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Keep It Together at Tax Time: Organization Tips and Tools for Individual Filers

By Debbie Sanders, CPA

February 13, 2024

Tax time can be overwhelming, particularly with the various documents you need to gather. It is easy to lose track of what is essential. Whether you are looking at your business or your individual taxes, we strive to help you stay organized. In this article, we will be looking at some of the most common questions we get about individual tax filing preparation.

Stay organized and prepared by following some basic guidelines and best practices.

Essential Documents for Individual Filers

Here are the top three categories of items you should gather first:

  • All W-2s, 1099s, and other official IRS and FTB forms
  • A summary of your income and expenses from all business, farm, and rental properties
  • Any other items that were relevant for the previous tax year, such as charitable contributions and tuition payments

Call to mind all the most critical transactions throughout the year that affect your taxes — life events, dependent changes, property sales, purchases, etc.

Organize Electronically with TaxCaddy

For your convenience, we offer technology tools to make the start of the tax reporting process easy and convenient. These tools provide a customized list for each filer based on the prior year’s filing.

To better secure your information due to the prevalence of both identity and mail theft, we use TaxCaddy as a form of electronic organizer. This secure and convenient program allows you to upload pictures, digital files, and scanned copies of your tax documents.

If you are interested in using TaxCaddy for the first time, please go to Taxcaddy.com and create an account. We also recommend downloading the mobile app (available for Apple or Android) for added convenience on the go.

In the interest of document security, GC utilizes Tax Caddy versus delivering paper organizers to clients. If you wish to have an organizer mailed to you, please get in touch with us; our administrative staff will be happy to assist you.

Deliver and Connect Securely with SafeSend Returns

We deliver returns electronically via SafeSend Returns, with paper copies available upon request. Safe Send Returns allows for seamless electronic receipt of your tax returns. As part of the delivery process, you can connect to State and Federal tax sites and schedule electronic payments. Save your return during the electronic delivery/receipt process and access past returns anytime — no need to use a client portal.

If you prefer to meet in person, we would love to see you and discuss your documents together. Contact our office for an appointment.

Best Practices for Staying Organized

It might seem simple, but keeping a folder near where you collect your mail and adding anything related to your taxes in that folder is an easy first step you can take. We also recommend scanning documents into TaxCaddy as soon you receive them to stay organized every step of the way. This way, all your tax information is centralized before tax time.

By using QuickBooks to track income and expenses for your business, farm, or rental, you can stay on track throughout the year. Reconciling your bank accounts monthly catches any omissions and helps keep everything current.

For smaller businesses or rental properties, we recommend using Excel to monitor your income and expenses. Excel makes creating your financial summary effortless.

Can’t Find Your Documents?

It can happen to anyone. If you lose track of essential documents, remember that you can request W-2s from employers, and if needed, you can get your escrow closing statements from title companies. If you do not have all needed 1099s, they can be requested from issuers, including financial planners. One of the perks of using TaxCaddy is that 1099s from your brokerage accounts can be linked directly into your TaxCaddy organizer with a few simple steps.

By doing some year-end planning with us in November and December, you can estimate your income and have a sense of what your taxes will be before the year is done.

When Are Documents Due?    

Your W-2s and 1099s should be mailed to you by January 31st. As you gather your documents, please share them with your accountant right away to allow for early and good communication. If we prepare your tax return, plan to have your tax information to us no later than March 10th to ensure timely completion and filing.

Investment account 1099s often have revisions issued after January 31st. Don’t wait for these to arrive before bringing in your tax documents. If you have 70-80% of your tax documents ready, feel free to reach out to your accountant. We’ll factor in the additional documents as they arrive.

What About Filing Extensions?  

Filing an extension gives you extra time to pull your documents together without increasing your audit risk (contrary to popular belief). So don’t worry! If you need additional time due to business pressures or other life circumstances, filing an extension is completely acceptable.

If you know that you won’t be ready to file your return by April 15th, please communicate this to your accountant as soon as you can. An extension can be filed as early as February 1st.

Keep in mind that even if you file an extension, any taxes due with your return still need to be paid by the original deadline. To file an extension more accurately, send your accountant an estimate of your income so that they can more accurately calculate the taxes due at the original deadline. And remember to pay any first-quarter estimates for the upcoming year.

Changes in Your Business?

If you have a large business transaction on the horizon, be sure to get in touch. We’ll help you navigate before, during, and after the big decisions to make your life easier!

For any real estate transactions throughout the year, kindly forward this information to your accountant promptly upon sale. This ensures we can efficiently incorporate the details into your tax return preparation process and provide valuable insights into gains and potential tax implications.

When strategizing the launch of a new business, involve your accountant alongside your attorney in the planning phase. You may want assistance with entity selection considerations and identifying the tax opportunities and liabilities of various entities.

Get in Touch

If you’d like to learn more about how to be better prepared for tax time, we’re happy to help. Our team is here to give you the expert advice and the supportive service you need to make tax time a breeze. Contact us today.