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 to get motivated and stay organized this tax season.

See also: How to Help a Messy Person Get Organized

Tip 1. Break the work down into 10-minute intervals

Even when working with a tax professional, you may still be facing hours upon hours of organization—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.

To get organized for tax time, break 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.

Tip 2. Make a list

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.)

See also: Monthly Bookkeeping Checklist: An Easy Guide

Tip 3. 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, export to accounting programs 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.

Filing Taxes for Small Business Owners

Step-by-step guide on how to keep track of taxes for small businesses

By tracking your business expenses, you’ll make tax time a breeze. Many expenses can be deducted as write-offs, so keeping records of all your spending is important. By regularly tracking your expenses, you are more likely to not miss out on potential deductions. You’ll save money on your taxes if you file taxes using tracking software like Shoeboxed.

Use Shoeboxed to get organized for tax time.

To efficiently track and manage your business expenses for tax purposes, follow these seven steps: 

Step 1. Open a business bank account. 

According to the IRS, a separate business bank account makes it easy for you to manage expenses for operations and tax purposes. 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.

Step 2. Use an allocated business credit card. 

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. 

Step 3. Choose a suitable accounting method. 

The difference between cash and accrual accounting is when you record sales and purchases in your accounts. Cash accounting only recognizes revenue and expenses when money changes hands, while accrual accounting recognizes revenue and expenses when earned and bills (but does not always pay).

See also: 7 Small Business Accounting Tips: Simplicity Is The Key To Success

Step 4. Select the right accounting software to set up an automatic record-keeping and expense-tracking system.

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. 

Step 5. Digitize paper receipts with a receipt scanner.

For an old-style receipt management system, you need a pen, paper, and a calculator to record and total your expenses. Nowadays, with the development of technology, you can store those receipts in your computer with a simple scan and even get insight into your expenses with just a few clicks. A receipt scanning app such as Shoeboxed supports individuals and organizations with various receipt management tasks. One of Shoeboxed’s best features is the digital scanning of expense receipts, which helps you better keep track of your finances. 

See also: The Ultimate Receipt Organization & Management Resource

Step 6. Connect your bank account to your accounting software to import transactions. 

There are different levels of integration that a small business can achieve with its bank depending on the software it chooses. Businesses can get a copy of their credit card and bank statements and import them into their account from CSV files. Many accounting software packages offer a plug-in to let you access a bank’s data.

See also: How To Directly Export Any Expense Report From Your Shoeboxed Account

Step 7. Review and categorize your expenses regularly. 

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! 

Best eight tips to get organized for tax time

Tip 1. Make it easy and simple for your tax preparer to file your taxes. 

Tip 2. Use a digital expense tracker to save you time when preparing your taxes. 

Tip 3. Organize your paper records

Tip 4.  Issue W-2 and 1099 forms by the deadline.

Tip 5.  Take all of the deductions your business is eligible for

Tip 6. Use separate business cards for your business expenses.

Tip 7. File your taxes by the deadline

Tip 8. Spend time working through your taxes weekly and/or quarterly with your bookkeeper.

See also: When Uncle Sam Screws Up: What to Do if the IRS Lost Your Tax Return

On the topic of deducting business expenses: Can I deduct Business Expenses… Without Income?

Frequently asked questions about tax season and tax returns

How do you add expenses to a tax return? 

To lower your taxable income or receive a larger refund, you need to know if you’re entitled to deductions and credits and whether you should itemize on your income tax return.

To get the most money back on your tax return, make sure you know the following key takeaways: 

  1. Tax credits, deductions, and itemized income tax returns help reduce your taxable income or increase your refund.
  1. If you have taxes to pay, your tax credits will reduce the amount you owe by the same amount. Your deductions, on the other hand, reduce the amount of money you earn.
  1. You can use Form 1040 to find out your itemized deductions. This includes deductions for mortgage interest, medical expenses, and charitable contributions. In certain situations, if you take the bigger part of your itemized deductions or your standard deduction, your taxes will be lower.

Check out the below list of potential deductions to see if you qualify for any itemized deductions: 

  1. Business travel expenses
  2. Charitable donations
  3. Student loan interest
  4. Student loan cancellations and repayment assistance
  5. Tax treatment
  6. Loan payment suspension and forgiveness programs
  7. Casualty, disaster, or theft losses


How do you store tax documents for tax season? 

Everyone has a different tax situation. What works for some may not work for you. Consider our recommended tips below as a starting point, and modify them to suit your needs.

Tip 1. Separate personal and business records. 

Tip 2. Have an organized digital filing system for tax documents. 

Tip 3. Use a checklist for your tax situation. 

Tip 4. Know which documents you need to keep and for how long. 

See also: Tax Checklist 2022: What to Know, Do, & Prepare for Tax Filing Day


How long should I keep records for tax filing purposes?

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 rule, you’re advised to store records that support your reported income, deductions, or credits until the period of limitations for your tax return has expired.

We’ve covered this topic in detail here: 


What should I do with my records for non-tax purposes?

If your records are no longer needed for tax purposes, you must double-check to ensure the records are not useful for other purposes. For instance, your insurance company or creditors can request you maintain the tax records longer than the IRS.

According to the IRS, the period of limitations for the assessment of tax varies:

  • For assessing your tax liability, this period is generally three years from the date you filed your return. Filing before the due date is considered filed on the due date.
  • There are no limits to the period you can assess taxes when you file a fraudulent return or when you don’t file a return.
  • You will be taxed if you fail to report taxable income, which is more than 25% of your gross income on your return or is more than $5,000 and is attributable to foreign financial assets. The evaluation period is six years—several years from the date of submission of the return.

Type 1. Property records

Keep records of your property until the period of limitations for the year you dispose of it expires. You must keep records to determine your basis for computing gain or loss when you sell or dispose of the property.

Type 2. Healthcare insurance

Information about your healthcare insurance is essential for your documentation. If you are applying for the premium tax credit, you will need information about any prepayments you have received through the health insurance marketplace and the premiums you have paid.

Type 3. Business income and expenses

If you are in business, there is no prescribed accounting method that you must use. However, you must report your income and expenses in a way that is clear and accurate. Records should confirm your income and expenses. If you have employees, you must “keep all employment tax records for at least four years after the date that the tax becomes due or is paid, whichever is later” (Tax Act).


Which receipts do you keep for taxes?

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.

There are five important types of receipts that you should keep for tax purposes: 

  1. Medical expenses
  2. Childcare expenses
  3. Unreimbursed work-related expenses
  4. Self-employment expenses
  5. Other expenses


How do I keep track of tax write-offs?

Step 1. Keep a copy of your tax return in an accessible place.

Print out a copy of your tax return from the previous year, including the tax form and all tax schedules. Find the deductions you took on your return and circle them.

Step 2. Set up a special bank account for your business if you do freelance or contract work. 

Having a separate bank account for your business makes tracking your expenses and tax write-offs easier.

Step 3. Use a credit card whenever possible to pay for items you can write off on your taxes.

Choose a credit card that provides a detailed annual report of your spending in deductible categories, like office supplies, health care expenses, and office rent.

Step 4. Keep an envelope by your desk or at your computer. 

Save all your receipts in an envelope and enter them into a business accounting package or spreadsheet. Use this sheet to track your deductible expenses and plan your tax write-offs. You can also send all your physical receipts in an envelope and have someone else scan and verify your financial information. Shoeboxed offers the Magic Envelope service that comes with your annual subscription plan. With Shoeboxed’s Magic Envelope service, simply stuff your receipts, business cards, and other documents into a Magic Envelope and watch them automagically appear in your Shoeboxed account.

Magic Envelope. 

Shoeboxed offers the Magic Envelope service that comes with your annual subscription plan. With Shoeboxed’s Magic Envelopes service, simply stuff your receipts, business cards, and other documents into a Magic Envelope and watch them automagically appear in your Shoeboxed account.
Shoeboxed’s Magic Envelope
How to send a Magic Envelope with Shoeboxed app.

See also: The Beginner’s Guide to the Self-Employment Tax Form


Bonus infographic: Best 8 tips to get organized for tax time

Best 8 tips to get organized for tax time
Tip 1. Make it easy and simple for your tax preparer to file your taxes. 

Tip 2. Use a digital expense tracker to save you time when preparing your taxes. 

Tip 3. Organize your paper records. 

Tip 4.  Issue W-2 and 1099 forms by the deadline.

Tip 5.  Take all of the deductions your business is eligible for. 

Tip 6. Use separate business cards for your business’ expenses.

Tip 7. File your taxes by the deadline. 

Tip 8. Spend time working through your taxes every week.
Top 8 Tips To Get Organized For Tax Time.

Tip 1. Make it easy and simple for your tax preparer to file your taxes. 

Tip 2. Use a digital expense tracker to save you time when preparing your taxes. 

Tip 3. Organize your paper records

Tip 4.  Issue W-2 and 1099 forms by the deadline.

Tip 5.  Take all of the deductions your business is eligible for. 

Tip 6. Use separate business cards for your business’ expenses.

Tip 7. File your taxes by the deadline. 

Tip 8. Spend time working through your taxes every week. 

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In closing: Get organized for tax time to 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 step in filing taxes. Having everything organized will help you get all the eligible tax deductions and credits. 


Originally published March 25, 2013. Updated on August 19, 2022. 


About Shoeboxed!

Shoeboxed is a receipt scanning service that supports multiple methods for receipt capture: send, scan, upload, forward, and more!

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.

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