Its June. Almost “properly” winter (depending on where you live at least).
It’s a time that gets half of us thinking “Wow, June already? Where has the year gone!?” and the other half saying things like “Crap! two weeks till tax time – where the hell is all my paperwork?”.
June is when most of us freak out, rush around, frantically do 9 months worth of filing and try & remember where we put the receipt for that laptop bag we bought before Christmas. Its a rush, a struggle, a frantic few weeks of messy paperwork and dis-organisation before the 30th rolls around. It’s normally the point at which we think “there has to be a better way” and “this is why I need to keep up with my filing!”.
At least – that’s what I find myself saying sometimes. As much as I’m an organised person, I do have bouts of chronic dis-organisation and keeping up the excitement of doing tax paperwork is not always top of my hit parade. To be honest, that’s actually me right now. A bit bored, a bit depressed about it and a bit totally over having to think about tax time.
But it does not have to be this way.
Getting yourself organised for EOFY is actually pretty easy.
All it takes is a bit of organisation NOW and then a little time every week to sort, scan & store documents & paperwork.
Honest to God. I Swear. That’s It.
Being organised well & truly before the fact is paramount if you want to stress less. Having to get receipts & paperwork and statements downloaded & printed at the eleventh hour is not ideal. Taking a shoe box of receipts for your accountant to sort through is also not going to keep you on their Christmas Card list. The best thing you can do is embrace our technological world and put some simple steps in place to ensure you have all your info at your fingertips when you need it. This helps to minimise stress, keep your records well maintained and ensures you won’t spend all of June next year doing the same thing.
Sort and File Daily
Every Day, as paperwork comes into your home, spend 2 minutes sorting through it. Open everything, action anything you can straight away (or store things to action later in a specific tray/location) recycle all the crap and file away what’s to keep.
Right There And Then.
Do not, under any circumstances, leave it on your kitchen bench (or desk, or hall table). Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
Download a Portable Scanner
There are plenty of different apps available that turn your phone into a portable scanner.
I use Genius Scanner, which is, well, genius!.
As important docs, mail or receipts come to my attention, I can scan, save to a PDF or JPG, annotate, sign forms and email off to wherever it needs to go. I can also save to Dropbox, Evernote, Google drive, iCloud etc.
Its an absolute time saver.
Setup Easy Digital Files
On your computer or cloud drive, set up simple, easy to see files for all your documents. Try not to create too many sub folders (for ease of saving from an app).
As you create a PDF from your phone, you can send it directly to the correct folder on your drive.
If you receive an email you need to keep, you can save directly to the chosen folder.
If you need to find anything, you can click into the folder you need and hey presto!
Create a Tax File Folder
Be sure to create one specific digital file called TAX FILE and include the current year (i.e TAX FILE: 2019/2020).
I have found this to be really handy. As paperwork comes in, you can save copies of things you know you need for your tax return directly to this file. This can include things like your Group Certificate, Investment Property breakdown statements etc.
If everything you KNOW you will need is already in a common file, it cuts down the need to search through everything. Once your tax has been completed, you can save a copy of your submission and any notifications here also in case you need to refer to them later.
Keep Paper Files Handy
Even in this digital age, we still have a load of paper files to store. Keep an easy and simple paper file system within easy reach so as you need to file things, or pull things out, you can. Remember you only need to keep tax documents for a specific period, so keeping your files up to date will ensure you are not overloaded with papers you don’t actually need.
I have used many different systems over the years, but the one that works best consists of 5 plastic storage boxes. They have clip on lids and are setup for use with suspension files. I have mine set out as such:
School things, medical stuff, activities etc
Properties, Shares etc
Current Files x 2
Everything else: vehicles, home info, gas bills, water bills, etc
At the end of each Fin. Year, I collect all the files I must keep, put them all in a folder and label with that year just gone (e.g 2017/2018 Fin Year). Then it gets put into the archived box with all the others. At this time I also TAKE OUT the oldest file of papers (which by now, I don’t need to legally keep) and destroy them.
Understand What You Need To Provide
Knowing exactly WHAT papers you need to provide to the Tax Department (or your agent) is super important.
Depending on your situation, what you own or invest in, this will be vastly different, so a good idea is to ask your agent for a list of documents (or, if you do your own tax, create your own from what you provided the previous year).
Having this list means you can do a quick check of all the items, grab copies from your digital or paper files and be able to provide them quickly.
Know What You Can Claim
Again, asking your agent or the tax department directly is the best way to go about this. You may be surprised about what you can claim back on your tax. This will also be vastly different from person to person so don’t assume!
Deal With What You Can
Not everyone loves filing and not everyone is organised but the good thing is that truly, doing a few small thing each week is going to make a huge difference when it comes to tax time next year.
Do the things you can do to simplify the process and I promise that in the long run, you will thank yourself that you did!
Just Be You, Everyday