The Renegade Organizer
Office Organized. Business Systemized. Profits Maximized.

Receipts Got You Down?

Let me guess…you have a pile (or an envelope, or a box) full of receipts.  You are absolutely dreading tax time because every year it takes tons of time to figure out what to do with your receipts.  You’ve got the Receipt Blues.  Well put down the harmonica honey, we can solve this in two shakes.

What usually goes wrong?

Often I see people keep their receipts by month, or by form of payment (credit card vs. cash etc.).  So what’s the big deal?  Well, let’s start with the Golden Question of Organization – “What are you using it for?”  Typically the answer is “to write the expenses off on my taxes”.  Unfortunately, keeping receipts by date or form of payment doesn’t help with that at all.  So, what’s the alternative?

First, we categorize.  Either look at your tax return from last year or talk to your CPA and ask what categories she or he want you to use on your taxes.

Now, you have lots of options – paper, electronic, simple, complex, more work on the front end, more work on the back end…  Remember that the goal here is to store the receipts by category so that they are easy to use at tax time.

I like simple, so here are two simple ideas.  As always, feel free to tweak, or ditch these altogether for your own ideas.  The Golden System from the Simple Systems for a Complicated World book can help you if you get stuck.

Simple Paper System:

This has a little bit more work on the back end, but is an extremely simple way to support yourself at tax time.

  • Create envelopes or folders with the categories.
  • When the receipts come in, drop them in the correct file.
  • At tax time, it’s a snap to add up the receipts in each category.

Simple Electronic System:

This one has more work on the front end, but is still very simple to create and use.

  • Buy an accordion file that allows you to label it yourself.
  • Label it with your categories.
  • Label a letter sized envelope with each of the category names.
  • Paperclip it closed and put it in the accordion file in the correct category.
  • Create a spreadsheet with a column for each of the categories.
  • When receipts come in, put them in the correct category.
  • Once a week, enter the new receipts onto the spreadsheet.
  • Once they are entered, place them into the envelope.
  • When its tax time, you can simply add the numbers in the spreadsheet, and file the envelopes for tax back-up.

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