Why does this seem to be such a difficult and onerous task? We had one client who simply could not get us the amount of her mortgage interest payment until the afternoon of October 15th one year – by which time our office was closed for tax season.
Don’t put yourself in that position next tax season. Start getting organized now!
Gathering information is easier than ever before. Most documents can be downloaded from the Cloud. The main thing you need to access it all is a free Adobe Acrobat reader®.
- Banks offer online statement copies – and perhaps even copies of cancelled checks and deposit records.
- All credit card companies provide online statements. Some even include categorized summaries of your purchases.
- Mortgage and loan data is all online, or can be recovered by calling the lender’s computer by phone.
- PayPal and most shopping cart applications allow you to export your receipts and payments in a variety of formats, including QuickBooks, so you can generate meaningful accounting reports.
- Brokerages and investment houses provide profit and loss reports that can be directly imported in a variety of tax software, via software like Gainskeeper. Or at least decent summaries or detail you can use in your tax return.
- Missing W-2s and 1099s? Just file an extension and get the printouts from the IRS in May. All you need is a Form 4506-T to get them all – free. Or, if your employers used large payroll services, you just might be able to log in and download the data. Many companies participate in the W-2 Express system. You might be able to find your W-2 there.
- Traveling a lot? You’ll find much of that information among your credit card statements. But if you use a particular travel site or sites regularly, you may be able to print out your purchases and itinerary for the year.
- Paying for tolls or travel passes regularly? Most state and local transportation and highway agencies have your records online. But download the information early in the year. They may not keep it on file past the end of March.
- When it comes to large charitable contributions to religious institutions, like tithing, they all send out annual statements summarizing your donations. If you don’t get one, it’s probably not online – so, for this, you will need to contact them.
- Remember to contact your doctors and/or pharmacies for printouts of payments to them. Your insurance company may also have records of costs they did not reimburse. This will save time sorting through all those medical receipts.
You can’t find critical data online or from third parties?
You’ll just have to resort to calling and collecting paper. Start with four things – your 2011 tax return, your 2012 check registers, your 2012 appointment calendar, and that box or drawer where you dumped miscellaneous receipts all year.
Looking at your last tax return helps identify routine sources of income and expense. Your 2012 appointment calendar can remind you about things you’ve done, places you’ve been, major purchases you made – or even about medical procedures you might have had.
Now it’s time to pore through your check register and that drawer or bag of receipts to see if you have receipts related to all the relevant expenses. Yes, this can take time. (Take a deep breath…slowly. Let it out. Repeat.) But if you do it now, you’ll be able to file your tax return early and grab that refund!