The holidays are behind us, flu season is upon us, and we’re barreling head first towards that lovely time of the year where we attempt to make sense of and document the past year’s finances. Yes, tax season is coming. That means it’s time to break out that calculator, shoebox full of half illegible receipts, and dusty, overstuffed file folders – oh, and don’t forget a fresh bottle of Tylenol.
Growing up, I loathed tax time more than your average kid (heck, possible more than some adults) because my dad was an accountant meaning he was less than fun to be around at this time of the year. Every year he would swear that he wouldn’t “make it through”, and would even declare that “this year, I’ll have a heart attack for sure!” Lord, and my family wonders how I turned out so dramatic!
Okay, kidding aside, taxes are serious business; however, they do not have to put you in the hospital. Just follow a few simple rules to make surviving tax season a bit more manageable.
If you and your spouse prepare taxes jointly, then you both need to be aware of and willing to implement this advice. If you are the unlucky person tasked with the job then it actually makes life simper because there’s one less person to get in the way!
1.) Throughout the year, collect all your important tax documents (including receipts and notes) in one well organized folder (or folders). By having all of your documents in a central location, you are far less likely to waste the bulk of a day searching for a necessary document. Organizing your papers and receipts will maximize your time, improve your efficiency, and reduce your stress.
2.) Schedule a time to prepare your taxes in peace and quiet. Plan when you will work on your taxes; don’t leave it until the last minute or decide to do it at the spur of the moment. Don’t try to prepare your taxes in a high traffic area with lots of disturbances and distractions. Make sure that your family is aware of the day and time you’ll be working on your taxes and that being able to concentrate is vital. If your family can’t be expected to silently occupy themselves, have a family member or friend remove them from the house for the day. Once your family is out of the house, don’t slack off and watch television or do anything else distracting while preparing your taxes – concentrate!
3.) Mentally prepare for the event. Do not underestimate the stress that accompanies preparing your taxes. Unless you’re expecting a sizable refund, you’re probably dreading doing your taxes; it may help to give yourself a pep talk beforehand. For instance, “Kelli, you can knock out these taxes and score a big one for the fam!” Alright, it may sound kind of silly, but the key is to remain positive before and during tax preparation. You can also try motivating yourself with a little reward such as a glass of wine or a nice family dinner out once you finish. Here’s some motivation – remember, once they’re all done, you will not have to see W2s, 1099s, or any other horrible forms for another year!
4.) When you feel yourself getting tired or frustrated while completing your taxes, take a break. You may have set a goal for yourself to get your taxes completed by a certain day or time, but things come up, life happens, and you may not be able to meet your deadline. Give yourself a break – literally and figuratively. If it looks like your marathon tax session will have to be continued then so be it. It is better to revisit your taxes at a later time then to make a costly mistake because you were tired, frustrated, or rushing through them.
5.) Do not take your frustrations out on your family. Hello, Dad?! Rarely does preparing your taxes go smoothly. You will likely not have a particular document or you will come across a question you need to research further which will prevent you from getting your taxes completed as promptly as you would like. Even if you end up getting a refund, taxes are still frustrating – they can be difficult and so time consuming. Whatever the reason for your frustrations, do not take your stress out on those around you.
Hopefully these tax tips were insightful and helpful; however, if you are still feeling overwhelmed, do not hesitate to hire a professional accountant. Yes, you will have to spend money, but there is a chance he or she will find an error in your calculations or recognize an opportunity to save you money that you would have missed. Even if your accountant doesn’t find any errors or make you any extra money, he or she will save you time and aggravation.
Do not forget that there are FREE resources available to assist you with your tax preparation, like my favorite, Turbo Tax which allows you to file your Federal tax return for FREE. Click on the picture below to sign up and learn more.
H&R Block is another resource which allows you to file your tax return for FREE.
Consider checking out both FREE tax services to determine which is the best for you.