Taxes 101, Part 1: 3 Simple Tips to Make Tax Time Less Taxing

Nothing can eliminate completely the stress most taxpayers feel when dealing with the IRS. However, there are plenty of ways you can make tax time easier on yourself. The filing deadline for 2015 returns is April 18, 2016, instead of the usual April 15. Because of Patriots’ Day, residents of Maine and Massachusetts will have until April 19 to file.

The following practical tips can help you get a jump on tax-filing season and help ensure you meet the filing deadline with time to spare.

1. Start Early

One of the best ways to deal with tax season is to start your preparations early. If you wait until the last minute to do your taxes, you will always feel stressed and might not have enough time to address questions that might arise. You’ll also have time to find a qualified tax preparer to help you with any complex filing issues.

Most tax forms should have arrived in February. If you haven’t received an expected form, contact the issuer and ask for an update. Sometimes forms get lost in the mail, and you don’t want to be left scrambling at filing time. While you wait, use any pay stubs, receipts, account statements, or other backup documentation to run some preliminary numbers.

2. Designate a Safe Storage Space

Even if you get most of your tax documents electronically, chances are a few paper forms will be arriving in the mail. Whether you use something as simple as a large envelope or as elaborate as a filing cabinet, having a designated space for your tax documents is important. You will also want to store those documents after filing your taxes―the IRS recommends keeping records on file for three to seven years.

3. Scan Your Documents

Having your paper-based tax documents stored safely is important, but it is a good idea to have an electronic backup as well. Scanning your documents as you go is the best way to proceed, and it takes only a couple of seconds. If you don’t have a scanner at home, consider purchasing a low-cost model. It might not be a good idea to use a workplace or public scanner because of the potential for identity theft.

At home, set aside a folder on your hard drive (or online storage account) to hold your scanned documents, and then store the physical copies in the spot you designated earlier. When it’s time to file, you will have all the information you need at your fingertips.

Even the most elaborate preparation cannot make tax time fun, but these tips can make it less stressful. Bottom line: starting early, getting organized, and reaching out to a professional about complex issues can all help make tax time less taxing. If you would like an introduction to a tax resource from our trusted network, please let us know.

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The content of this letter does not constitute a tax or legal opinion. Always consult with a competent professional service provider for advice on tax or legal matters specific to your situation. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed in this content, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  

Published for the blog on March 27, 2016 by Searcy Financial Services, your Overland Park, Kansas Fee-Only Financial Planner and Investment Manager.