#SWAAYthenarrative

Expert Tips to Get Your Life Organized in Time for Tax Season

Finance

Tax season can be daunting for anyone -- especially small business owners. The truth is that filing your taxes doesn't need to be stressful and the IRS is not the boogie man; a few organizational tricks and some pre-planning during the year can save filers a lot of time and make for smooth sailing come tax season.


Find a filing system that works for you

Receipts are your audit protection and it's important to keep them organized year round, regardless of the system you use. “While some may stuff receipts in old shoeboxes, scanning receipts at the end of the month and storing them on a computer is a great way to stay organized and decluttered. Organizing receipts by date and expense type can also help you avoid a panicked last minute tax rush. There are also apps that let you categorize your expenditure electronically, and if you want to take it one step further, you can create a separate bank account for your business transactions," says certified public accountant (CPA) and Taxfyle CEO, Richard Lavina.

Keep a separate bank account and a separate credit card for personal and business purposes.

“Maintain a log book to document your mileage and your business meals," says Sandra Eisele, principal with MBAF.

Make use of technology

If excel works for you, that is fine. “If not, consider using an accounting program such as QuickBooks. There are many apps available that let you scan and categorize receipts, log business miles, take notes, bill clients online, and so on. Consider now what you can do to make the process easier for next year," says Eisele.

Start getting your tax documents together early

This way you can chip away at what you need to gather, and you will have plenty time to get documents you are missing, says Eisele.

Be educated

“Read as much as possible about changes coming from the new administration. Lower tax rates may mean you want to defer income to 2017 if possible, or take the deductions available, such as expensing equipment purchases, in 2016," says Eisele.

Dig up every legitimate deduction you can think of

Include business gifts, meals and entertainment, home office deductions, cell phone, vehicle expenses for business use, equipment purchases, home internet cost, education cost and periodicals, and interest expense on business credit cards. Calculate both the standard and actual business mileage expense method to see which gives you the biggest deduction, suggests Eisele.

Consider contributing to a retirement plan such as SEP IRAs, Simple IRAs, or a Solo 401k.

Start to make monthly contributions to a plan if that would make it more manageable, says Eisele.

Mark important tax dates on your calendar

While April 18th is the biggest deadline this year, other important tax due dates are constantly changing and it's important to stay on top of them. “This year, small business owners should be aware that the deadline for C-Corporations (Form 1120) were pushed back a month from March 15 to April 15. Likewise, the due dates for Partnerships (Form 1120) and S-Corporations (Form 1120-S) were pushed forward from April 15 to March 15," says Lavina.

Don't be afraid to ask for help

Staying organized is only half of the battle. Come spring, everyone is looking for the highest possible tax refunds, but not everyone can be a expert. “Fortunately, it's never been easier to connect with tax professionals who know the ins and outs of tax law. Tools like Taxfyle offer affordable and convenient counsel from highly-skilled tax experts to help you reap the rewards of all of your hard work," says Lavina.

Folders, people, we need folders

You can label them with a pen but looking at a professional label gives each one weight and importance, so go ahead and invest in a label-maker. “Remember, this machine will come in handy when you want to identify your luggage from that of other travelers and sugar in a glass container from flour in the same glass container, so this tax season, treat yourself to a household of neatly identified items. For now, though, label your folders with, "Charitable Contributions" "Business Use Of Home & Car" "Business Travel" "Business Entertainment" "Casually, Disaster and Theft Loses." Now, it's time to head online to those credit card statements, scan each one with your eyes and print it when an expense will fit into the folders you've labeled. Highlight and tuck, highlight and tuck, highlight and tuck into the folders until you're good. You'll do the same with bank statements - your checkbook will help," says Brett Graff, The Home Economist a financial and lifestyle expert. You may this month have to invest a bit of time but the good news is you're ready for next year.

Tax season can be overwhelming and confusing

Thanks to technology, there are several smartphone apps that can help us stay organized. “IRS2Go delivers daily tax tips in easy to read English, you can also check the status of your refund, among other things. MileIQ is a convenient mileage tracker to easily record tax-deductible business travel. The app automatically detects your drives and logs the miles. Users can also create custom drive and vehicle categories and set drive times to work hours only. If you travel a lot for business, Expensify makes tracking expense reports easily by keeping note meals, and other tax deductible expenses. And, if you lost your receipt, Expensify can sync your credit card to pull up a list of purchases that can be categorized! “says Amy Rice, Gadget Expert for Gazelle.

Creative DIY Tips for Making Your Own Calendar

The current state of the world definitely affected us in many ways, it made us stay locked up in our homes away from all the social events and seemingly fun stuff. But the responsibilities didn't just vanish into thin air, they are still there, waiting to be organized and prepared. Times are super hectic and you are probably not in the mood to think about the foreseeable future, but there are ways to turn in into a fun time. Starting a journal or making a simple calendar can bring you peace, use that creative time to yourself and relax while doing it. Grab your colored pencils, stickers, scraps, and everything in between, your inner DIY queen is about to jump out!

Fill in the blank

So probably the easiest way to start when it comes to making your own calendar is by simply printing a blank template found online. This way you'll have a base, a blank canvas if you will. Take all the materials that you have in your house, like washi tapes, sticky notes, glittery colorful pens and anything you can think of that could work as a decoration on your calendar. And go at it! There are no rules when it comes to decorating, it's super personal and it can differ from person to person.

The only real advice you'll need is to leave some space while decorating, don't overdo it since it will clutter and distract you from the written parts. Finding the perfect template that will suit your aesthetic is extremely easy and fast, a simple google search could get you whatever you want and the best part is, it's free! There are many printable options out there, so don't worry about not finding something you'd like, the possibilities are endless and you'll find just the right calendar you imagined!

Start from scratch

If you don't have a printer at home or you're just determined to make the calendar yourself, there are awesome ways to make the best and most unique personalized calendar there is. This gives you the full freedom to do whatever you can think of, want to make a calendar from old newspapers, do it! Want to cut out a certain shape and disguise the calendar as an art piece in your kitchen, why not?

Nothing is stopping you when it comes to unleashing your creative side, use everything that you can get your hands on, think outside the box, don't be afraid to experiment. Making a calendar from scratch is an amazing opportunity to explore your artistic side, especially if you've been busy with work and responsibilities. This is a great excuse to do something creative, at the end of the day you are making it for the purpose of being more organized and having everything mapped out and planned. So make this time, the best time possible, be free and create!

Mix and match

Since there are absolutely no rules when making any diy project at home, what's stopping you from making the ultimate, super personal calendar! If you have basic knowledge in photoshop, you can even modify the blank calendars you got online, add pictures of your loved ones and family, maybe your pets or anything you like, and then print it out. Or you can print the blank template right away and add pictures or polaroids later on by using some washi tape.

Also, you can even paint over the printed blank calendar, this is a good option for those who aren't as skilled, so you'll have a base to start, just dip in your paintbrush in some acrylic or watercolor paints (or whatever you have around the house) and go for it. This is a great way to start doing artsy projects while still having some form of direction and help.

Have fun

Sure keeping your priorities at bay and making plans and notes for everything is important...but the heart of this project has to be your willingness to turn something as boring and blank as a calendar into something spectacular. This calendar should proudly be up on your kitchen wall, so loud and colorful it just draws your attention to it.

If the calendar is decorated, personalized, and fun to look at, maybe it will inspire you to look forward to some events or responsibilities even if you didn't feel like it in the first place. So be creative and free, there are no rules so just go at it. With everything that happened this year, try to be positive and find little joys in seemingly insignificant things like diy calendars!