How to Organize Your Tax Documents in Evernote
I dread filing my taxes as much as the next person. However, I have developed a strategy to make the process much easier for me.
I gather my tax documents in one place, and I save precious time!
Up until last year, I would create a pile of W2s, 1099s, and any other tax documents as I received them in the mail in January. Within my filing cabinet, I kept a folder of receipts that I collected throughout the year for deductions and itemizations.
Sounds great, except for having all of that paper...lingering.
Last year, I digitized this process with Evernote and everything that I need to file my taxes will be on hand and ready when I sit down to prepare the actual forms. Here's my process:
Step 1: Create a Forms Notebook
Once you've created a notebook, you can add as many notes to it as you like. I add every W2 and 1099 I receive as I get them in the mail. So bring on the 1098s, 1098-Es, 1098-Ts, and any other tax documents you may need.
Plenty of room to fit everything in this notebook, so long as you do have the Premium subscription to Evernote. The ScanSnap is a nice Evernote accessory, but not strictly necessary.
Even if you don't own any scanner, Scannable for iOS works perfectly with Evernote allowing you to use your iPhone or iPad as the scanner. Need to know more about Scannable? Check out my overview: Scannable: An Evernote Enhancing App.
Step 2: Create a Receipts Notebook
Any receipt that you may be able to deduct or itemize, scan. Seriously, scan!
How long does it take to scan one document? You can delete the receipt later if you realize it's unnecessary.
This kind of system could work for any expenditures that you need to track.
Retirement plan contributions that may be deductible.
Job search expenses.
When I was teaching, I certainly qualified for the Educator Expense Deduction. Jeez, even though I only taught from January 2014 until June 2014 this past year, I still have receipts adding up to over $250.
I know a lot of teachers who do not keep the receipts for their spending because it's a hassle. I would often buy school supplies at Target while I was shopping for me. I just forced myself to develop the habit of taking the receipt home, immediately highlighting any items that qualified, and then scanning that receipt into my Receipts Notebook. Done.
I even threw in a scan of my vehicle registration, so I can easily reference how much I paid last year. No running out to the car to check! Oh yeah, I sold my car. I'd be digging through files that are in deep storage because I haven't digitized every record yet. Glad I scanned the cost of that fee before moving!
Step 3: Nest the Notebooks
I think nesting on the desktop version of Evernote is easiest.
Just grab the notebook icon for Receipts and drag it over the notebook named Forms. Evernote will automatically nest these two notebooks into a stack.
Click on the stack and then select the name of the stack. You can change the name to something like Taxes 2014.
Once you've got your stack going, you can drag future notebooks to this same stack.
Make a mistake with the dragging? I've never done that! Just open the stack so you can view all notes in it and drag the incorrect notebook out. Easy fix.
Step 4: Create a Charitable Contributions Notebook
You may not give thousands of dollars every year, but little amounts do add up. And depending on how you file, those charitable contributions may make a difference.
I like to scan all letters and receipts that I receive from any of my charitable giving.
Again, how long does it take to scan that receipt? It's probably quicker than filing the thing away, and I'm guessing it may even be faster to retrieve in Evernote.
Step 5: Create a Tax News Notebook
If you see any articles about tax law or tips that you don't want to forget, then doesn't it make sense to organize that article or tip with all of your other tax information?
Rather than bookmarking the piece in your browser, use the Evernote Web Clipper to save them into this notebook. You can delete outdated information later.
Step 6: Create a Notebook for the Filed Form
Since you have all of your tax documents in one place, it just makes sense to scan in a copy of the final form. Or if you use an online service, save the .pdf into Evernote.
You could even .pdf any emails you receive regarding the IRS acceptance of forms into Evernote.
Step 7: If you File Jointly, Share the Nested Notebook
If you file your taxes jointly, you can use the Work Chat option in Evernote to share the nested notebook with your person. Then you can both scan in receipts as you get them.
While filing your taxes may still be painful, especially if you owe money, I hope this process gives you some ideas on how to deaden the pain a bit. Rather than expending energy on gathering documents as you answer each mind-numbing question, you can just flip through your Evernote notebook.
So, I'm curious. I started using this system last year to prep for my 2014 taxes. I based my notebook names on how I traditionally file my taxes and general knowledge of how my friends and family file taxes. What did I miss? What other tax documents could Evernote help us keep track of? Let me know!