As the calendar dates begin to move ever closer to tax filing time, the anxiety may also begin to build. Most people do not eagerly anticipate the task of gathering their information for their taxes. For that reason, we have put together some steps that many of our clients have used that not only streamline the process for your tax preparer, but more importantly increase your efficiency and reduce the amount of stress associated with tax filing season.
Step One: Collect and Organize Tax Documents
Develop a filing system that works best for you. It could be a simple folder or a multi-file box. When you receive tax documents, place them in the filing system to keep them all in one place and avoid misplacing any of your tax information.
Tax forms typically come through the mail. Some issuers, however, are now offering the option to access your year-end tax forms online or via email. If you receive your forms electronically, you should set up a folder on your computer to gather and organize tax documents. This creates a similar system to the one discussed above for paper documents.
If you itemize deductions, you will need to gather additional documentation. The major categories of itemized deductions include:
- Medical Expenses
- Taxes – State Income Taxes/Sales Tax & Property Taxes
- Interest – Mortgage & Investment
- Charitable Contributions
- Investment Expenses
- Tax Preparer Fees
- Unreimbursed Business Expenses
Step Two: Read and Complete/Update the Tax Organizer
Stockman Kast Ryan + Co mails tax organizers to all of our tax clients during the month of January. If you are a client and we prepare your Form 1040, but you have not received a 2015 tax organizer, please contact your tax preparer and we will make sure that you receive a copy of the tax organizer. The organizer contains questions about current year taxable events, and it also lists the detail for income and expenses from the prior year tax return. Using the prior year tax return information is a great starting point to to see if anything was overlooked while collecting tax forms. We also suggest updating any information that is no longer applicable to your particular tax situation and using the questionnaire portion of the organizer to help identify any events during the year that would have tax implications.
Step Three: Deal with Missing Information as Soon as Possible
As you begin to collect tax documents and review the prior year information in the tax organizer, it is a good idea to develop a list of missing items. While you work on gathering the missing items, you should go ahead and schedule your tax appointment with our firm. It is better to do this early on because we can discuss any additional documentation that might be necessary for the current tax year and also determine if your tax return should be extended. Extending the tax return while waiting for missing items may provide peace of mind.
Step Four: Send Information Securely
In today’s world, criminals are finding new ways to steal a person’s personal information and eventually their identity. Tax forms contain personal information and should be transmitted with care when sent electronically. AT our firm, we have a secure email system that allows you to send us files securely. You can access this feature directly from our website, www.skrco.com, on the Contact tab here. Please feel free to ask your tax professional if you need help with this feature or to inquire about a client portal.
Step Five: Relax
By following the previous four steps, gathering your tax documents and submitting them to our firm will be less of a burden. Not only will you feel more organized, but your tax preparer will appreciate your effort!