The Rewards of Recordkeeping

Are you ready to file your taxes? Need tips on simplifying the process? Go from a filled-up shoebox to a fail-safe system to get taxes done—and on time!

Last week in Moms Talk Q&A, Los Gatos Patch Moms Council member asked

Her column dealt with how veteran parents handle the "empty" nest syndrome and how this step in life, although difficult, is a much-needed progression for teens to become healthy and independent adults. Thank you, Maaliea for picking such a great topic and thank you to our wonderful readers for their comments.

Here’s what some of them had to say:

Our children do not really belong to us but remember that you should always have their gratitude and abiding love once they are gone if they have been taught the correct values in the home. Communication is all the more important when their physical bodies are absent from the family home and only their spirits are felt.

While it is great to be involved with your children's school and sports activites, you should develop your own interests as well. Have a weekly date night with your spouse, join a club, or take up a sport, so you have outside interests besides your children's. Kids do go off to college and jobs, but they do call, text, and come home for a visit!

Now, onto this week's topic—the rewards of recordkeeping.

Paper clutter affects so many people and inhibits them from getting things done; this rings especially true when it comes to the task of filing taxes. Most of us must first de-clutter last year’s receipts and records before even beginning to fill out this year’s required forms. It’s no wonder Americans wait until the last minute to complete this dreaded chore.

There is an easier way.

  • For personal use, first create a tax year folder for statements/receipts that pertain to taxes. It’s important to place this folder in a convenient location for easy access all year long. Second, keep an envelope in your purse/wallet to collect receipts when you’re out to transfer to your tax folder at home. Third, if you want to go paperless, keep in mind there are apps which help keep track of expenses such as mileage. It’s not too late to get started for next year by immediately implementing these simple tools to save time now and your sanity later.
  • Checklist: year-end income, bank, mortgage and brokerage statements; property taxes, DMV registration, daycare allowance; community/charitable/alumni contributions and donations, etc. if applicable.
  • Include folders for other IRS schedules that apply, i.e.: rentals, partnerships, etc.
  • For businesses, set up a filing system for expenses and income by category according to Schedule C. Print out the tax form and make separate categories listed in a profit-and-loss Excel spreadsheet. Each year you can literally plug and play from such spreadsheet to insert updated information in your tax form, ready to submit.
  • Checklist: mileage, phones, gifts, meals, advertising, professional associations, etc. Consult a tax professional with specific questions for your personal or business situation. Last minute appointments don’t work well for anyone; tax planning/preparing should start well ahead of the rush.
  • Finally, once you have your spreadsheet, make an appointment with yourself—and plug into your calendar—weekly, monthly updates to maintain and personalize your tax system. Get organized with your taxes, and you will go from a dreadful “to do” to a delightful, “They’re done!”

How will these tips help you get organized for tax time? Have any tips you can share with us for better recordkeeping?

To learn more about Coach Carrie Vawter-Yousfi, please visit  www.themommyscoach.com.

Irene Aida Garza-Ortiz February 29, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Thanks for these pointers!
Nathalie Donoso March 01, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Working on becoming more organized. These tips are great!
Dyan Chan March 01, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Ack! Over the years I somehow ended up being responsible for three sets of taxes each year. (And I'm no accountant or tax preparer.) Although I have employed several of the useful tips in your article, thinking about doing taxes still makes me hyperventilate a little! My biggest tip is: Turbo Tax!
Naomi Kalmus March 01, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Social media is a great way for parents to stay in touch with their children who have gone off to college or work. Just be careful not to comment on every post. Also, IM, chat services like gchat or skype and just texting are also great ways to stay in touch with your kids.
Sheila Sanchez (Editor) March 01, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Thanks for the comment, Naomi. I'm following these tips since my oldest left for BYU in January. She came home this weekend and it was hard to let her go again. We're always texting and communicating through FB and Twitter. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Gwen Reandeau March 01, 2012 at 01:20 AM
My desk is always cluttered, but mostly from different remedies I order through the mail for my digestive and respiratory ailments. I have a separate drawer that holds all my files, and store old tax files in my closet, which I believe we are supposed to keep for seven years, but i never do, as they take up too much space. For most of my working years, I've used taxact online - they only charge around $9.95 for the state tax and nothing for federal.
KrisN March 01, 2012 at 06:25 AM
Well you can always use tools for maintaining records. There are many tools which are freely available in the market which can do a fantastic job. Check out CollateBox http://www.collatebox.com/ . This tool won't be perfect but I guess for maintaining and updating database or records online this would be ideal.
Maaliea Wilbur March 01, 2012 at 06:50 AM
Thanks for the tips!!!
Carrie Vawter-Yousfi March 01, 2012 at 06:51 AM
Agreed, love it! Thanks for your comments.
Tamara Archer March 02, 2012 at 06:26 PM
This is definitely a case of an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Put a little bit of effort in consistently over each week or month, makes year end so much easier. Thank you for your great tips and strategies for a section of life that usually causes anxiety or stress for most.
Ellen Hovey March 03, 2012 at 02:53 AM
Great tips! We use quicken to just keep track of our daily receipts then come tax time it is easy to print out and get to our tax accountant.
Wendy Hanson March 15, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Carrie--you and all the commenters have inspired me to go clean my desk! A clean desk is so Zen and keeps trips to the CPA from being stressful!


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