How to Best Prepare for Tax Season

Stasia Steele  The Little Details

This time of year can be particularly taxing – make it easier with some of these helpful tax tips:

Dig up all of your receipts. Whether it’s a business transaction, major purchase, charitable contribution or other notable transaction, these receipts could lead to deductions. Here’s a list of tax deductions for you to reference.

• Some of these transactions may have occurred online, so remember to search for receipts in your email.
• For receipts that are not online, consider scanning them onto your computer to minimize the risk of losing them or having the ink fade away. Make a note on the receipt so you know exactly what type of expense it was. Store them in the cloud in case your computer crashes and you no longer have access to your files.

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Do you qualify for a Home Office Tax Deduction?

Can’t you just feel the excitement in the air?  The season is upon us…TAX SEASON that is.  It’s that time of year when weary eyes abound and refrains of “where did I put that?” can be heard uttered through out the land. Most of us are fortunate in that we can hand over documents and information to a qualified accountant (who mysteriously understands the language spoken by the IRS) and thus magically transforms it all into a completed IRS tax return.  I certainly am not a qualified accountant…I am not even an unqualified accountant.  But I am an office organizer who specializes in home offices and in my travels I hear a lot of confusion about this issue…so I sought out advice from tax expert and CPA Marietta Z. Courtney who helped me understand the “home office” tax deduction…explained simply.

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What is the Cost of Ownership of Your Stuff?

September brings colder nights, and soon we’ll be turning on the heat.  My family received the depressing news from our plumber that our furnace should be replaced this year or next.  Oh, the joys of home ownership.  What about the joys and cost of owning any item?

Do you agree that it’s easy to accumulate belongings, especially if you have children?  Things, stuff, and junk seem to multiply at a very rapid rate.  Have you ever asked yourself what is the cost of owning all these things, all this stuff, all the junk?  Just like home ownership, I bet it’s not always pleasant to own things.  In fact, just like home ownership, it can be costly.

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Gifts for the Teacher: Are you just spending money on clutter?

There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just come straight out with it.

Many teacher gifts that I’ve received during past holidays have gone straight into my clutter-busting “To Donate” box My kitchen cabinet only has enough room for so many mugs.  I’ve got more scarves than any one person needs.  And my husband doesn’t like the smell of most candles.  So I pass them all along to someone else who I’m sure will use them and enjoy them.

I appreciate the thoughts and feelings behind the gifts.  I really do.  But I feel sad that people have spent money on something that I won’t be using.

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Jump start your tax preparation

At this time of year when taxes are due it always makes sense to review what changes we can implement to make the process easier for the upcoming year.  With the 2011 tax season drawing to a close you may want to review your paper system for 2012.  Were there documents you searched for?  Did you spend extra time compiling numbers you needed?  Here are a few tips to help you:

-Whether you use a hanging file with interior folders, a divided tote or a binder with pockets, you should have one place where all your tax related paperwork goes throughout the year.  Keep the paperwork somewhat accessible so you can add documents as they arrive.  Leaving tax-related paper out to be filed at a later time can result in the documents never making it to the storage area.

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Add Organizing Sessions To Your Gift Registry

After helping some recently engaged friends move into a new apartment together the bride to be let out a big sigh, looked at me and said, “We need to register for your services!”  My response was, “what a great idea!”

Merging households is by far one of the biggest life transitions a person will experience.  Finding techniques to handle the stuff in our world takes time and reevaluation regularly.  Unfortunately, there is no magic wand that will determine the perfect system for you and your mate.  Trial and error will enable you to learn about your work style, your mate’s work style and how to merge them.

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Coupons: Don’t Go Crazy!

Have you seen the television show on TLC called “Extreme Couponing“?  The show follows people who use massive quantities of coupons to get rediculous volumes of products.  Honestly, is it necessary to keep 100+ tubes of toothpaste in your home at one time?  I do give these people credit for the time and effort put into the planning of their shopping trips, but you have to consider what you will do with the product when you get it home.  Some of the featured couponers (I think I may be coining a new term here!) have created storage systems in their basements or garages.  Others have taken over their homes with excessive product.  I am all for saving money with the use of coupons, but I have to draw the line when the volume being purchased is frivilous.

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Tips for Filing Your Taxes

No, I can’t offer many tips for making sense out of your 1040, but I can help you with coming up with a system for keeping your tax-related paperwork organized.

What you’ll need:

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Re-purposing: Those Hidden Gems in your Kitchen

My mom taught me how to re-purpose before it was fashionable.  Below are tips and tricks to help you re-purpose and save money.  By the way, I still use these tips and tricks to this day…

1.  Peanut butter and jam jars– are great for storing legumes and pasta.  To get rid of the label- fill a pot with water, put jar in the middle.  Heat the water but be careful it doesn’t get too hot otherwise the jar may crack. Watch as the water heats up, you will notice the paper and glue begin to melt.  Take the jar out and pull the label off.    Clean jar with soapy water to remove paper and glue.  Viola!  You have a ‘new’ jar!

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How to Spend Less on Gifts but Make Sure You Give Them What They Want

Are you looking for a way to simplify and save money when giving gifts?

Last year, we tried something new with my husband’s side of the family.  Because finances were tight for all of us, we all agreed to buy just one gift for someone else in the family. We drew names (and it couldn’t be our significant other) and set a price limit.   But – and this is the beauty part – everyone had to fill out a wishlist on Amazon.com.  That way we could each be sure that what we were giving (and receiving) was something “good.”

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