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Nextavenue.org: By Rosie Wolf Williams
Tax season is here and it may be causing you agita. Rifling through drawers for your 2016 tax paperwork; sorting a
flood of receipts to qualify for write-offs; printing out assorted bank, brokerage and mutual fund statements and on and
Don’t hide under the covers. Instead, follow these five organization strategies from tax advisers to get your taxes
together once and for all:
This may be the most important step in getting more organized. Instead of throwing receipts onto the nearest
countertop, only to be stowed in the junk drawer when company comes, why not designate a place for your tax
paperwork to live?
Do you really need savings accounts at three banks? Consolidate and simplify to make the years ahead that much
— Michael L. Thompson, Copper Leaf Financial
The key is to make it a spot that is just as convenient as the countertop.
Do you normally pay bills at the dining room table? Perhaps the dining room buffet is the best place for your
paperwork. Do you empty your pockets of store receipts and place them on the nightstand? A dedicated table at the
end of the hall could hold a filing system. Find a centrally located spot you pass by more than once during your day
and start a habit of depositing the paperwork there.
Separate various types of tax-related documents for easy retrieval later. Look for file organizers at an office supply
store or create a system of your own using folders or binders you have. Dedicate a file to each type of receipt and
clearly label it. Some examples:
You can overcome some of the chaos with “financial decluttering,” says Michael L. Thompson, wealth advisor and
partner at Copper Leaf Financial in Williston, Vt.
“Begin by simplifying your overall financial life as much as possible,” advises Thompson. “Consolidate all those old
IRA accounts. Do you really need savings accounts at three banks? What about those old savings bonds in your safe
deposit box? Consolidate and simplify to make the years ahead that much easier.”
Instead of collecting store receipts, scan and store the images electronically. Make a notation on each receipt about
the deduction purpose and then scan the receipt to a dedicated flash drive or other storage method.
Or take a smartphone picture of the receipt; you might even want an app to help track your expenses.
MoneyTalksNews recently published a piece online on some of the best apps for this.
Just remember to keep backup copies of your receipts. In case of an audit, the IRS can request these documents
going back as much as many as six years.
Find a special place for key documents you need to preserve, but don’t have to deal with regularly. Things like: your
birth certificate; Social Security card; marriage and divorce decree; military discharge documents; real estate deeds;
insurance policies; beneficiary designations and wills and trusts.
Keep any certified documents in labeled envelopes and together in a fire-safe security lockbox at home, says Howard
Atlas, an elder law attorney and principal of the Atlas Law Group in New York. Make sure your spouse or significant
other, children, attorney and perhaps even your accountant knows where they are and how to get them.
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