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Tax Organization Tips: Products that Help You Keep Track

by Margot Carmichael Lester, Staples® Contributing Writer

Nobody likes thinking about taxes, which is why we put them off. But that mad dash to wrangle receipts and corral documentation is pretty painful in its own right. Doing a little bit of thinking about tax and filing organization now can save lots of time and anxiety later. Our tax organization tips can help.

“Financial matters and related paperwork are a major hassle and not something I like to deal with as it takes so much time,” says Pierre Zarokian, president of SEO firm Submit Express based in Burbank, CA. “Gathering end-of-the-year receipts and invoices to present to an accountant is very time consuming, especially since you may end up misplacing a few.”

That’s why it makes sense to invest time now to get set for tax-filing time. Begin by meeting with your accountant or financial advisor for advice.

“Have a discussion with your advisor on proper documentation and review business checklists to determine best practices for recordkeeping,” advises Cathy Goldsticker, a member of the tax services practice at Brown Smith Wallace in St. Louis, MO. “Tax returns, bank statements, payroll records and supporting documentation all have different retaining schedules.” (Learn more from the IRS.)

Then try these six office and tax organization tools to help you avoid a tax-time avalanche:

1. Track Key Tax Activities and Notes: Upgrade your planners to make sure you don’t miss any dates — and keep track of the to-do’s associated with tax time. Customizable notebooks, like the Arc Notebook System by Staples, enable you to easily schedule activities, make lists and store important papers (such as notes from that meeting with your CPA). Accessories like page flags, tab dividers and task pads also make it easy to quickly access your data later.

2. Scan Papers & Receipts: Scanners allow you to digitize receipts and important documents in your office or on the go. Smaller models, like the NeatDesk Scanner, are great to take on business trips or to conferences. And even larger flatbed models don’t take up much room in the office. “Instead of having a folder full of disorganized pieces of paper, you now have a record that’s searchable,” says Erik Asgeirsson, CEO of CPA2Biz, AICPA’s technology subsidiary, in New York. “That saves time when tax returns are prepared or if you’re ever called upon to justify expenses or deductions.”

3. Keep Electronic & Paper Records Together: Most small business owners have a mix of paper and electronic records, making filing organization a challenge. A notebook with built-in digital file storage, like Staples' Better® Binder with Removable USB Flash Drive, allows you to keep both kinds of records together in one place. Consider a binder for each month or quarter. Dual storage cuts down on the time you spend trying to reunite everything at tax time.

4. File Paper Documents: You need more than a binder if you have large amounts of documentation. Choose a filing organization system and storage unit that works for the volume of papers you have. For small businesses, a portable plastic storage box makes it easy to carry documents from office to home to the CPA’s office. For larger businesses, a filing cabinet dedicated to tax documents makes more sense.

5. Skip the Clip: Paper clips have a way of coming off or hooking onto other papers, ruining your careful organization. Instead, use a sturdy desktop stapler that can stand up to repeated use and can handle a lot of sheets. And of course, a good-looking option, like the Staples® One-Touch™ Executive stapler, makes things like taxes a little more enjoyable.

6. Dispose of Important Papers Properly: Shredders are important office organization tools that allow small business owners to dispose of important documents securely. “Too many creative technological thieves will steal passwords and other confidential information,” Goldsticker cautions. “In addition, businesses interacting with their clients’ funds through credit cards and other sources of payments must have best practices in place” to dispose of that information securely. And if you’re worried about aesthetics, quality shredders don’t have to be big and bulky. The sleek Staples Space-Saver 10-Sheet Cross-Cut Shredder fits in tight spaces and is available in a variety of colors for a limited time.

These home/office tax organization tips will help you get out from under a pile of papers and prevent you from running yourself ragged trying to gather your documentation.

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