Get your taxes organized

Tuesday, March 08, 2011
By Tricia Stevens


It’s time to do your taxes but you don’t even know where to start. First thing you’ll want to do is get organized. “Eliminating unnecessary paperwork and storing tax files in one organized, secure place is vital to a stress-free tax filing process,” says Rebecca Smith, Vice President, Marketing for Master Lock. “By creating and maintaining a master storage system, individuals can not only ease the tax filing process, but also enjoy a feeling of preparedness year-round.”

Purge the paperwork
Clear the clutter. Go through all paperwork and eliminate what you no longer need. Shred identifying documents to protect against identity theft. Get rid of expired warranties and year-old receipts and bank statements.

Safely store crucial records
Designate a specific storage space for important documents such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, passports, wills, and social security cards. These items, as well as any important memorabilia, should be stored in a locked, fire retardant box such as Master Lock’s 7142D storage box.

Create a tax file
Create a separate file for all of your tax documents. Use a customizable, portable filing solution such as Master Lock’s 7148D storage box for simple that you can easily transport to meet with your tax adviser. Organize this file into 10 categories: income (pay stubs, W-2s, interest statements), medical (medical expenses and health insurance out-of-pocket), donations (cash and non-cash donations), real estate (interest statements from mortgage, tax assessments), child care (payment receipts), tax correspondence (important IRS or state revenue service letters), student loans (statements of payment), miscellaneous receipts (any receipts that might be needed for deductions), payments (records of advance payments) and old tax papers (old tax returns). Continue to use your tax file year-round, and you won’t have to scramble for these documents when it comes time to file next year.

Back up everything
Make digital copies of important documents and store them in your fireproof box on a zip or thumb drive. Use a secure online organization and security solution, such as the Master Lock Vault to store log-in and password information for bank accounts and credit cards as well as lock combinations or key numbers to your file boxes. Consider appointing a guardian as an additional security measure who knows where and how your records are stored for easy access in your absence.

Make it a tradition
Select a specific time of year (perhaps when tax time rolls around again) and make your review of these records an annual occurrence. This will ensure your information is streamlined and up-to-date and that finding or organizing this information is never an overwhelming process again.

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