How to Organize Tax Paperwork

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I’m a busy working mom with a busy family of five. I want to stay organized. I need to stay organized. I have got to stay organized. But honestly, it needs to be easy to do and easy to use if it’s going to work for us. The great thing  is that simple organizing ideas work just as well (often even better because you’ll actually use them) than complicated ones. Simple organizing allows you to save time and money when it comes to tackling organizing and preparing taxes. Over the years, I’ve figured out how to organize tax paperwork for our home and small business so that it’s simple to use and makes tax season much easier.

stack of lidded photo boxes with labels and receipts on table

 We do our own taxes and on the difficulty scale, our family taxes are about a 7 or 8. Staying organized and keeping organized is the key to filing taxes with fewer headaches. I’m also a blogger, so I have business-related tax paperwork. Someday soon I would like to work as a professional organizer, so that means even more tax paperwork to keep track of. Keeping organization simple enough that we all can and will use it is the only way to make sure that we sail through tax season each year. Just as importantly, simple organization will save us time (which is money) and money on our taxes since we can find all the documentation we need to claim. 

How to Organize Tax Paperwork for Home and Small Business

Get Organized Now

Stop everything you’re doing and get yourself organized right now for next year’s taxes. I know you’re in the middle of working on this year’s paperwork, but starting each year out organized for success is a must, so don’t delay. Every single year make sure that you set up your tax organization system the first week of January. No excuses. If you set everything up immediately each year, organizing tax paperwork will be easy for the remaining 51 weeks of the year and preparing taxes next year will be a snap.

Designate Storage Locations

Start by designating specific a storage location for receipts and paperwork. If you have to keep track of paperwork for family and a small business or other unique paperwork, designate specific locations for each category. Even these tips from the IRS on organizing tax records suggest having a designated place for your tax documents and receipts. I’ve found that inexpensive photo and document boxes are perfect for organizing receipts and tax papers. Recycled boxes work just as well (and when you’re about to have two children in college, every penny saved is a treasure). Fortunately, you can find attractive inexpensive boxes or you can decorate and upcycle any old box to use for collecting your tax paperwork.

collage of 3 images of colorful stacked lidded boxes

Make It Easy to Use

black and white photo box with papers next to stack of 2 white photo boxes

Taxes are complicated enough, why not create a system that’s easy to use? I have a box for each category of receipts we need to keep for taxes: home, blogging and my future professional organizing business. It took about 4 minutes to label each box.  (Look at how cool the business receipts box label looks with my logo included! I’ll tell you how to include logos on your label in just a minute.)  All we have to do is toss the receipts into the correct box. Once the boxes are labeled it is clear exactly where a receipt goes and only takes a couple of seconds to file the receipts away each day. To make it even easier for my family, I chose a distinctive box for the family receipts and simple boxes for the receipts that I’ll be filing. I often take an additional couple of seconds to write what the receipt is for on a sticky note or on the back of the receipt so that I’m not racking my brain months later wondering why I kept that receipt. Make it easy to use so that it will be used. 

Make It Make Sense for You

stack of labeled boxes next to pen container on white wood table

Create boxes that make sense for your family. Use the number of boxes and categories that will work for you. Be aware that too many boxes and categories become difficult to use, so use a few broad categories. In addition to my receipt boxes, I keep a box where I can toss papers I need to file and one for bills to pay. Putting those papers into the boxes keeps them organized and prevents towering piles of paper on my counters. I try to take care of the contents of each box once a week, but if I don’t, the boxes keep everything nicely organized and easy to find until I get to them. 

Make it Pretty

white photo box with red polka dot washi tape

Plain manila filing folders work fine for organizing paperwork, but they’re just not exciting. They don’t make you want to use them for organizing. Taking a few minutes to make your organizing system pretty will make you excited to use it.  You can purchase attractive document and photo boxes and can use decorative paper and washi tape to dress up recycled boxes. Investing a few minutes up front to make your organizing system pretty so you want to use it is a wise investment. Part of making it pretty is using pretty labels, too (that’s the part that makes my organizing self smile). 

Make it Easily Accessible

stack of three photo boxes labeled on counter

Taking a few minutes to make your organizing boxes pretty means you can set them out on your counter or bookshelf so that they’re easy to access and thus, easy to use. I place my tax receipt boxes on my kitchen counter where we all stop when we walk into the house. It’s effortless to unload purses and wallets and simply toss the receipts into the correct box. If the tax organizing system was a folder filed away in a drawer in a back room, the paperwork would never make it there. And if the receipts and paperwork for taxes aren’t filed away and organized, then tax season is a nightmare. Do I see heads nodding yes? Make it easy to access so that it will be used. 

Label Everything Clearly to Start

overhead view of file folders with labels next to labeled boxes

Labeling your boxes and files is key to making your tax organizing and paperwork system work. Being able to quickly identify where to put items throughout the year means receipts and paperwork will be filed where they belong. If you have to search around for the right location to file your paperwork, you’re probably not going to do it. Make it easy to find so that it will be used.  Being able to find every last receipt and piece of paper means you can file your taxes correctly and use the money you saved for….paying college bills in our case. 

label printer next to laptop computer with labels printed out
 Making labels is now so simple and fun with my new best friend, the DYMO LabelWriter® 450 Value Pack that there is no reason to put off getting organized for tax season. Getting organized now will save time, money and headaches in the long run.  The DYMO LabelWriter 450 uses thermal printing technology so I don’t have to buy expensive ink or toner and it saves the landfill from those ink and toner cartridges (you know saving the landfill makes me happy!). It prints on label rolls so I’m able to print the exact quantity I want without the hassle of sheets of labels (and the hassle of trying to figure out how to print on those last few labels scattered all over the sheet) or being tied to the desktop printer.   I’m excited that I can customize my labels with the DYMO Label software right from my computer so my options are endless.  I’m able to print using many different font styles and sizes. It was fun to choose pretty fonts, but being able to choose different sizes of fonts prevented a big hassle when I figured out that one of my photo boxes had a smaller label opening than the other two. Grrr. But it was no problem, I simply sized my text down a couple of sizes and voila! It fit with no problem. I was even able to insert my blog logo onto the label with just a couple of mouse clicks. How cool is that?!  I was able to curve the text or print it in a circle. How fun!  You can see why I want to keep labeling. Everything.

I popped over to Staples a couple of weeks ago to get everything I needed to organize my tax paperwork for the new year. I found the DYMO LabelWriter 450 Value Pack near the paper. You can find it at select stores and online. The LabelWriter 450 Value Pack includes a roll of appointment card labels, a roll of shipping labels, a roll of file folder labels and a roll of multi-purpose labels along with the LabelWriter and software. And right now if you purchase four LabelWriter label rolls, you can get the LabelWriter 450 Value Pack for free. You can use the money you saved for…..paying college bills in our case.  

I had an issue setting up my LabelWriter 450 with my computer. I’ve checked with other bloggers and I’m the only one that had the problem (that’s just my luck and doesn’t appear to be the product). But what I want to tell you is how amazing the DYMO customer service is (and I’m one tough grader!). I used the online chat customer service  and  the representative met my high standard for excellent customer service. Once we worked through the problem, got my LabelWriter set up and working with my computer, I went to town creating labels. Later I had a routine question so I called the customer service phone line and again received excellent customer service. I’ve worked many jobs in customer service and believe strongly that a company’s customer service tells you everything about the company, their product and their commitment to the customer. My LabelWriter and I have been busy working together the past few days with no problems at all (and lots of gorgeous labels). I’ve always enjoyed the DYMO products I’ve had, but now I’m a huge fan of the products and the company (and remember – I’m one tough grader!). 

2 stacked cardboard boxes with name labels next to them

With all creative fun I’ve been having making labels, I’m now relabeling the kids memory tubs. How cool is that curved text and all the font choices?!  For those of you who do shipping with your business or send a lot of college care packages, the LabelWriter 450 allows you to print your own postage labels. 

Now that I’ve figured out how to organize tax paperwork so that it works for my family, I’m looking for more things to make pretty and organized with labels. If you’ve got anything you need labeled, just give me a call. I’m running out of things to label in my house, I may have to start my professional organizing business very soon just so I can keep having fun labeling. Check out more creative tax season organizing ideas with the DYMO LabelWriter ValuePack.

black and white polka dot box with papers next to stack of white boxes with labels

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  1. I’m drooling over the labeler. I have a p-Touch that like, but I like the flexibility of this. Might be a Mother’s Day suggestion in case anyone asks!

    1. You’ll really enjoy this LabelWriter, Seana. The creative options are almost endless so it’s so flexible for a professional organizer and everyone.

  2. Great post! Thank you for sharing these ideas about organizing everything for our taxes. I love the label maker, it sounds like it can do all kinds of different things. I am like you, I love all things labeled.

  3. You definitely make organizing look beautiful. Will have to try some of your great ideas to sort out my office clutter.

  4. I’m going to Staples today to find that label maker. So excited! I was also curious where you found the cute black and white polka dot photo box? I’ve got a place on my kitchen desk to get my receipts organized with these boxes. My everyday dishes (which are on display through glass cabinet fronts) happen to be red/white polka dots and black/white polka dots. I would love to be able to coordinate with these cute boxes.

    Thank you for all of your great ideas! It’s changing my life!

    1. You will love the LabelWriter, Judy. I used again today for another organizing project (be on the look out in the next week or two). I honestly don’t remember where I picked up the polka dot box (I got it last fall). Check at Staples when you’re there and check your craft store, too. There are always so many different choices of photo boxes, don’t give up until you find the perfect one.

  5. It is so important to be organized and you are the best at it! If I’m organized I feel in control. Funny I was just going through my files with hand written labels was thinking about a label writer and how it would make it look so much nicer.

    1. I agree, Monica, being in organized gives me peace. You’ll really enjoy the LabelWriter. It’s so easy to use and gives you so many options of font, sizes and design.

  6. I dread tax time, and am guilty of not staying organized throughout the year. I love the way you decorated the boxes and am a HUGE fan of labels, so maybe this will inspire me to get organized for next year’s taxes 🙂

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