How to organise & sort out your tax paperwork

Article written by Peter Walsh from Realestate.com.au published 09 JUN 2017

“Tax filing time is not too far away. If those words alone make you start gasping for air, then I’ll make a bet your office filing system may need a bit of a boost.

Now’s the time to deal with getting your taxes organised. And, once you’ve started down this path, I guarantee next season won’t be nearly as stressful.

They’re inevitable – don’t stress!

I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t stress yourself out over taxes every day. A little anxiety immediately before they’re filed is normal though – right? You might not like them (does anyone?), but the bottom line is that taxes are just a part of life.

That said, however, getting angry or frustrated by them doesn’t have to be the case. A little preparation and a healthy dose of organisation will go a long way to helping you out. Also, in order to make tax preparation easier on yourself, you need to do two simple things:

  1. You must dedicate an area of your desk (or even a shoebox) to collecting anything that has to do with taxes.
  2. Go digital with your finances year round.

Make tax preparation easier

First, clear out an area of your desk that will now be solely dedicated to your taxes. This area might be a drawer or a brightly coloured folder at the front of a filing drawer. It could even be a shoebox that lives on the back corner of your desk or on a handy bookshelf.

All that you need at this point is a big catch-all area that’s easy to get to. Make a commitment to yourself year-round that as receipts and other tax-related items come in, you’ll throw them into that file or box. Keeping tax paperwork – large and small – together will save that last-minute scramble and feeling of being out of control.

Create a little order

Once tax season approaches, you can start digging through that file and organising it into separate piles. These piles will vary greatly depending on your certain circumstances, but some common groupings include things that have to do with regular income, work deductions, rates, health and insurance charges, anything to do with investments, etc.

At this point, it’s important to note that I’m a professional organiser and not a tax advisor or accountant or anything official like that. So my advice won’t catch everything that fits your particular situation.

Instead, I highly recommend consulting a taxation professional, financial planner or accountant who can help you with your taxes and give you advice best suited to your situation. Additionally, check out the website of the Australian Taxation Office – they have lots of very helpful information about tax returns, tax filing requirements and reporting responsibilities.

Order creates confidence

Okay, back to sorting out piles. One of the things people don’t realise is that the piles end up sort of sorting themselves out. It’ll be obvious that a receipt you have for a private medical insurance payment won’t go in the same pile as one for advertising costs on the investment property you own.

I’m pointing this out in case you’re new to doing this.… I want to give you some confidence that this doesn’t have to be an incredibly difficult job to do. Once these piles are done, and you’ve included all information required on your tax return, you’ll quickly be able to tally up anything needed to ensure you’ve completed the forms accurately.

Digital rules

Now, if you’re the one in charge of paying the bills, and you haven’t yet gone digital (with a personal finance computer program or app), I can’t stress enough how much you should consider doing that starting right now. Not only will it make the once-a-year tax process easier on yourself, it will also make paying regular bills much easier and less time consuming, too.

If you spend a small amount of time each month entering all of your bills into the system, the program will automatically generate fiscal year-end reports showing you where your money went (and where it came in from). Not only does this make tax filing a breeze but it also helps you assume more responsibility for your financial health and wellbeing.

These reports, plus a good filing system, are the keys to making sure you get the most benefits out of tax season and will prevent you from getting too overly stressed, resulting in saving you money and headache. That’s almost too good to be true.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but… Happy Tax Time.”

Ray White Drysdale recommends you speak with your accountant or Tax agent for your individual advice.

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