I don’t dread it anymore. Once upon a time, I would toss, turn, moan, and groan about the need to do my taxes every year. It all started with a shoe box. Stuffed with every deductible piece of paper I could find, the largest shoe (boot) box in the house was the epicenter of my tax implosion. Mind you, I was not the custodian of this mountain of hodge-podge WTF-ery. No, this was my illustrious attempt at organizing everything for my most favorite tax officials in Cheyenne. Yes, Wyoming. Trust me, they’re worth it! For the first five years, it was a race to the deadline. Tax clients need to have our “piles” submitted about three weeks ahead of “T” day in order to get them sorted, compiled, and filed by April 15.  Yes, I sweated it each and every time, promising that next year I would do better. Eventually, I did just that.

For more than twenty years and counting,  my taxes have been calculated  by a professional. I highly recommend it if you can swing it; barter with a CPA or tax attorney if necessary. While standard deductions and traditional write-offs are currently the norm, taxes become more complex if you are a single parent who owns a home, a business, and/or have children in college. It simply exhausted me and drove my anxiety through the roof on a regular basis.

Since 2020 was a daily episode of rinse and repeat, I finally had sufficient time (and energy — what else was I doing?) to get my poop grouped and start tax planning early. I created online folders for my ads, website, software, and services purchases. I’ve started sorting and totaling receipts, sales tax notices, and donation contributions. My goal is to have everything ticked, tied, and in the mail by February 15, way ahead of schedule. I want to put last year in the rear-view mirror and watch it fade away like a bad boo boo — including the loss of all of my tax deductions that miraculously  disappeared with it. (Seriously, the home office deduction is gone?)

So as I worked to get my tax records in (short) order, I also decided to get my other record management ship-shape. Earlier this year, I was subject to the new driver’s license renewal protocol: Real I.D. I was fortunate enough  to know where all of my necessary records were, but it made me think harder about the safe security of those papers, so I decided to do something about it. But what? Luckily, I found a printout (stop laughing) of Jean Chatzky’s e-zine, MONEY TIP that I’ve had for years and wanted to reshape my adaptation of her words of wisdom here:

There are a number of document “types” that need to be kept long-term (for life). Some should be stored in a fireproof safe (at home) or in a safety deposit box at your local brick-and-mortar financial institution (aka the bank) and the rest can be filed in your home office filing cabinet or box but should be easily portable in the event of a sudden need to evacuate your home due to fire, flood, or some other dislocation crisis.

For the Safe:

  • Deeds and titles (homes and property, business, and vehicles, etc.)
  • Marriage licenses and divorce degrees (yes, you can always get copies from the county officials)
  • I recommend storing a copy in your cloud storage as well
  • Birth certificates
  • Social Security cards
  • Stock certificates
  • List of bank/brokerage/investment accounts (understanding that we have apps for everything, consider what might happen if your identity, computer, or phone is hacked. Don’t take chances — make paper backups)

Portable Filing:

  • Insurance policies
  • Passports
  • Seven years of tax returns
  • Wills and trusts
  • Power of attorney
  • Medical directives
  • Funeral and burial instructions
  • List of bank/brokerage/investment accounts (understanding that we have apps for everything, consider what might happen if your identity, computer, or phone is hacked. Don’t take chances — make paper backups)

While it take times and attention to detail, having your collective poop grouped can pay off in time, energy, and money in the long run. Remember, don’t give our favorite uncle any more than what is actually due.