Doing your taxes can be a hassle. However, there are some simple ways to get yourself organized to avoid a last-minute scramble –  and some are even year-round, not just during tax season. Here are four ways to get all your ducks in a row.

By Caroline Mullen
Photo by The Wilde Project/Jay Wilde

1. Keep your paperwork organized

This one seems simple, but it sets you up for success in all the later steps of the process. There should be a designated place in your home year-round for all things tax-related. Whether it be a corner of the kitchen counter or a desk drawer, keep all receipts and documents together, that way when it comes time to submit them, they’ll all be in one place. If you want to take it one step further (which you totally should), you can keep yourself organized and cheerful with separate folders for different categories like receipts, invoices, government documents, etc. We love these and these.

2. Make a checklist of documents you need to collect

While everyone’s finances are different, here is a general list of documents you need to have on file when the new year rolls around (Pro tip: If you keep all your paperwork in one place all year, this will be a breeze!). 

  • Social Security Card
  • Bank account and routing numbers for a direct deposit/withdrawal
  • EFTPS information if you file electronically
  • List of previously paid taxes
  • Forms like a W-2, 1099, 1098, etc.
  • Charitable donation receipts
  • Contributions to tax deferred retirement accounts like a 401K
  • Child care costs: provider’s name, address, tax ID, and amount paid
  • Education costs: Form 1098-T, education expenses
  • Adoption costs: SSN of child; records of legal, medical and transportation costs
  • Investment interest expenses
  • Medical costs and receipts

3. Check your deductions

You may be surprised to find out how many things can result in a tax deduction come time to file. Buying a house, adopting a child, paying interest on a student loan or making charitable donations can all result in sizable tax deductions. It is super important to know which tax deductions you qualify for, so you don’t accidentally overpay in taxes. Check the full list straight from the source – the IRS.

4. Find an accountant or use an app

Getting yourself well and organized for tax season is one thing, processing the whole thing by yourself is another. While some people have the patience and confidence in their tax knowledge, there’s no shame in your leaving-it-to-a-professional game. You can either hire an accountant to do the dirty work for you, or download an app that guides you through the process. Luckily, we’ve rounded up a list of the most helpful apps to do your taxes!