So, taxes are tricky and I dont claim to know everything about them. I simply hire a CPA to do ours. Mostly I hire a CPA because I am often confused but secondly because we are in a special tax bracket with Nathan being an "ordained minister" I just feel it puts us at extra special status to one day get audited and with the help of a great CPA from dallas I feel we are one step closer to an easy audit should that ever happen. If you need a name for one I would be happy to pass it on.
For my taxes I used to keep the envelope our mortgage came in and keep each months reciept from the 1st to the last day in it. This was everything from groceries to house bills. We are tax exempt on any housing cost from toilet paper to water bills so it was easier to put it all together.
For "normal" people I would suggest simply dividing it by subject instead of month. You might try looking over what basic information and subject "write offs" simple tax programs ask for and make coordinating files. This might look like a file for income, giving at church, medical and child care expenses and other write offs. I often write on the outside of envelopes/files/folders so every month i might write the running total of the specific tax write offs for that month, if you do this on a stickey note it can greatly simplify the process, pull the stickeys off at the end of the year with the info you need and tada you put in all the info and you are finished. I also will highlite the info I need on each page, if I ever need to go back and verify it is uber easy to find. I would also suggest putting the most recent in front instead of in back, if you need to return something or have a question chances are that it wont be a on the last page of information for that year. Lifestyle changes are hard (new babies, homes and cars) and sometimes it takes a couple extra hours to figure it all out.
Dont make it too organized or complicated. The more simple the easier but that will be different for everyone, for expample, we have gone to giving once per year to the church so that we are both on the same page as to what has and has not been given and it makes our year financially very predictable. Do we give outside this time, yes, but our largest chunk is once per year and that means we only have one piece of paper for tax returns from the church, even when we give to mission and such through the year it still only comes to less than a page.
My current trick is to scan every reciept and bill and file it by day paid (groceries) or day recieved (electric and so on). I dont know if it will work but I am going to try it for a year. It takes alot more time, but will be worth it for the lack of receipts flying around in my home! I may have to give more information on this as we go along.
I also highly suggest either keeping a digital copy or a physical copy of your bank statement and credit card statements.
I also for the past few years have kept a list of basic numbers on my computer. This is phone numbers for all my accounts (bank, electricity company and any accounts in general) in case of emergency or I have a question about my account. Its easy to find when I may be buried deep in receipts and confusion.
Also consider buying a secondary back up for all digital copies made. A sweet friend of mine who reads this blog ;) just recently lost basically all of her digital files. Thanks to around $500 and a ton of patients she now has acess to 30% of what she lost. Back ups can cost around $50 and its worth it for the extra protection. You can do online or a physical backup. We chose to go with a backup in a fireproof box here at the house and a backup at a secondary location in case of theft or disaster we have a chance that at least one of the backups is accessable. I also backup once a month just for good measure and this includes all digital pics and informatoin from cameras phones and files!
My dad was audited after his death, I had a ton of paperwork so I sent it all to dallas. They didnt need it all but I never got called back. I think in terms of how much is to much in tax preperation you just cant have enough documentation and maybe it scared them a litte.
Please feel free to post any ideas here. I am lacking in ideas on this one. I kindof gimp along on taxes every time we have to file so I am very open to ideas!!!