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Friday, March 25, 2011

Help Take the Tension out of Tax Season

As a professional organizer for older adults, I’m quite busy this time of year helping my clients prepare for their tax appointments. Many of the older adults I work with have some type of limitation including low vision or memory loss so we take special care to create “systems” and find ways to assist with finding and filing paperwork. 

These systems we’ve indentified not only work for those with certain limitations, but might also be beneficial for many of us to help stay organized and avoid that last minute panic when trying to get your taxes done. Here a two ways to help take some of the tension out of tax season:

1) Make a home for those documents!

It might seem obvious, but having one place or a “home” for certain paperwork is a must! I have found that for some, the simple manila folder works just fine and can be labeled for the different types of paperwork including financial or health related documents that you may need for taxes. For others, a 3-ring binder works very well to keep paperwork in one place and can be separated and labeled by the different categories.

As I work with clients we may come across paperwork, receipts or documents that are for the current year rather than the previous year, which would not be needed for the upcoming tax appointment. Even though a year away, I always go ahead and start a tax folder or create a “home” for the current year’s paperwork, which not only gets it out of the way but gives you a head-start on next year’s tax prep!

2) Clear the Clutter!

And finally, when sorting paperwork I always come across items that are not needed for tax purposes or may not need to be saved for long periods of time. It is very important to have a secure place for your vital documents (marriage and birth certificates, mortgage paperwork etc.) but other non-essential docs may just be taking up space in your office.

Suze Orman’s “Financial Clutter, What to Keep And What To Get Rid Of” list is a great resource to help you determine what paperwork is important and what can be shredded or recycled to help you clear the clutter  (and will allow you to focus on what’s important for that tax appointment!)

I have provided the link to Suze’s Financial Clutter tip sheet below or you can also find it at under her “Resource Center.”

Christie Munson, CSA, lives and works in Phoenix, AZ and is the Communications Manager for a retirement community and a Professional Organizer, specializing in senior services. She can be contacted via email at