While there are many areas of your life that can get by sans organization, this time of year isn’t one of them—it’s time to get organized for tax time!
Without a strategic approach to completing your taxes, the entire process can get so overwhelming that you may feel inclined to throw in the towel and scrap the whole thing.
Since that’s not an option for most of us, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite ways on how to get motivated and stay organized this tax season.
Tip 1. Know your tax dates for the coming year.
When it comes to organizing tax documents and making sure you have all your tax related documents ready in time—the very first step is knowing which tax forms are due and when they’re due.
Here are the important dates to know for the current tax year:
- January 31: Send out W-2s and 1099s
- February 28: File 1099s and 1096
- March 15: Filing date for partnerships S corporations, and multimember LLCs
- April 1: File 1099s electronically
- April 15: Filing date for single-memeber LLCs, sole proprietors, and C corporations
- April 15: Due date for 1st estimated tax payment
- June 15: Due date for 2nd estimated tax payment
- September 3: Due date for 3rd estimated tax payment
- January 4: Due date for 4th and final estimated tax payment
Tip 2. Know what counts as a business expense and what are non-deductible.
Knowing which expenses can count as deductions and which are non-deductible is essential for business owners to be aware of and will smooth the tax preparation process considerably.
Here are some of the business deductibles you’ll want to keep tax documents for:
- ATM fees
- Travel fees
- Phone and internet fees while travelling
- Business insurance
- Health insurance premiums
- Mortgage interest
- Legal and professional fees
- Home office costs
- Office supplies
- Independent contractors
- Other taxes
- Educational fees
- Qualified business income
- Stamps and mailing costs
- Shipping costs
- Moving machinery and machine parts
- Storage unit operating expenses
- Stamps and postage fees
- Bank fees
- PO boxes
- Freight shipping
For more help on common tax deductions, read this guide on the 18 most commonly missed tax deductions by small businesses.
Tip 3. Make a highly detailed list of tax-filing related tasks.
For small business owners, a big part of what it means to get organized for tax time is attending to the dozens of moving parts that make up your taxes.
Creating an uber-specific list of what you need to do is a great way to make the project more manageable. Instead of listing “write-offs, income, expenses,” dig deeper:
“Travel write-offs from Phoenix: Check bank statements and Shoeboxed receipts, email Larry for a copy of receipt from dinner, don’t forget to include bellhop gratuity.”
With a specific list, half of your work is already done because you’ve created a strategic plan that will guide you as you go. And is there anything more satisfying than making a list and checking things off? (Ok, we’re organization geeks, we admit it.)
Tip 4. Export everything!
One of the easiest ways to get organized for tax time is to familiarize yourself with your cloud-based application’s export feature.
Whether you’re utilizing Shoeboxed, QuickBooks, Upwork, or PayPal, you can export the previous year’s activity to speed up the time it takes to do your taxes.
In your Shoeboxed account, you can select the “Export all” option to create a detailed Excel spreadsheet to create a bar graph or pie chart for budgeting or financial reports, can export the sheet to an accounting program like QuickBooks or Wave, and even create a PDF report with receipt images.
Exporting is half the tax battle! With a single click, you can cut down on hours of tallying time.
Tip 5. Use a digital expense tracker to save you time when preparing your taxes.
For small businesses, tracking business expenses with a paper journal is tedious, time-consuming, and can lead to errors. Expense-tracking apps have improved over the years by offering robust capabilities that allow businesses to keep tabs on how much they’re spending and where their money goes.
With an expense tracker app like Shoeboxed, you won’t miss another receipt or misplace your mileage log again.
Tip 6. Keep a Magic Envelope by your desk, in your purse, or on the dashboard of your car.
For anyone who wants a “stupid simple” tax organization method, simply send all your physical receipts in an envelope and have someone else scan and verify your financial information.
Shoeboxed offers a postage pre-paid Magic Envelope service where you can outsource receipt scanning to data verification experts.
With Shoeboxed’s Magic Envelope service, simply stuff your paper documents, receipts, business cards, and other documents into a Magic Envelope and watch them automatically appear in your Shoeboxed account. You can then give your tax preparer access to your account or add them as a sub-user so they can help you file your taxes.
What’s more—receipts uploaded to Shoeboxed are automatically assigned 1 of 15 common tax categories, which greatly simplifies tax paperwork for tax returns.
Tip 7. Use a separate business bank account and credit card for your business’ expenses.
According to the IRS, a separate business bank account makes it easy for you to organize and manage small business expenses for tax purposes. Additionally, business accounts are a good way to show that your business is legitimate because vendors will receive checks issued by your business. You can oversee your personal and business finances online using virtual banking software.
With a dedicated business credit card, the business can establish a credit history to receive financing (and optimal financing terms) when needed. Credit also allows the company to make big purchases when it’s just starting.
Tip 8. Spend time working through your taxes every week.
As a business owner, you need to stay on top of your business’s current and near-term financial health, of which frequent review of expenses and related metrics is a key part.
Check out this tutorial video on Tips and Tools for Tracking Deductible Business Expenses for Taxes from attorney Aiden Durham for more useful information!
Tip 9. Break the work down into 10-minute intervals.
Even when working with a tax preparer or accountant, you may still be facing hours upon hours of organizing tax documents—calculating finances, tallying expenses, and scouring bank statements for potentially lucrative write-offs.
No wonder people dread doing their taxes! It’s like finals weeks during undergrad and then some.
When it comes to organizing tax documents, we suggest breaking up the giant project into tiny, digestible chunks of time. Set the timer on your phone for no more than 10 minutes (or less if you’re unmotivated!) During that time, do as much as you can. If you end up staring at a big pile of receipts for 10 minutes, that counts (but wait for a second—throw those receipts in your Magic Envelope and be done with it!).
Chances are that you’ll end up doing more than 10 minutes. Getting started is the hardest part; once you’re in the zone, productivity will flow like Diet Coke in the break room.
Frequently asked questions about tax season and tax returns
The period of limitations is the period for adjusting your tax return to request a credit or refund or for the IRS to evaluate extra tax. As a simple record keeping rule, you’re advised to store receipts and records that support your reported income, deductions, or credits until the period of limitations for your tax return has expired.
1. Invoices (7 years)
2. Travel mileage logs (3 years)
3. Business cards (forever)
4. Service advertisements and listings (forever)
5. Project records (7 years)
6. Tax returns (3 years)
We’ve covered this topic in detail here: 7 Useful Documents Every Independent Contractor Should Keep
When you know which receipts to keep and which to throw away, you can optimize your tax refund while reducing the quantity of documentation you need to keep on hand each year for tax season. Also, keep in mind that digital copies of your tax-deductible expenses can serve as proof if the IRS ever comes knocking.
There are five important types of receipts and tax documents that you should keep for tax purposes:
• Medical expenses
• Childcare expenses
• Unreimbursed work-related expenses
• Self-employment expenses
• Other expenses
In closing: Geting organized for tax time will make your life easier
The ability to locate all of your tax records and receipts when it’s time to file your return is the most important steps for sane tax preparation and filing taxes. Having all your tax papers and tax documents organized will help you get all the eligible tax deductions and credits.
To summarize our article,
- Know your tax dates for the coming year.
- Refresh your memory on what counts as a business expense and what are non-deductible expenses.
- Make a highly detailed list of tax-filing related tasks.
- Export everything from your receipt management software or whatever accounting software you use.
- Use a digital expense tracker to save you time when preparing your taxes.
- Keep a Magic Envelope by your desk, in your purse, or on the dashboard of your car.
- Use a separate business bank account and credit card for your business’ expenses.
- Spend time working through your taxes every week.
- Break the work down into 10-minute intervals.
You can check out our tax checklist to help you out on this process. File taxes twice? No worries. We got you covered with our Filing Duplicate Tax Returns? Here’s What to Know and Do article.
Good luck, and you got this!
You can stuff your receipts into one of our Magic Envelopes (prepaid postage within the US). Use our receipt app (iPhone, iPad, and Android) to snap a picture while on the go. Auto-import receipts from Gmail. Or forward a receipt to your designated Shoeboxed email address.
Turn your receipts into data and deductibles with our expense reports that include IRS-accepted receipt images.
Join over 1 million businesses scanning & organizing receipts, creating expense reports, and more—with Shoeboxed.
Try Shoeboxed today!