Top 5 Tips To Help You Deal With Paper

organize office and deskOne of the biggest organizing challenges for most people, at least those who hire us, is with paperwork. After doing this kind of work for 10 years, it seems that the common denominator is that most people don’t know what to do with paper. They don’t know where or how to file it or how long to keep it. As a result, people keep paperwork much longer than they need to. Then, when they run out of space, the overflow winds up in piles, in bags or boxes. 

 

The IRS has a paper retention guideline that you can use if you’re not sure whether you need a document or not. Here’s the link to their website: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/how-long-should-i-keep-records

 

The truth is, there’s only so many options when it comes to handling paper, “the right way”.  A filing system doesn’t need to be complicated.  It just needs to work for you. There is no right or wrong way. 

So, here’s a few tips to keep your paperwork under control and, hopefully organized. Disclaimer: These are a few examples-not a comprehensive list.

 

  1. TOSS:
  • Anything you don’t want or need
    • Solicitations, flyers, catalogues

 

  1. SHRED:
  • Documents that have your personal information (ie, an account number, birthdate, social security number, driver’s license number) 
    • Note: Your address does not count as that is available to the public
  • All credit card offers
  • Applications
  • Expired credit cards
  • Old checks from closed accounts

 

  1. ARCHIVE:
  • Anything that you need but don’t need access to currently
    • Old tax returns
    • Legal files that are closed/settled (ie, Divorce records)
    • Documents that pertain to the purchase or sale of property

Please refer to the link above to determine how long these documents need to be kept

 

  1. SCAN:
  • If you’re attempting to go paperless make sure you have a system so that you can find these documents when you need them
    • A good rule of thumb is to have your scanned documents filed on your computer the same way they are filed (labeled) in your physical file

 

     5.  SET UP ACTION FILES:

    • To Do: Papers that you need to make a call about. It could be a bill you’re disputing
    • To Pay: Bills that need to be paid
    • To Read: Articles of interest
    • Events: Tickets or invites
    • Follow up: Items that you are waiting for. For example, you already made a call and spoke to someone about an issue with a bill and now you’re waiting for a response.

 If you need some help, please give us a call.  We will help you implement a system tailored to your specific needs.

Tax Time Tips

  1. Gather all of your important papers in one place.
    • I use a bankers box for each year.  That way, when I can get rid of the papers for that year, which according to my CPA is 4 years, I can shred everything without going through it again.
    • Make sure to label the box (ie, 2019 Tax Documents) on all 4 sides so it’s easily identifiable
  1. Take out anything that is tax deductible to prepare your taxes. This information will be what you or your CPA uses to prepare your returns.  This varies depending on whether your filing as an individual or on behalf of a business.  Here’s a list of some items you’ll need:

Personal Information

Tax Identification Numbers are mandatory items on your tax prep checklist. All taxpayers will need the following information.

  •  Your social security number or tax ID number
  •  Your spouse’s full name and social security number or tax ID number

Dependent(s) Information

Parents and caregivers should gather this information as they review what they need to file their taxes.

  •  Dates of birth and social security numbers or tax ID numbers
  •  Childcare records (including the provider’s tax ID number) if applicable
  •  Income of other adults in your home
  •  Form 8332 showing that the child’s custodial parent is releasing their right to claim a child to you, the noncustodial parent (if applicable)

Sources of Income

Many of these forms won’t apply every year. For example, you will only receive the investment forms you may need to file your taxes if you had distributions or other activity.

  • Employed
    •  Forms W-2
  • Unemployed
    •  Unemployment, state tax refund (1099-G)
  • Self-Employed
    •  Forms 1099, Schedules K-1, income records to verify amounts not reported on 1099s
    •  Records of all expenses — check registers or credit card statements, and receipts
    •  Business-use asset information (cost, date placed in service, etc.) for depreciation
    •  Office in home information, if applicable
    •  Record of estimated tax payments made (Form 1040–ES)
  • Rental Income
    •  Records of income and expenses
    •  Rental asset information (cost, date placed in service, etc.) for depreciation
    •  Record of estimated tax payments made (Form 1040–ES)
  • Retirement Income
    •  Pension/IRA/annuity income (1099-R)
    •  Traditional IRA basis (i.e., amounts you contributed to the IRA that were already taxed)
    •  Social security/RRB income (1099-SSA, RRB-1099)
  • Savings & Investments or Dividends
    •  Interest, dividend income (1099-INT, 1099-OID, 1099-DIV)
    •  Income from sales of stock or other property (1099-B, 1099-S)
    •  Dates of acquisition and records of your cost or other basis in property you sold (if basis is not reported on 1099-B)
    •  Health Savings Account and long-term care reimbursements (1099-SA or 1099-LTC)
    •  Expenses related to your investments
    •  Record of estimated tax payments made (Form 1040–ES)
    •  Transactions involving cryptocurrency (Virtual currency)
  • Other Income & Losses
    •  Gambling income (W-2G or records showing income, as well as expense records)
    •  Jury duty records
    •  Hobby income and expenses
    •  Prizes and awards
    •  Trusts
    •  Royalty Income 1099–Misc.
    •  Any other 1099s received
    •  Record of alimony paid/received with ex-spouse’s name and SSN

Types of Deductions

The types of deductions you can take depend a lot on your life situation. It’s likely you won’t need all of the records listed below for your tax documents checklist.

  • Home Ownership
    •  Forms 1098 or other mortgage interest statements
    •  Real estate and personal property tax records
    •  Receipts for energy-saving home improvements (e.g., solar panels, solar water heater)
    •  All other 1098 series forms
  • Charitable Donations
    •  Cash amounts donated to houses of worship, schools, other charitable organizations
    •  Records of non-cash charitable donations
    •  Amounts of miles driven for charitable or medical purposes
  • Medical Expenses
    •  Amounts paid for healthcare insurance and to doctors, dentists, hospitals
  • Health Insurance
    •  Form 1095-A if you enrolled in an insurance plan through the Marketplace (Exchange)
  • Childcare Expenses
    •  Fees paid to a licensed day care center or family day care for care of an infant or preschooler
    •  Wages paid to a baby-sitter
      Don’t include expenses paid through a flexible spending account at work
  • Educational Expenses
    •  Forms 1098-T from educational institutions
    •  Receipts that itemize qualified educational expenses
    •  Records of any scholarships or fellowships you received
    •  Form 1098-E if you paid student loan interest
  • K-12 Educator Expenses
    •  Receipts for classroom expenses (for educators in grades K-12)
  • State & Local Taxes
    •  Amount of state/local income tax paid (other than wage withholding), or amount of state and local sales tax paid
    •  Invoice showing amount of vehicle sales tax paid
  • Retirement & Other Savings
    •  Form 5498-SA showing HSA contributions
    •  Form 5498 showing IRA contributions
    •  All other 5498 series forms (5498-QA, 5498-ESA)
  • Federally Declared Disaster
    •  City/county you lived/worked/had property in
    •  Records to support property losses (appraisal, clean up costs, etc.)
    •  Records of rebuilding/repair costs
    •  Insurance reimbursements/claims to be paid
    •  FEMA assistance information
    •  Check FEMA site to see if my county has been declared a federal disaster area
  1. Keep your tax return together with the backup documentation for 7 years. That means 7 years from the date of filing.   Keep in mind that we file the year after so if you file late, in October, then keep your records for 7 years from that date (ie., if you file October 2020 for the year 2019, keep your records until October 2027.

**NOTE:  NEVER throw out the actual “tax returns” unless you are already collecting Social Security.   Even though your CPA may advise you to keep your records for 4 or 7 years, PLEASE keep your tax returns. Why?  Because when you are ready to collect Social Security, the only proof you’ll have is your tax returns.  If there is a discrepancy in the amount that you’ll be receiving, the burden of proof is yours.  The Social Security Administration, The IRS and The FTB are NOT responsible to keep or have your information.  You are!   Therefore, IMO, better safe than sorry

Organizing For The Holidays

It’s that time of year again. Damn…that happened quickly. Seems like every year the holidays come quicker and quicker. 

 

Basically, the New Year is literally days from now.  As we wind down for the holiday season, there’s no better time to get “better” organized and start the new year out on the right foot. 

 

Here’s some things to do between now and the end of the year to be “better” organized.

 

  1. Go through your holiday décor:
    • Make sure that what you do have is in good shape
      • Get rid of anything that isn’t

 

  1. If you’re planning on having company over:
    • Go through the guest room to make sure your guests have room
      • Make sure that they have what they need to make their stay comfortable
        • Wifi Access Code
        • Clean sheets/towels

 

  1. Plan ahead:
    • Figure out some interesting and fun activities to do with your guests
        • Give them options
        • Make reservations
    • Ask what they like to eat, drink and snack on
        • Get those items in the house before they arrive

 

  1. Get the house ready:
    • Make sure your home is comfortable for you and your guests
      • Do some decluttering and cleaning
      • Get some flowers or scented candles

      Relax and enjoy

    • Take time to enjoy the holiday and your company
      • You deserve it!

Be Organized for Life’s Transitions (Part II)

There are so many of life’s transitions that we will go through at one point in our lives or another. Some good, some not so good. But, I think what we can all agree upon is that change is going to happen and when it does, its going to be challenging, Even though change is one of the constant things that we can count in in this life, most of us are a bit resistant, especially in the beginning, to roll with it. 

call ocd I have found that one way to deal with the stress and anxiety of change is to prepare and be ready, as much as possible, whenever possible. Being organized is key when dealing with transition/change!  

 I’m going to address the most common transitions that most people will encounter in their lives where being organizing will be extremely beneficial.

September’s newsletter addressed the issues surrounding moving. This one will address the other top common transitions:

 

Getting Married: There are so many things to do if you’re getting married and planning a wedding. Being organized will make the difference between having fun or being stressed out while planning what should be the best (or at least one of the best) days in your life.

For starters, keeping a list and/or calendar as to when certain things need to be done will be a godsend. There are many, many things to do and there are thousands of books that can guide you through planning a wedding. Check out www.zola.com for a free comprehensive checklist. In the meantime, here are a few things to consider…

Know when to:

  • Reserve a location
  • Send out invitations or save the date cards
  • Start shopping for your dress/suit
  • Wardrobe for your wedding party
  • Reserve a block of rooms at a local hotel for out-of-town guests
  • Interview service vendors
  • florists, dj, band, photographer, videographer, caterer
  • Hire someone to officiate

Getting Divorced: While not so much fun, being organized before the s**t hits the fan would be in your best interest.   Having your paperwork accessible will be critical. Being able to complete paperwork for the court or your attorneys on your own will save you a lot of time and money.

Make sure you have access to your:

  • Financial records:
  • tax returns, investments, bank account info
  • Estate planning documents:
  • will, trust, power of attorney and health care directives
  • Insurance information:
  • life insurance, long term care, health, homeowners, auto
  • Pre-nup/Post-Nup Agreement (if you have one)
  • Property documents:
  • Mortgage, Home Equity Line of Credit if there is one, Deed/Title

 Having Children: What a blessing! But, if you’re not prepared/organized it can be quite difficult and stressful.  From the time they’re born til the time they move out (and sometimes beyond that) there’s always something going on.  Crazy schedules are the norm and making sure that nothing is forgotten is enough to overwhelm anyone.

One way to keep it together and keep up is to use an on-line calendar or app that your family has access to so that everyone can always be in the know. Check out this link for the top 10 calendaring apps for families: https://famisafe.wondershare.com › family › best-calendar-apps-for-families

The following is a list of a few things for you to consider adding to your calendar to make sure you stay on track:

  • Appointments:
  • school activities, social activities, doctor appointments
  • Keep a “To Do” list of important things to do:
  • Prioritize your “To Do’s”
  • Do something every day to stay on top of your chores/errands:
  • One day do a load of laundry, one day food shopping, one day pay the bills, pick up the dry cleaning, etc.

Dealing with Death: Losing a loved one is difficult enough. There’s going to be a lot to do and the more information you have at your fingertips, the easier it will be. Have these difficult conversations before it’s too late. 

Ask your parents, spouse, in-laws, where they keep:

  • Important documents
  • Passwords
  • Keys:
  • house, car, safety deposit box
  • Money:
  • which bank(s)
  • Contact info for their:
  • Lawyers, CPA’s, close friends and family)

While you’re at it, do yourself a favor and get your paperwork together and let your loved ones know where they are!

 I repeat, organization is key.   Being organized will make everything so much easier to deal with.  

If you don’t have the time or inclination but know that you need some assistance, give us a call. We’d love to help.  

Be Organized For Life’s Transitions

There are so many of life’s transitions that we will go through at one point in our lives or another. Some good, some not so good. But, I think that what we can all agree upon is that change is going to happen and when it does, it’s going to be challenging. Even though change is one of the constant things that we can count in in this life, most of us are a bit resistant, especially in the beginning, to roll with it. 

I have found that one way to deal with the stress and anxiety of change is to prepare and be ready, as much as possible, whenever possible. Being organized is key when dealing with change!  

 I’m going to address the most common of life’s transitions that most people will encounter in their lives where being organizing will be extremely beneficial.

There’s a lot of information so I’m splitting them into 2 newsletters. This one is all about moving. I will provide more information in the October newsletter.

MOVING:  Ugh…where to begin? Whether you want to move or have to move, it’s stressful. There’s so much to do and it’s all so overwhelming. Hopefully this information will help reduce some of the stress and overwhelm associated with moving.

1.      Have a time-line: Getting this information/dates on the calendar will help ensure that you’re on track:

a. When to give 30 days notice

b. Get estimates from moving companies

·     We recommend getting 2 estimates

c. Notify everyone of your new address:

·     Postal Service

·     Financial institutions

·     Family & friends

·     Medical Professionals

·     Lawyer(s)

·     Insurance Agent(s)

·     Utility Companies

·     Credit Card Companies

·     DMV (You’ll need to change your driver’s license)

·     Home Maintenance Services (Pool, Gardener)

2.     Start downsizing: It’s never too early to start downsizing.

a. Even if you’re moving into larger space, its best to go through your home to get rid of those items you no longer want or need. Why pay to have them packed and moved and spend time putting those things away if you have no use for them?

3.     Start a “To Do” list for your upcoming move.

a. Whether buying or leasing you will need to spend time looking for a new home. To avoid wasting time looking at places you would not be interested in, put together a list to save yourself time, including:

·     The areas you are considering

·     The price-point you are comfortable with

·     Things that you have to have in your new home (ie, fireplace, pool)

·     Things you definitely don’t want (to be on a main street)

·     Whether being in a good school district is important

·     If being close to public transportation is beneficial

 4.      If you will be the one packing, make sure you have the right supplies on hand:

·     The right amount and right size boxes

·     Packing paper

·     Bubble wrap

·     Tape

·     Sharpies

·     Fragile stickers

·     Painters tape

 5.      Things to do at your new home before you move in:

·     Find out if there are any restrictions on moving day:

·     Check to make sure the date/time is cleared for move in

·     Make sure there are no parking restrictions

·     Clean before you move in:

·     You don’t want to unpack if the shelves, floors, bathrooms aren’t clean

·     Make sure the utilities are turned on:

·     TV/Internet/Cable

·     Gas/Electric

·     Water/Power

·     Measure to make sure your furnishings will fit:

·     You don’t want to pay to have a large piece of furniture moved only to find out it won’t fit in your new space.

If you or someone you know is moving, give us a call. We would LOVE to be of service!

Important Things To Do Before You Put Your House On The Market

Before you put your house on the market, there are things that you should do before your first open house. Implement these easy, do-it-yourself suggestions to get the most money for your home in the shortest amount of time:

 

1.    Go through your entire house and reduce the visible clutter in each room:

 Potential buyers want to imagine themselves living in your home. As such, it is important to keep things clean, organized, accessible and impersonal.

·       Get organized

·       Declutter all surfaces

·       Remove personal pictures

·       Remove excess furnishings and décor

 Remember…less is more!

 

2.    Declutter your closets and cabinets:

 During an open house, potential homebuyers will be looking in your closets, kitchen drawers and cabinets to see if there is enough storage for their needs. 

·       You can showcase what your house has to offer in terms of storage by decluttering your closets, cabinets, and drawers, to show off the potential those spaces have to offer.

 

3.    Think about small, but important, details:

 Show the potential every room in your house has to offer:

·       Add some plants or flowers

·       Make a room look larger by adding a mirror

·       Make sure to have the right lighting

·     Make sure that you turn on all of the lights, open the blinds and shades before your open house.

 

4.    Gather your documents:

·       Put all warranties, manuals, service records, and repairs done to your house in one place as they will be needed by different parties at different times while selling your house.

·     If you’ve made recent upgrades like a new deck, new roof or installed a new kitchen, make sure your agent knows and have the paperwork to back it up.

·      During the home inspection process, inspectors will go through your house to check everything carefully. 

·     Be proactive and gather all your service records so you’ll know ahead of time if something needs to be taken care of before listing your home.

. Title companies require very specific documentation in order for you to sell your home including the following:

  •  Mortgage loan information which will show any outstanding mortgage balance or pay-off balance if applicable
  •  Final purchase and sale agreement
  •  Deed
  •  Title report
  •   Property tax information including most recent tax statement
  •   Homeowners insurance
  •   Lease agreement if you’re currently renting the property
  •   Any reports or documentation that relates to the property:
  •   Warranty paperwork, permits, service documentation, instruction manuals, dates of home improvement projects, and age of the roof, furnace, hot water heater, HVAC, and all the other major appliances.