Prepping one’s taxes can be an overwhelming experience that most of us try to put off as long as possible. With the tax deadline just a little over a month away (April 15th) it’s time to get your tax materials in order, and lucky for us financial expert Farnoosh Torabi joined me to share tips for making this stressful task something we may actually look forward to. She also dished on how we can stay organized for 2014, the benefits of using Turbo Tax and whether or not you really need to keep all that paperwork you’ve been hoarding for the next seven years.
Candace Rose: With tax season upon us, how can we take the stress out of preparing our taxes?
Farnoosh Torabi: “Well, Candace I’ve partnered with Office Depot- your one-stop destination for all your tax needs to really give Americans some much needed tax prep advice. And not just how to file and where to file, but a lot of the tools and resources that can help us de-stress this time of year because it can be overwhelming. My first tip is to not go at it alone. If you feel overwhelmed as many of us do, if you feel like you might make some errors (as many of us do), invest in some good software to give you a step by step guide to filing your taxes, like Turbo Tax. Not only will this help you maximize your return to make sure you’re getting all the credits and deductions you deserve, but it can actually take it to the next level and have you file your taxes online safely rather than doing it through the mail with pen and paper and then having to wait longer for that refund check, if you’re getting one.
While we’re talking about software too, a great way to prepare for next year’s taxes is to invest (if you’re a small business owner) in QuickBooks, or as an individual- Quicken. It will help you calculate and store your income and your expenses so that when you’re going to do your taxes next year and you’re wondering how much should I pay for mileage, if you’re a small business owner? Or how much should my new laptop cost? Those are good deductions you want to account for; it’s all in one place and no hassle. And again, don’t go at it alone. If you need help, help is out there.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any suggestions for staying organized when prepping our tax materials?
Farnoosh Torabi: “Yes. Organization is key all year long, but especially around tax season. And not just any organization, I like to keep it colorful and fun. Here I’ve got a lovely display from the See Jane Work collection where you can see there’s lots of bright colors with the accordion file folders, the traditional file folders, the mail folders. You want to make sure that your paper documents are in a safe place, but they’re also in an attractive place. And if you have a money zone in your home- a small place where you’re managing your paperwork, keep it personal. You’ll be more enthused to go there and do your taxes.
You also want to stay safe this tax season, which means shredding the documents you no longer need and you no longer need to have as a backup. Whether that’s a monthly bank statement or a monthly credit card statement, these papers do have sensitive information, whether that’s your home address or in some instances your social security number, you can’t afford to keep those lying around so you want to shred them. And not just any shredder, you want a cross-cut shredder that cuts in two directions. For example the Ativa Cross-Cut Shredder is really important so if an identity thief should go into your mail and start snooping around looking for sensitive information they’re not going to be able to patch it together with a cross-cut shredded piece of paper.
So you want to get the help you need, stay organized colorfully and shred the documents that you no longer need.”
Candace Rose: How do you know when it’s time to throw things away?
Farnoosh Torabi: “Good question. So I have a 1-3-6 rule: For all the monthly statements that you get from your bank, from your creditors- once you get the annual statement from those companies, you can then shred the monthly statements. You don’t need those anymore.
Then for all the documentation that supports your tax paperwork, whether that’s 1099’s, annual bank statements- you’ll want to keep those for three years because that’s the window during which the IRS can perhaps go back and conduct an audit.
However if you’re a freelancer or small business owner and you may have (or suspect) underreported income in the last few years, in that case the IRS can go back as far as six years to look at your taxes. So in that case I would say you want be more protected with a six year backlog of paperwork.
But if you’re getting your monthly cellphone bill, hopefully you can migrate online and just do it online electronically. But if you’re still getting the paper statements, once you get the annual statement you can shred those monthly ones. And again, a cross-cut shredder is what you’re looking for.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share with us?
Farnoosh Torabi: “Well, we’ve gone through a lot and rather than overwhelming viewers, the best resource now is to just go to OfficeDepot.com/Tax OR you can look at all these products. Also, if you want more advice, you can go to my website/my blog, which is Farnoosh.tv. You can sign up for the newsletter and get some updates. But every day we’re refreshing the blog with new information. And all of the tips I mentioned today are live on the site right now.”