How I got the tax return done and you can, too

It has been a couple of days and so much is going on and I’m still under the weather and tomorrow I am teaching and Spring Break has come and gone and we’ve gone from  shoveling snow on Monday to sunburned shoulders on Thursday, and oh the life!   It’s messy and full and sparked with grace, ah, each moment, a gift; gifts to give and to bless others in need, delivering Lenten dinner…and this too is Lent, in old German “Lenz” which means Spring, and spring cleaning (and thanks to Fly Lady no more spring cleaning needed here).  Anyway, that’s my happy rambling tonight.

So, let’s get back to the tax return.  You probably got yours done before Valentine’s Day and smartly invested the return already…?  I don’t know how you all do this, but I still received documents in the mail a couple of weeks ago.  We have a huge stack of papers and receipts that we need for our return.  For years we paid a CPA do the deed, it seemed just too complicated to do it ourselves.  Until we got on the Dave Ramsey plan, and I was determined to do everything myself (and, no, I do not cook up my own batch of tissue papers, Karen ;-)).  Turns out, that I can read tax return instructions and follow them!  It takes forever, but it can be done.  And this is how I’ve gotten organized in the past few years to make it easier now:

This is my little tax organizer.  It stays like this all year, because would you believe it: there are tax documents sent out at the end of May each year?  If you have an HSA, you’ll know what I mean.  And when those important docs fly in, I have a designated safe place to keep them until needed, about 10 months later.

Each folder is labeled with the type of documents that belong into each category, and the categories are taken directly from the online tax preparation software – in the exact order as they appear in the “interview.”

Initially, I taught myself to file a tax return the old-fashioned way, on paper, with a pencil and big, fat eraser close at hand.  That was a necessary first step to acquaint myself with the rules, credits, exemptions, limits, fees and fines.  Now, I simply complete the online tax interview and file electronically.

And when all the numbers have been checked and re-checked, I click “send return,” print out a hard-copy, save a copy on disk and stash all the papers in a large mailer – a previously used one, of course.

It is recommended to keep all tax documents for at least 3 years in case of an audit, and up to 7 years for business owners.  I like to keep them for decades -it’s a bit of my history in a way.  Places I’ve worked and seeing how much, or how little, money I’ve made and it was always more than enough.  It’s all a gift.

Here’s the bottom line to getting the taxes done, though: set a timer for 15 minutes and start getting the papers organized.  Add 15 more minutes a couple more times if needed, then take a break for 15 minutes.  You can also do 45-minute sesssions spread out over several days.  Simply start with the humble 15 – remember the journey of a 1000 miles begins with just one step.  You’ve one month to go: this year’s tax return deadline is April 18th!


About chefmomrd

Chef, Mom, Registered Dietitian
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