The key to taxes, especially if you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), is consistent organization. That is, once tax season rolls around, you want to have everything you need right at your fingertips. So it helps to have a simple system in place to keep you organized year-round.
Procrastination is one of the challenges for people with ADHD. This is further amplified with taxes “because their tax information is so disorganized the idea of actually sitting down to complete the taxes is overwhelming,” according to Dana Rayburn, a senior certified ADHD coach and author of Organized for Life – The Step by Step Guide to Get You Organized So You Stay Organized.
Here’s a plan to help. Remember that, “The system itself will probably differ from person to person but what’s important is using it consistently and to have tax stuff together in a safe place,” says senior certified ADHD coach Tara McGillicuddy.
1. Figure out what information you should be saving.
While this varies depending on each person’s situation, Rayburn says, consider “What taxable income will you have? What deductible expenses information will you report?”
If you’d like to be more specific, identify the categories you need, says Sandy Maynard, ADHD coach and founder of Catalytic Coaching.
She says that typical categories include:
- All wage/interest income statements (W-2, 1099s, etc.)
- Health care expenses
- Charitable contributions
- Educational expenses
- Energy saver purchases that qualify for tax deductions
- Interest earned on savings and money market accounts
- Financial investment income
- Gifts that exceed the nontaxable amount
- Mortgage interest (1098)
- Declaration of estimated income tax paid (D-40ES)
If you have a small business or you’re self-employed:
- Business travel expenses (air, hotel, train, shuttle, taxi)
- Office equipment
- Office expenses
- Utility bills if you have a home office
- Books/reference material
- Computer and web-based expenses
- Office cleaning services
- Financial services related to business (credit card fees, tax preparation etc.)
- Professional organization dues
- Business-related consulting
- Lost profit-related expenses (damaged goods, etc.)
- Business entertainment
2. Have a way to record tax-deductible expenses.
Rayburn and Maynard both like financial programs like Quicken. As soon as you pay a bill that’s deductible, enter in the amount, they say.
Think you might forget? Create reminders for yourself, Rayburn says. You want to make recording anything deductible a routine.
3. Create one place for tax-related paperwork, such as W-2s, 1099s and medical bills.
Avoid focusing on creating something fancy. “Don’t worry about a nice file system or keeping the papers in a drawer,” Rayburn says. The key is to keep things simple.
Rayburn suggests having “a simple vertical file holder with manila folders that sits on your desktop or counter that you can easily cram tax-related papers into as they come into your home or office.”
This way, “When you pay a tax-related bill or a tax-related form arrives in the mail, just put it in the vertical tax paper file,” she says.
4. Schedule ‘Tax Time’ each week, McGillicuddy says.
“Taking as little as five minutes a week to put tax-related items in their place can prevent a lot of stress and frustration when it’s actually tax time.”
How do you organize your taxes year-round? What’s helped you in tackling procrastination, distraction or inconsistency when tax season arrives?
Photo by David Reber’s Hammer Photography, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.