Tax Thursdays: Paperless Tax Records
March 15, 2012
Welcome to the FreshBooks Tax Thursdays series! We know a lot of small businesses struggle with taxes, so we’re hoping to help make it a little easier by featuring advice from leading accounting professionals every second Thursday from January to April. Today Chad Shultz, CPA explains how to set up electronic tax records.
Paperless tax records can save you time, money and a ton of shelf space where boxes of paper once sat collecting dust. No more overflowing file drawers of old tax returns, just a few neatly organized folders on your computer or the Web.
Here are the 3 rules to making sure everything is safe and kept correctly as you prepare to file tax returns online:
1. Create tax records as PDF files
As a general rule when going paperless, you’ll want to keep an electronic copy (or scan) of these records:
• mileage logs
• bank statements
• tax documents (W-2’s, 1099’s, T4’s, etc.)
• Statements (Mortgage, Church contributions, etc.)
If scanning receipts is starting to feel tedious, consider using a service like Shoeboxed who will turn piles of receipts into expense reports. You can also have records emailed to you or download the records from the web.
2. Save tax records in a safe place (at least twice)
The most secure way to store your records is to save the electronic files to an external jump drive and then save them online.
TO be safe, protect your computer files with passwords, delete the files from your laptop and lock the jump drive in a safe place. It’s highly advised to store the records online so that you can access your files from any computer, laptop, tablet or phone. This means saving your work to the “Cloud” with an online storage provider with whom you set up an account. Many people use Google Docs, Dropbox or Box. Simply create a new folder for each year and save all of your PDF files to the folder. If you have an accountant or tax preparer, you can share the online files with them to view, print and download as required.
3. Experience the benefits to filing your tax return online
Preparing tax returns electronically is the norm today. You can find a service on the Web, purchase software at a store, or use a professional tax preparer. Once the tax return is complete, preview the file before filing. If a tax professional has prepared your return, ask them to email you a PDF copy for your review. Once you have reviewed the return and double-checked the results, it’s time to file. Should you owe taxes, you can setup a payment by e-check or credit card. If you are one of the lucky ones receiving a refund, have the refund direct deposited into your bank.
Electronic filing to the appropriate tax authority will not only will you save postage, paper and time but you will receive a confirmation that your tax return was received. Save a copy of your tax return as a PDF and save the tax return to the jump drive and online.
The paperless process we’ve outlined can relieve you of the burden of paper and lost records but it is a commitment. However, setting up the system so that you’re able to file quickly and painlessly will have you thanking yourself in the long run!
Chad Shultz is a Certified Public Accountant in Jacksonville, Florida, USA. Chad is the Chief Innovation Officer of Chad Shultz, CPA, which provides progressive accounting & tax services. Chad believes the future of accounting is moving to the cloud and is changing the way accountants do business. To get in touch, visit www.shultztax.com
about the author
This is a guest post for the FreshBooks blog. FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.