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Get Your Taxes Organized Now

Tax time is creeping up on us folks and now is a good time to take a look at the way you file and organize your income tax files. Taxes are something that you should be thinking of throughout the year but unless you are running your own small business I’ll bet tax time is the only time you think of them.

How long do I keep my tax records?

Keep your tax records & supporting documents for six full years.

Taxes

Even if you do not have to attach certain supporting documents to your return, or if you are filing your return electronically, keep them in case your return is selected for review or audit. Revenue Canada may request documents other than official receipts as proof of any deduction or credit you claim, such as cancelled cheques or bank statements.

This six-year period starts at the end of the tax year for which you are filing. So, if you are filing your 2015 taxes shortly you will need to keep files from 2015 back to 2010.

What do I do with older records?

After the six-year mark (2009 files can be safely disposed of after your 2015 taxes have been filed) you can safely destroy older files. Ensure that they are properly disposed of by shredding them! Do not leave anything to chance. If you don’t own a shredder most office supply stores will provide a shredding service for a nominal fee.

Notice of assessment

You will receive a notice of assessment from Revenue Canada once your taxes have been filed and reviewed. It will confirm that your return was assessed and whether you owe taxes, whether a refund is owed to you or if there is a zero balance. If there are no discrepancies between your filing and this notice, then file it away with the taxation year that it applies to. You will need it for your next tax year when you file.

Filing throughout the year

Throughout the year you are going to accumulate receipts for many different items that you may or may not require for tax purposes depending on your individual circumstances.

shoebox-with-receipts

Open a file and label it according to the current tax year. Papers and receipts you need for taxes should be placed in this file. This current year folder will make it a lot easier to keep track of important documents you get throughout the year, like donation receipts, etc. All the papers you need to prepare your taxes will all be in one place.

You can even go one step further, especially if running a small business, and separate your tax receipts into categories like health expenses, business expenses, car expenses, office supplies, etc. to be even better organized for the upcoming ta year.

Tax time can be pretty stressful but if you plan ahead and have an accessible file with everything you need, things will go a lot smoother. Tax time is here, are you ready?

Principles of Storage

Often times we end up storing items in the most inefficient and non-functional places.  For instance, I have a client who stores her baking items in the pantry on the very top shelf where it is not only difficult for her 5 foot frame to reach, but also problematic as she is elderly and arthritic.  Another client cannot bear to get rid of paperwork “just in case”.  These two scenarios create obstacles to organized living.

So here’s a few basic principles for storage of a variety of items in your home.

Items that are used most often should be stored within easy reach. Items used infrequently should be stored below the waist.  Items seldom used and that are lightweight only, should be stored above the head. Do not store anything heavy above your head as this can lead to serious injury!

For paper, here are a few questions you can ask yourself if you are struggling with whether to keep it or toss it:

  • Are there any tax or legal reasons for keeping this?
  • Can I easily get a copy elsewhere if I need one?
  • Does someone else have the information? Is this available on the Internet?
  • Can I identify a situation in which I would ever refer to this information?
  • Is it still relevant to my life?
  • What are the implications if I don’t have this?

For clothing, ask yourself these questions

  • Is it out of style, wrong size, wrong colour
  • Does it feel good when I wear it?
  • When was the last time it was worn?
  • Do I use it enough to make it worth the cost of storing?
  • Do I have more than 1, and do I need more than 1?

You can also consider adjusting your buying habits.  Before making a purchase, decide what the new item will replace and where it will be stored to avoid duplicating items.  Don’t forget the “one in one out”  rule. Avoid bulk purchases if you are challenged for space. Mega sized items take up mega space. You may be saving money but you are spending vital space as mega purchases take up prime real estate.

I know I’ve also mentioned this before but it’s worth repeating.  Ask for gift receipts to avoid storing gift items that don’t suit or fit you, are not your style or you don’t care for.  Most important is to resist storing items for fear of offending the gift giver.  Re-gift new items or hold a swap party. It’s fun, a great reason for friends to get together and you may end up with something else you can really use and enjoy.

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