5 to THRIVE: 5 Tips to Stop Your Tax Preparer from Hating You – Especially if You Prepare Your Own Taxes!
There’s nothing that can make you feel quite as disorganized as tax time. No matter how careful you were with budgeting and keeping receipts, interacting with the IRS in any capacity can be an intimidating endeavor. Is this the year they finally discover that you’re an adult impostor? Are the guys in sunglasses and suits coming to take you away? Does that even happen? I don’t know, but let’s not risk it.
The good news is it's not too late to get back on track for tax season this year, and it’s the perfect time to prepare for a stress-free financial future.
Use the following tips and tricks to organize your life in a way that will help reduce your stress when it’s time to file your taxes.
1. Declutter your office
Let’s face it. Nobody wants to work in a cluttered space. It’s frustrating to continuously search for items, and it can lead to endless excuses about why you can’t get started on the important stuff.
Organize your home office so that you’re inspired when tax season rolls around. Have a place to file your paperwork and schedule time each week to keep your office in tip-top shape. A nice, well-organized space can keep you motivated and eliminate opportunities for procrastination.
Create a space where people will walk in and think, “Wow, this person is productive!” and then try to make some truth out of that.
2. Call your accountant
If you have an accountant, it’s time to reach out to them. I know – they’re kind of scary. You’re always afraid they’re like, “Here’s this pretend grown-up who always has wrinkled receipts and asks weird questions about writing off their mileage to puppy playdates.”
Okay, first of all, your questions aren’t the weirdest they’ve ever heard – unless they are, and then congrats in your own special way. Anyway, don’t be afraid of your accountant. Call and ask what they need from you and by when.
Don’t have an accountant? Ask family and friends for their recommendations.
Don’t need an accountant? Check-in on your less mathematically savvy friends – we’re not okay this time of year. Maybe you can help.
3. Organize your documents
Your car’s center console and the bottom of your purse are not appropriate areas for storing documents. No. They’re not.
A pile of disorganized, wrinkled up slips of paper can make you feel defeated before you even get started. Make an effort to smooth receipts out, label, and categorize them. Keep this up, and you’ll be ahead of the game before you even get officially started.
If you’re already behind on this task, figure out your new long-term plan – an accordion folder with categories? A Dropbox account with scanned documents?
We need you to trust us for a minute because there’s a method to our madness. Create stacks of paper on a table and use Post-it notes to label the stacks by categories like:
- business expenses
- charitable contributions
- medical receipts
- bank statements
Once you have your papers categorized, assign a file folder, envelope holder, or cork strip as a catch-all. And schedule regular intervals for a more in-depth organization, which includes scanning these documents to store them digitally.
4. Power up the paper shredder
There are a lot of financial documents that feel too important to throw away because of the sensitive information contained but are no longer necessary to store. You don’t need them!
Make a regular date with the paper shredder to properly dispose of unimportant documents – this has the added benefit of keeping your home office tidy. And the paper shredder is kind of fun. Pretend you’re a spy destroying critical evidence or something.
5. Make a date of it
Don’t just highlight the final deadlines. Set a series of milestones to hit, such as:
- making sure you’ve received all relevant tax documents
- scheduling time with yourself to organize receipts and office space
- Setting a date well before the final deadline to work on your taxes or submit all documentation to your tax preparer – they’ll thank you for thinking ahead
Your 1THRIVE Center can serve as a valuable tax time tool. Use either the whiteboard or blackboard calendar to keep deadlines, dates, and tasks front and center in your life. For great ideas about how to set up your 1THRIVE Center, check out our ideas library.
Take a deep breath, roll your shoulders back, and look forward to tax season with your head held high. With some pre-planning, the right tools, and a little bit of ongoing attention throughout the year, you can eliminate the stress of filing your taxes.