The calls of panic are already starting to roll into SpaceMasters. . .
“I need help with creating a system for my files so I can do my taxes!”
“How long do I need to keep my tax records?”
“I need help sorting through receipts for business write-offs!”
“I’m tired of filling for an extension because I am not organized!”
“I am so overwhelmed, I don’t even know where to start!”
“This is the last year I am going to let this happen.”
First, the bad news: The clock is ticking down and April 18, 2011 (Federal Income Tax Due Date) will be here before you know it. But wait! Now for the good news: It is NEVER too late to create a system to make tax preparation easier with each passing year. So what can you do?
1. Be honest with yourself. If getting your financial records in order isn’t your strong point, then admit it and get help. Admitting that you need help and allowing the experts to do what they are best at is the first step in making your tax preparation less stressful and more efficient from year to year. Asking for help shouldn’t be embarrassing, it should be empowering. Fast forward to February 2012 . . . if all of your files were in order next year this time, would you still feel embarrassed? I doubt it.
2. Hire a trustworthy professional you like. Whether you hire a professional organizer to help you sort through your papers or use a bookkeeper to help you on the financial end, it is important to find someone that your personality clicks with AND that you can trust with your personal and financial information. Some important questions to ask when searching for a professional organizer and bookkeeper are:
- How many years of experience do you have?
- Do you use specific tools, resources or software with your clients?
- Is the company a single person or do they employ support staff that might be privy to my personal financial information?
- Does your support staff adhere to confidentiality agreements? Do they go through extensive background checks? How do I know that my personal information will be safe?
- Does your business carry liability insurance? A Dishonesty bond? Industry Certifications or Memberships?
Finding someone you are comfortable with and trust will make the task at hand more pleasant. It is okay to interview several professionals before you decide on one.
3. Realize that MAINTENANCE is the key. Just like you have to do maintenance on a vehicle, so you have to maintain any organizing system you create for your taxes. Can you buy a car today and expect to never have to change the oil, tires or take it in for a tune-up? Not if you want to have a vehicle that takes you the places you want to go. If you don’t put the time and money into properly maintaining your car, you will probably be found on the side of the road, broken down and left with a laundry list of damages and needed repairs. Many times we expect a organizing system to do the same for us. Make sure you build a maintenance plan into your tax records throughout the year so your system doesn’t come to April broken down and in need of serious repairs.
4. Know what to keep and what to shred. Before you throw out financial statements, records, or receipts, make sure you know what is needed and what is not. Most people operate from one extreme or another. Most of my clients when I first meet them keep EVERYTHING because they are afraid they might need it OR they don’t keep anything because they have either misplaced it or they just didn’t think they might need it down the road. Most professional organizers can help you determine what you need to keep and for how long. Don’t take any chances . . . if you are in the middle of an I.R.S. audit someday you will wish you would have taken the time to know what you need and don’t need. Also, in this day and age with identity theft on the rise, make sure that all of your personal and financial information that you no longer need is shredded. Never just tear it up in half and throw it in the garbage. It might seem like an extra step to shred but your information is too important not to protect.
5. Sort then Purchase then Place. One of the biggest mistakes people make when setting up an organizing system is to buy products before they know what they have left to organize. Always, always, always . . . sort first! Why? Because once you have weeded through the things that can be: Filed, Shredded or Archived, you will know how much space you need to set-up a proper system. Client after client, will show me a closet full of items at the beginning of an organizing job that they purchased at one time to organize something and then it didn’t fit the space they had envisioned or they outgrew it too soon. Let’s face it, even for the SpaceMaster, buying new products is a lot more fun and exciting than sorting through paper! Resist the urge to purchase anything or even put it away until everything pertaining to that category has been sorted through.
Bottom line: Don’t be embarrassed if you have let your financial files get out of hand. And, most of all don’t be embarrassed because you might need to ask for help! Having your financial records organized will help you itemize your deductions, help you save time and money (and quite possibly get some back from Uncle Sam) and will make life easier and less taxing if you put a system into place and maintain it. Now doesn’t that sound nice!
Have you been putting off getting organized? Mention this blog and receive 15% off on any organizing job now through March 31, 2011. Let SpaceMasters make it simple and easy for you! For assistance in mastering your home or business space, contact SpaceMasters at 818.232.7145, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us on the web at: http://www.thespacemasters.com.
SpaceMasters’ mission is to free people from the bonds of clutter and disorganization in a non-judgmental and caring way by offering a complete range of solutions, services and products that transform unorganized spaces into efficient, functional and enjoyable environments thus allowing them to reduce stress, be more productive and save valuable time and money.