Preparing your tax return can be chaotic, but it doesn’t have to be. Keeping important papers organized year-round can help you spend less time scouring your file cabinet and more time planning your Tax Day shopping spree (you know you’ve been browsing the sales).
Start with the mail. It’s easy to let the mail stack up, and somehow even easier for unread letters to make rounds through every room of the house and get lost. Since it’s not always possible or practical to deal with the mail as soon as you walk in the door, create a system for sorting the mail that works for you – it doesn’t matter when or where, but a consistent routine will help you stay on top of things.
Let your computer be your personal assistant. Although nothing can replace the original hard copies, having a digital version of your important papers can help streamline tasks like paying your cable bill online or filling out a credit card application. If you’re concerned about security, try storing your electronic copies on a password-protected thumb drive.
Pay attention to “life events.” Buying a new home or starting a new job can be exciting, but typically means more paperwork for you down the road. Document these life-changing events as they happen – stashing your notes and files in a binder or folder is a quick, inexpensive way to keep things in order.
Checklists aren’t just for tax season. Companies like TurboTax and H&R Block offer tax preparation checklists to help you get organized. Print a few of these lists and store them with your files to help keep track of where things are and what documents you still need to obtain.
Keep it up. Even if you don’t organize them immediately, try to keep your files in a central location to prevent you from ransacking the house when you actually need them.
How do you tackle paper clutter?