Checklists Ease the Burden of Tax Season
Contributed by: Zane Angelopoulos, Staff Accountant
Now that we are several months removed from what many people consider the most stressful time of the year, let’s reflect on how your tax season could be easier. It’s not a surprise that a majority of Americans don’t enjoy doing their taxes. In fact, I would venture to guess that a solid percentage of the population would say they hate the process entirely.
Fortunately, tax season for the average American doesn’t have to be a stressful time. There are many ways to help ease and streamline the process. Knowing a few helpful hints may help when it’s time to start the process again next year.
Organize Your Documents
Many people dislike meeting with their accountants about their taxes. It seems they are always asking for documents you didn’t think you needed or forms that you can’t seem to locate right away. A useful organizational tip is to keep all of your documents in a folder. Keep this folder somewhere you can easily remember and locate. Store your documents and forms in this folder as you get them. The more consistently you can stay organized, the more likely you will be able to give your accountant all necessary documents at the first meeting.
Record Your Accountant’s Questions
It is not unusual for an accountant to ask their client about specific transactions, accounts, deductions, or credit opportunities. An accountant will ask these questions to attain the best possible outcome for your tax return. Keeping a record of your accountant’s questions is an excellent practice so you can remember these details year after year. Having notes on these questions can be useful as you prepare so that your accountant may not even have to ask in future years.
Create a Checklist
Checklists can be incredibly useful tools for staying organized and ahead of the curve. Creating an excel spreadsheet with the list of documents your accountant requires typically is a good start. The spreadsheet can even be printed out and kept with your document folder so that items can be checked off as they are added. If your accountant ever asks for a new document or form, write it in and add it to next year’s checklist. You can also have a check box for providing your accountant with the specific notes that are helpful from their usual questions.
Remember the Deadlines
The most important recommendation is to remember when your tax return is due to be filed. Staying on top of things at the beginning of tax season, rather than close to the deadline, will be highly beneficial and significantly reduce your stress. The earlier you can get everything to your accountant, the earlier your return can get filed. Many accounting firms won’t accept new clients when deadlines are close, so don’t risk being without an accountant or having to file a needless extension.
Following these steps can help you have a smoother and less stressful tax season year after year.