Zen Penny

Seeking the Path to Financial Nirvana

Getting Taxes Done

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Anyone familiar with the phenomenon of Getting Things Done knows that you cannot “do your taxes.” Filing your taxes is a project that requires multiple steps and action items before it can be considered done. The lack of clarity when it comes to approaching the various steps leads to stress. This stress can cause people to avoid filing their taxes until the last minute, or worse yet, not file at all. Applying some of the methods from GTD during tax time can provide a clear path to getting them done and alleviate some of the anxiety associated with this annual process.

Begin by collecting all of your “stuff” related to taxes; any paperwork or information in your possession that is critical or helpful. Don’t concentrate on organizing this stuff yet. Just make sure you capture absolutely everything you have regarding your income taxes.

Once you’ve gathered all the paperwork you have, take a few moments to take mental stock, brainstorm or do some research to answer a few questions: Do you have all of your income statements? What IRS and state tax forms do you need? What is your filing status? What sort of deductions are you entitled to? Will you e-file or mail your return? Do you need any tax software? Should you hire a tax professional? Is there anything you need that is not physically represented in your pile of “stuff”? Answering these questions will likely lead to other questions that are more relevant to your situation. Being able to address these issue during the planning stage will save a lot of time and trouble later on during the process.

At this point, it will be helpful to process and organize your paperwork. Go through each item and determine whether it is actionable, such as a form that needs to be filled out or a statement that contains critical information, or if if serves as a reference, such as instructions on how to e-file. You don’t need a real elaborate organizational setup, just something that allows you to easily find the documents you need.

Now comes the real substantial part of doing your taxes; crunching the numbers and filling in the forms to determine your tax refund/liability. The steps you’ve taken to this point should greatly ease the process. Be sure to take your time. Rushing only leads to mistakes that can increase the likelihood of an audit. Review your numbers, make sure you enter your social security number correctly, and remember to sign and date your return. If possible, have a fresh set of eyes review your return to help catch any obvious errors.

By now you should know what your tax refund or liability is. If you are getting a refund, seriously consider using direct deposit. You will get your money in a matter of days and it means less work and hassle for you. If you owe money, make your check payable to the “United States Treasury” and include your social security number. If you cannot pay your tax bill, don’t panic. There are options. Just be sure to file your return and send whatever you can towards what you owe. I will cover this issue more in depth in an upcoming post.

E-filing is definitely the way to go when you submit your tax return. It is quick and hassle free. Plus it’s cheap, if not free. If you decide not to e-file, call the Post Office (800-ASK-USPS) or go to their website to find out the hours of the post offices in your area. Certain locations will be open until midnight on tax day for you “down to the wire” filers. Be sure to purchase certified mail and proof of delivery when sending your return, the added cost will be worth the peace of mind.

As of this post, you have roughly 30 hours to file your tax return. If you don’t feel like you have enough time, you can file for a one time six month extension using Form 4868. This form does not grant an extension to pay any taxes owed, so you must still send in payment for your estimated tax liability.

Good luck late filers! I hope this little slice of GTD helped or motivated you to file in time. May your calculators stay true and the wind be in your sails all the way to the post office.

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Written by Zenpenny

April 16, 2007 at 3:23 pm

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