For some, this time of year means a mad scramble for tax receipts and PAYG statements – working up a sweat rummaging through filing cabinets, the bottom of handbags, the car. Where did those receipts go? Keeping track of your tax receipts doesn’t have to be complicated though.
A quick look at my system for filing and keeping track of our tax papers throughout the year and you’ll realise that it shouldn’t even be called a system. I’m really just using the age old ‘everything in its place’ rule.
Actually, I hesitated when I started to write this post because I imagined some irate readers responding with “well this isn’t rocket science, it’s pretty basic stuff”. Yes. Yes, it is. But I know there are people out there who genuinely don’t know where to start. Who don’t realise how simple it is to find what you’re looking for without cursing and rummaging and sweating. So if this sounds like you, then I hope I can inspire you to start small and simple and get organised!
Keeping track of receipts
I have a matching set of boxes (from Ikea) that sit on the bookcase in the lounge room. I (literally) throw all of my tax receipts into the top 2 boxes throughout the year. One for charitable donations, one for deductable expenses (I don’t have a use for the bottom one just yet).
It’s really important that these boxes live in a central spot that is easy to see and access. If I had to fish around in a cupboard or drawer I know I would just dump the receipts to be filed later and they would be lost. Once the end of financial year arrives and I’m ready to do my tax, I can grab these two boxes and I have all the receipts I need.
Now I think it’s fairly obvious that this won’t work if you don’t actually use the boxes. All I can say to that is it takes a very similar or lesser amount of effort to take the lid off the box and put the receipt away on the spot than it does to put it down on the kitchen bench, then move it off the bench to make dinner, then shuffling it to 3 or 4 different spots before finally deciding it should go in the box. I know what I would rather do!
Filing tax returns & paperwork
I have 3 clear plastic files labelled with the 3 most recent tax returns. I include the current (unfinished) financial year with these files because it’s handy to store full-size papers that are too big to throw in my receipt boxes. This current file is particularly useful as PAYG statements and private health insurance information starts arriving at the end of the financial year – these papers go straight into the file instead of floating around on the kitchen bench or dining room table.
When my tax is lodged and finished for the year, I staple all of the information together. Then the oldest tax return is moved into a larger plastic file labelled ‘tax archive’ and the newly emptied file is relabelled with the new tax year.
Then the whole process starts again! Simple? Absolutely. And the best bit is that once you have organised yourself the first time, it pretty much looks after itself.
Even if you don’t have a filing cabinet, you can still apply this filing system to a small box in a cupboard or storage container under the bed.
Happy New Financial Year!