Benjamin Franklin wrote, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Given those two choices, wouldn’t you rather discuss the IRS? Sure you would.

There’s nothing I can say that will make this fun or exciting, (as in, “Yay! I get to file my TAXES now!”) but I can offer suggestions to make the process a little less stressful.

Gathering the necessary documents should not feel like a scavenger hunt. Take action NOW to streamline the process once and for all.

You need a file folder. Label it: Current Year Tax Records. Voila! You’re done. Now, every time you get a donation receipt, a 1099-Div or a W-2, you have a place to put it. If your documentation is more than a standard folder can hold, get an accordion pleated one that expands to 3″ or 5″.

The same goes for documents you get electronically. Put them into an email file labeled, “Tax Documents”  or if you use Gmail, slap a “Tax Documents” label on them and hit “archive” and they’ll be there waiting patiently when you need them.

If you get a blank receipt for items you give to charity, make note of what you donated while it’s fresh in your mind. I wouldn’t remember what I donated on August 3rd if I didn’t list it right away.

I’m sorry, but it really is this simple. Hey, don’t roll your eyes at me, I’m the voice of experience! I prepare a tax return for me and hubby, and that return includes income property. I also prepare returns for each of our grown kiddos as well as for my elderly mom. On top of that, I must gather the appropriate paperwork so my accountant can prepare my corporate tax return.

If this system didn’t work, I’d be running around like that proverbial chicken with its head cut off. Instead, all returns will be filed before the end of March.

If you have your taxes professionally done, don’t be that person every accountant hates to see coming with your over-stuffed shoe box full of random pieces of crinkled, crumpled papers. As an added bonus, eliminate that hot mess and it might reduce the preparation fees. Nothing warms an accountant’s heart like an organized pile of tax prep papers; as a former accountant, you can trust me on that.

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