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Benefits of a Filing System

Follow these suggestions for organizing your paperwork so that you'll be better prepared for tax season.
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Benefits of a Filing System (545 words) by: Joyce Moseley Pierce

With a new year comes the reality that April 15th is just around the corner! It seems that the process of gathering information for preparing taxes is almost as painful as writing that check to the IRS! However, if you have an effective filing system the process it may not hurt quite as much, and it will certainly help cut down on the time spent searching for receipts if you are currently throwing everything in a drawer.

Years ago we invested in a 4-drawer file cabinet. You may not need that much space, but whatever you use, even if it's a cardboard box, think about purchasing manila folders to create a file for each category. Set your files up in a way that makes sense to you. My file drawer includes files for homeowners insurance, health insurance, life insurance, Visa, American Express, Bank of America (for checking), Ameritrade, Ford Explorer, Ford Windstar, medical, travel programs, contributions, utilities, receipts, and home. If you receive monthly statements or write checks to them, you probably need a folder.

I use a hanging file folder just so the manilla folders don't get lost in the bottom of the drawer, but then I also keep a manilla folder inside each hanging folder. When the end of the year approaches, I simply pull the old manilla folder out of the hanging folder and replace it with a new manilla folder that is marked with the new year. For instance, I will replace my "Visa 2002" folder with a new one that says, "Visa 2003." I will put all of the 2002 files in a cardboard banker's box with a lid, and will also create a new manilla file to go in that box that says, "Income Taxes 2002." In that file I will place statements and information that will be necessary for claiming deductions on my tax return. It helps keep me from scrambling at the last minute to find the mortgage statement and W2s.

In addition to these "removable files" that are designated by the year, I have files that will remain in my cabinet until I no longer own that item. For instance, the "Ford Explorer" file contains every invoice for every repair made to that car in the past 10 years. I learned years ago that it's important to track even the oil changes in case you have a problem that might be covered by the warranty. The manufacturer will require proof that you have maintained your car properly before they will honor the warranty. This file is also helpful to have when you try to sell the car. The file for "home" contains service policies, receipts for the new air conditioner we had to put in this summer, and anything relevant to operating our home. In fact, in the hanging folder for "Home" contains several folders that separate this information.

If you don't have a serious filing system, now is the perfect time to start one for 2003. Once you set up the system and start using it, you will see the benefits of having your paperwork organized. It feels good to be able to locate a receipt when you need it and may actually help you save money by being able to provide proof of purchase.

Copyright 2002 Joyce Moseley Pierce Joyce is a freelance writer and owner of Emerson Publications. She is the creator of "All They'll Need to Know," a workbook to help families record personal and financial information. ISBN 0-9725726 She is also the editor of The Family First Newsletter, an ezine for families with young children. To subscribe:

About the Author

Copyright 2003 Joyce Moseley Pierce Joyce is a freelance writer, owner of Emerson Publications, and editor of The Family First Newsletter. To view products that will strengthen your family or to subscribe to the newsletter, visit Joyce is also committed to helping women earn money while working at home.


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