross it off.
Add any new situations or scenarios to your checklist that were not applicable last year. For example, you sub-contracted for a new company and are expecting a new 1099 or you started attending school.
At the end of this 3-step process you will have a comprehensive checklist that will serve as a starting point to getting your documents organized.
3. Organize Documentation
Organizing your documents prior to beginning your taxes will save you and/or your tax preparer tons of time. First, we recommend that you create a file for the taxes and file all tax-related documents as they begin to arrive in the mail so that nothing gets lost. During the “tax preparation” days that you scheduled (Tip No. 1 above), get out your checklist and check off everything that you have in your file and then print or track down the rest of the documents on your checklist that are missing. It is very common for tax documents to be housed in online portals that you can download and print for your records, so be sure to check those online portals as well.
After you have everything on your checklist, you are ready to get started with filing your taxes.
4. Tax Prep Day
If you are taking your taxes to be prepared, then your next step is as simple as scheduling an appointment and arriving early. If you are preparing your taxes yourself, get started early, give yourself plenty of time, and get to work. We recommend a quiet or semi-quiet place with quite a bit of space so that you can focus and spread out. Be sure to have your prior year tax returns, your current year tax file with your checklist and all supporting and required documentation.
We hope that your tax prep checklist and the steps above serve you well during this tax season. For additional tax resources we recommend checking out TurboTax here. For more small business resources, check out our blog here.
Happy Tax Preparing!