That’s right, if tax time is a dreaded occasion for you – largely because you equate the entire process with drowning in a shallow swimming pool – then you might benefit from some handy tips on how to stay on top of the tax process. It’s no harder to handle your taxes than it is to keep your refrigerator organized; it just takes a bit of practice at implementing the key steps. Here are nine that will keep you above water:
1. Clear off a large table to do the work. There’s nothing worse than trying to balance the inevitable sheaf of papers that arise out of the hours spent doing numerical calculations. By starting with a clear space, you can spread out without the worry of dropping an important document off the backside of the desk. Besides, with the closed-in feeling that accompanies doing one’s taxes, it’s nice to start off with an open space.
2. Calculate taxes by hand on paper for the first run-through. Whether or not you e-file, it’s a good idea to do the calculations the old fashioned way for the first run through, to see if everything makes sense. Pull out a calculator for assistance and accuracy.
3. Use a pencil. No matter how thorough you are, filling out your tax forms is a once a year event, and subject to errors. Nothing makes an error permanent quite like ink.
4. Make a folder in a filing cabinet dedicated to collecting the entire year’s statements. If a 1099 or other document doesn’t arrive on time, you can piece together the information you need from the year’s statements. Having them gathered and handily available is reassuring.
5. Save your previous year’s tax return as a reference. It’s wise to keep the prior seven year’s documents around should an audit occur. It’s even wiser still to reference the previous year’s numerical efforts to guide your thinking. In the closest prior year, accounts which may have been closed mid-year will be visible, reminding you to include numbers from those statements. Plus, it’s nice to have a sort of blueprint to follow as you wander the tax columns.
6. If you’re dead set against going old school with a pencil and paper, print out some TurboTax.com coupons and utilize the savings to get some computer specific tax documents working for you that will make your hand calculator work unnecessary.
7. Wrinkles come from furrowed brows, and to avoid those, take a five minute break every half hour when you’re working on your taxes. Stretch, get up, walk around, and circulate your blood. There’s little that’s worse than sitting still all day, flustered about filling out tax forms.
8. Start the day out with a hearty breakfast. Tax work is brain work, and brain work requires enormous amounts of fuel. Eat as if you were running a half marathon.
9. The simplest thing might be the hardest – don’t wait until April 14th to begin! Start as early as the proper forms arrive.
If you don’t want taxes to turn into your biggest nightmare since nearly failing swim class, follow these steps to reduce your chances of turning up with premature worry wrinkles!