I’ve come up with an easy strategy to take the pain out of doing our taxes. We have lots of accounts , but doing our taxes is actually relatively easy based on some simple organization techniques.
Replacing all the forms and data with one list makes the process quick and easy. Here’s how I organize our tax work from beginning to end.
Make a Master List. The easiest way to begin organizing for tax preparation is to pull out your return from last year. Look at all the companies, forms and statements that you reported on and make a list.
Here’s an example list from my taxes last year:
- W2 
- Interest 1099-INT 
- Dividends 1099-DIV
- Capital Gains
- Schedule C
- State Tax Refund
- IRA Distributions 1099-R
- Student Loan Interest Deduction
- Energy Credit
- Mortgage Interest
- State Taxes
- Real Estate Tax
- Investment Interest Expense
- Charitable Donations – Cash
- Charitable Donations – Goods
- 529 Contributions
For each line I list the companies or banks that I’m expecting a statement from. For example:
- Company 1
- Company 2
- Interest 1099-INT
- Bank 1
- Bank 2
- Bank 3
Adjust the master list. Add new companies and review the list for any companies you no longer have a need to report on. The first year you make the list it takes a little longer. Next year it will be fast, just pull out this year’s list and make adjustments.
I keep a running list of new companies and new strategies that will have tax consequences throughout the year; I can then quickly add them to the list at tax time.
Check off each company. As tax documents start arriving in the mail, check the company off on the list. It’s a quick way to see if you have all the documents needed to file.
Cross check numbers. I print one of the tax transaction spreadsheets from Microsoft Money. Review each form and cross-check the numbers with those on the spreadsheet. This helps to spot errors and get them resolved if needed.
Enter Data. Once I know I have all the forms and all the data is correct, I can quickly enter the information in TaxCut .