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New Year, New Habits: Personal Income Tax Papers

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I can't think of anything more tedious than preparing all of the paperwork for income tax time. To save myself from losing important paperwork (and my sanity) I use this system to keep all of my tax papers together and to be ... kind of ... prepared for tax time.

First, I keep them all in one designated container. I use an accordion file but you could even just use a shoe box, bag or whatever you have handy.

Second, I always keep this accordion file in the same spot.

Third, I keep this accordion file within hand's reach of where I would generally be dealing with any papers that might need to be saved for taxes. This could be your office, kitchen or wherever you generally open your mail.

Looking at your previous year's income tax is a great way to remind yourself of what papers you need to be keeping or you can also find many great resources online for your specific case.

Within my accordion file, I have twelve slots. I label each slot with a category and as soon as any paper comes into my hands that needs to be put aside for tax time I, immediately, put it in this accordion file. If I'm really in a rush I can just throw it in the front slot for now and file it by category later.

You'll want to label your slots to best suit your needs but here are some examples:

  • guides - tax guides, accountant info, deductions list

  • income - T4's, invoices for services

  • expenses - receipts

  • school fees - tuition

  • kids

  • medical

  • spouse

  • backup docs - papers that I'm not sure I need to keep or not or papers that I don't need to submit but do need to keep in case of audit

  • next year's docs - anything for the following year

Once tax time rolls around I remove one category at a time from its slot (except for the guides and backup docs) and keep each category together with a paperclip. I also take a look at my deductions list and print off any extra papers that I may need.

I put this new pile of papers into a large 8 x 11 envelope labelled i.e. "2019 Taxes", which I bring with me to my accountant. And I return the accordion file to its usual spot where I keep it.

Once my taxes have been submitted I bring home my "2019 Taxes" envelope and store it in a designated box which houses all of my large tax envelopes for the previous 7 years. As a new year is going into this box there is going to be one that is now older than 7 years old which can then be shredded.

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