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Organize Your Way to a Painless Tax Season

March 20 2013

taxesTax season is almost over, with less than a month to go. A pat on the back to those of you who've already filed, or at least have their tax return underway!

For you procrastinators, there's still time to get your receipts and statements in order. But don't wait--the longer you put off getting information to your accountant, the more stressful the tax preparation process becomes.

Perhaps your financial record keeping was less than stellar last year. Tax season doesn't have to be painful. If you're overwhelmed by gathering all that your accountant needs to prepare your return, don't be. A little organization can go a long way!

Begin by classifying all your business expenses. Since real estate agents are considered statutory nonemployees, keeping track of expenses for tax deduction purposes is vital. Have your bank and credit card statements handy, as well as any receipts. Comb your records for business expenses. As a starting point, use the following categories to classify each expense:

  • Operating Costs - These are administrative and general office expenses like desk fees, postage, web hosting charges, software fees, business cards, and more.
  • Advertising and Marketing - It's as important to track your marketing expenses as it is to measure the results of every channel you market on. That way, you can make smarter decisions on where to spend your money in the future. These expenses include staging costs, open houses, flyers and brochures, pay-per-click ads, meals and entertainment, listing syndicationlead generation services, and more.
  • Professional Fees - MLS and Association fees, health insurance, continuing education, business travel costs, seminar fees, licenses, and more.
  • Communications - How many ways are you communicating? Your cell phone plan, internet access, email newsletter costs, and landline charges are all tax deductible.
  • Equipment - You can also deduct the cost of your cell phone in addition to its monthly service charges. That is, as long as you bought it during the 2012 tax year. Same goes for printers, scanners, fax machines, computers, tablets, office furniture, and more.

We recommend consulting a tax professional for the best advice, of course, but this should start you off on the right foot.

Start Organizing NOW for Next Year

Speaking of the right foot--with the first day of spring upon us, what better time to implement a little financial spring cleaning? Now that you've started to organize your records for this year's return, maintain that tidiness by keeping track of expenses as they're incurred. We found a handful of free or inexpensive mobile apps that will help you do just that:

  • ExpensifyExpensify (iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry)
  • Moneywise (Android)
  • Toshl (iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry, Symbian)

If you're looking for a more powerful and complete system, try Kashoo. Kashoo is a full-fledged small business accounting program that exists entirely in the cloud. This means that you can update your business financial information from wherever you are from any operating system or browser.

kashoo ipadKashoo's focus on usability keeps your life simple. For example, you can also grant third parties, like your accountant, access so they can easily find everything they need without you having to hand deliver documents. (Your journey toward a more paperless existence marches forward!)

We're particularly impressed by Kashoo's iPad app, however. In addition to freeing you up to be mobile, the app lets you take pictures of receipts and attach them to expenses. No more bulky envelopes full of paper receipts!

Last but certainly not least, Kashoo makes your accountant happy. Your financial data can be downloaded into a comma delimited file that's compatible with the majority of professional tax preparation programs. This enables your accountant to work more efficiently, which, in turn, saves you several hours' worth of fees.

Do you have any expense tracking tips? How do you prepare for tax season?