Tax season has officially arrived, and with it comes a great opportunity for entrepreneurs! Now I know I just used the words “tax” and “great” in the same sentence when they typically tend to be as far apart as you can get them, but tax season is actually the perfect time to start implementing green, environmentally friendly practices into your daily work routine. These five tips will help you get started.
1. Digitize as you work
I understand why only a few people have moved past keeping physical records. Digitization can take a lot of time, and old habits die hard. However, continuing to ask for, or printing out, physical copies of every important document and receipt can have a really negative affect on the environment. We already waste too much paper, so why add to the problem? As you begin to work on your returns, scan important documents (or use Shoeboxed) so that you can access the digital versions easily. In the following months, opt to receive electronic copies of bank statements, receipts, and other necessary records whenever possible.
Did you know that the IRS has been experimenting with eFiling since 1986? Even back then, most government agencies had recognized the need to modernize and eFiling was seen as a great way to help clear out storage space and use less paper. 28 years later, and eFiling is now the most popular way to file returns. Back in 2012, nearly 80% of all returns were filed electronically. According to accounting firm H&R Block, over 28,000 trees were saved during the 2011 tax season thanks to eFiling. If you haven’t started eFiling, this tax season is a great year to start. Federal eFiling is free and, though some states charge for eFiling, the fee is nominal and you really help the environment by going and staying digital.
3. Think before you print
A lot of people I know who work on their own taxes like having printouts of IRS regulations so they can keep them on the table and look at them whenever they need to. And, while that system works, it is a waste of paper. The IRS has made it easier than ever before to search through digital copies of instructions and forms, and a quick search is much more efficient than sorting through stacks of paper. Try using only digital copies of IRS rules and instructions – you’d be surprised at how much easier it is to hang onto these documents and share them with other entrepreneurs doing their taxes too.
4. Recycle whatever paper you use
No matter how green you go, it’s still tough to get through the tax season without using some paper. Maybe you have a notebook that you use to add receipts, or maybe you like having a stack of Post-It notes handy so you can quickly scrawl down form numbers or instructions. Whatever the case, you’ll inevitably use some paper, and that’s fine – just make sure you also remember to use that lovely little recycling bin next to your desk when you’re done.
5. Take advantage of ‘green’ tax credits
One great incentive to going digital for your taxes is that the government rewards people and businesses that are trying to go green. Though a few of the most popular green tax incentives expired in 2011, there are still plenty of tax breaks available to the environmentally conscious. One credit will cover 30% of new renewable energy systems installed in residential homes, and buying and installing certain Energy Star products can also net you a nice tax credit. Also, if you supported a qualified environmental charity, you can also deduct the donations made to them in 2013!
Going green with your taxes might seem difficult at first, but if you’ve been toying with trying to live a more environmentally conscious life, tax season is a great opportunity to do just that. Opt for electronic record keeping, eFile your returns, recycle whatever paper you do use, and don’t forget to claim whatever green-related tax breaks you can. Once you start changing the way you work, you’ll quickly find yourself changing the way you live.
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.