As the cold weather starts to slowly subside and spring draws closer, another season follows close behind. Tax season. It can be tempting to procrastinate - during the first week of April 2018, the IRS was still waiting on over 50 million taxpayers to file. You might even have a reason to put it off, like a long appointment waitlist for your accountant, or uncertainty about how changes caused by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act could affect you. The good news is, there’s a filing roadblock you don’t have to face: missing important tax forms, documents or receipts.
Check out our top digital organization tips for a smoother, stress-free tax season.
Ditch the paper and digitize
Going paperless is the best method to ensure you maintain accurate and organized records. Not only will this free up space in your home (kiss those bulky old filing cabinets goodbye), but it significantly reduces the chance you’ll lose or misfile key documents. Plus, with today’s scanning technology, the process is fast, simple and painless. Scan tax returns from previous years, receipts, W-2s and all other financial and tax-related documents.
Take advantage of easy-to-use scanners with optical character recognition for adding keywords and creating searchable files. The Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 scans and stores files directly to a cloud service and also includes receipt and document management apps. For small spaces or on-the-go scanning, check out the ScanSnap iX100. Ideally, you should be scanning and digitizing tax-related items year-round in real time to avoid a frantic search when Tax Day approaches.
Utilize the cloud
Once you’ve created a digital copy of your receipts and forms, the most important step in completing the process is backing files up to your preferred cloud software. If only stored locally, these essential documents are vulnerable to a natural disaster, failed hard drive, virus or hack. Many scanners and apps even have direct-to-cloud compatibility with Google Drive, Evernote, Box and others.
Once you’ve securely backed up, you can dispose of the hard copies without stress or worry. Create a file just for tax and financial records enabling you to organize with keywords and identify documents instantly. An added benefit? Cloud-based software provides secure collaboration and sharing, allowing you to easily share files with your accountant or a co-filer such as your spouse.
Do your research before you DIY
Keeping well-organized records is especially important if you’re filing yourself using online software. With a wide range of tax-filing platforms available at your fingertips, though, it’s never been easier to handle your taxes solo. If you choose to do so, compare options to find the best software for your personalized needs and financial situation. The options offered at different price points (e.g., basic, deluxe, premium) vary from service to service - compare these before you begin the filing process to save time and money.
Also, if you’re filing on your own, make sure to do a little research on current tax laws that apply to your financial situation and filing status. Once you’re informed of any changes implemented by recent reform, you’re less likely to make an error or miss out on any credits potentially offering a boost to your return.
What other tax-related hacks do you find helpful? Any digital organization musts to share?