Thanks to the Columbia Daily Herald for the article, which was originally published here!
Filing taxes can be one of the most nerve-wracking duties of the year, leaving taxpayers scrambling to find needed documentation, figuring out deductions and making sure all information is filed by deadline.
With federal taxes due Tuesday, April 15, many local residents have already begun the process of filing in hopes of seeing a return, including those attending a program Saturday on organizing tax documents presented by personal organizer Tina Plichta at the Spring Hill Public Library.
Attendee Anna Aponte of Spring Hill said she retired in 2012, which means changes for how she files her taxes.
“Now I’m not sure how I need to prepare my taxes,” Aponte said. “My biggest concerns are about changes in tax laws, what deductions I can apply for and what I might have to pay.”
Rick Boylan said he typically does his family’s taxes on his own with the help of computer software.
“I can’t say I like doing taxes, but the times I have tried getting someone else to do them for me they were never able to find anything I wasn’t able to do on my own,” he said. “Investments are always a big concern for me because they can be complicated.”
Bonnie Bailey of Spring Hill said organization is one of her biggest obstacles when it comes to preparing for tax time.
“It’s hard just making sure we have all of our information,” she said. “We have a lot of business expenses.”
Whether doing taxes yourself or having a professional file them, Plichta said knowing what documents to keep and where to keep them can go a long way toward taking the stress out of tax time.
“It takes off some of the pressure if you have everything in its right place,” she said. “If you take time up front and do a little at a time, you can save money.”
Plictha recommends sorting items such as W-2s, donation slips, business expenses, medical bills and other documents into an easy to understand filing system. She said the use of spreadsheets, tax software or online budget websites can help track not only expenses but make it easier to organize tax documents.
“These are great tools because they track your spending,” she said. “The first step is just seeing where your money is going and then seeing where you can save.”
Plictha said many people do not know they can also count the mileage it takes to drive to and from volunteer activities as part of their tax return. She said taxpayers can get 14 cents per gallon back on miles driven for charity, 25 cents on the dollar back for transportation needed for medical or moving trips and 56.6 cents back for business mileage.
Plictha said she recommends using either an online tool, app or personal spreadsheet to help track donations, which can help taxpayers receive more back. She said Goodwill and other organizations offer online valuation guides to help donors.
“You may not realize the value of what you’ve donated, and that could be money coming back to you,” she said. “I just printed out a sheet listing the items or money I donated and where I donated it, and I brought that to the person who does my taxes.”
Additionally, Plichta said some medical expenses can be written off if the expenses exceed 10 percent of their family’s adjusted gross income.
“If you don’t track it, you can’t get it back,” she said. “It is hard to be at the end of the year and try to remember all the doctors visits you’ve had, all the surgeries or medicines you purchased. Being able to write off those things can help, especially when you have a lot of health issues in one year.”