By Anna Johansson
It takes a specific passion to willfully choose to prepare taxes for a living. Most people don’t even like doing their own taxes. Chances are, if you’ve hired a CPA to help you out at tax time, they’re going to have clients who make their work problematic. And while your tax professional has chosen their profession knowing they’re going to encounter challenging clients, here are a few ways you can make their life easier and distinguish yourself as their ideal client:
Save your receipts and track your expenses differently
Most people think saving receipts for your tax person means haphazardly stuffing your receipts into a clasped envelope and letting them sort it all out. You can do it that way and watch them rip their hair out, or you can take a tiny bit of time to organize your receipts in a way that will get your taxes done quicker. And, if you pay your tax preparer by the hour, you’ll save money, too.
How to save and document receipts
Saving and documenting receipts sounds like a simple task, but the key to saving receipts is to never let those receipts collect beyond the day they were issued. Most receipts are printed on thermal paper, and their details rub off, smear, or fade.
Considering receipt print is already extremely small, it’s not easy to read fine print that has also been smeared. If you don’t want to read the fine print, your tax preparer doesn’t want to either. In fact, many tax preparers have a policy to reject unorganized collections of receipts. G. Scott Haislet works for a tax firm in Lafayette, CA and he says his firm has a strict policy to reject shoeboxes full of receipts because “it’s inefficient and involves mind-reading.”
To prevent yourself from wanting to rip your receipts to shreds and sacrifice your write-offs, at the end of each day, take your receipts and spread them out on the copier just a few at a time and make a copy. On the copy, next to each receipt, write down what the purchase was for. If you accidentally mixed personal with business purchases, simply highlight the line items that were a business purchase. File your original receipts in a box organized by month, and file your photocopy in a binder with monthly tabs.
Using your photocopied receipts on full pieces of paper, take the time to add up the expenses you plan to deduct and have that total available for your tax preparer. Remember, this is your job, not theirs.
When tax time comes, you can give your tax preparer the binder and they’ll be able to easily access and identify your expenses without having to use a magnifying glass and a secret decoder, and you may find they’ll ask you less questions.
Save and file your income documents
Depending on how large your business is, you may have quite a few income statements. These can include W2 forms, 1099 forms, and K-1 forms. These forms may be mailed to you at varying intervals, so it’s important to take care of them as soon as you receive them. Don’t just set them down in random piles around the office.
Get organized with binders
The simplest way to organize your tax paperwork is to get a 3-ring binder and file your income statements under a tab appropriately labeled. You can also create a tab for filing your monthly bank statements, which can be helpful in case you lose a receipt.
If your tax preparer has ever asked you to provide them with your monthly bank statements, you can be ahead of the game by making a habit of printing them out every month. There are only twelve months in a year so printing your monthly bank statements won’t take up too much valuable space in your binder.
Handle your incoming paperwork immediately
It’s easy to let paperwork pile up and procrastinate. Paper is everywhere. You probably get a ton of mail every day and most of it’s junk. Being a business owner can be demanding, so you may find yourself without time to go through and file your important paperwork. But if you don’t have time to do it now, you certainly won’t have time to do it next week when the pile has grown.
Letting paperwork pile up is the biggest mistake you can make and can lead to all kinds of problems. You may miss appointments, end up with unpaid bills, and cause yourself unnecessary stress.
Organization is the key to happiness
Just like your parents told you growing up, when you’re organized, you’re less likely to experience the pain and frustration of having to do things at the last minute. Come to your tax appointment as prepared as you can be. Your documentation doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be organized.
Anna Johansson is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant. A columnist for Entrepreneur.com, HuffingtonPost.com and more, Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.