Recordkeeping tips from the pros

If you want to give your tax recordkeeping skills a performance boost, do what accounting professionals do.

1. Maintain a separate bank account for all self-employed business activity. This will greatly minimize confusion come tax time by giving you just one place to look for business transactions. The same is true for credit cards; have a card used solely for business and another for personal purchases.

2. Reconcile your bank statements. Though tedious, it is the only way to know for sure if you’ve included everything in your records.

3. Take advantage of technology. There are many software applications available for organizing tax records, and digitizing your records can also save office filing space.

4. Track your finances by important tax categories. Knowing how to classify your expenses and income is half the battle. Look at your last tax return or accountant’s tax organizer for clues. Individuals should focus on itemized deductions and tax credit categories; business owners should look at Schedule C line items.

5. Be diligent and consistent. Make recordkeeping a year-round task, not a year-end burden. For instance, update business mileage records daily. File away receipts before they are lost. Record tax transactions as they occur throughout the year.

6. Watch for important receipts. You probably already know you should collect the standard items: W-2s, 1099s, and annual mortgage statements. But did you know that charitable donations of $250 or more must be substantiated by a receipt from the charity to be deductible? Also, keep all pay stubs and brokerage statements. They might contain hidden deductions.

7. Hold on to prior-year tax records. Because an IRS audit is always a possibility, keep copies of tax returns and supporting records for seven years.

8. Be aware of special tax breaks. Some records become important as tax rules change. For instance, business owners should be careful to maintain records on major equipment purchases to qualify for enhanced expensing perks. Homeowners need to keep supporting documents for energy-efficient purchases.

9. Keep your tax advisor abreast of major life changes. New happenings in your life, like a job change, new child, or change in marital status might affect how you track your income and expenses. A quick call to your tax pro will help you stay on top of things.

About Brenda J. McGivern, CPA

Brenda McGivern started her own certified public accounting and management consulting firm in October 2001. The full service CPA firm provides tax and accounting solutions to meet the needs of today’s small business and individual. Brenda McGivern has become a trusted advisor and valuable resource her clients rely on for timely, accurate assistance when they need it.

Before starting the firm, she worked as an accountant for three years at a local firm and prior to that five years at a large international CPA firm in Boston. She has performed the following tax services: federal, state and local tax planning, international tax planning, estate and succession planning, mergers and acquisitions, capital retention and IRS representation. She has also coordinated assurance engagements, such as financial statement audits, reviews and compilations from the planning phase through the reporting phase. She has prepared and reviewed regulatory filings for numerous regulatory agencies including the Security and Exchange Commission.

Prior to these positions she was selected from over 2,000 candidates into an eight-person intensive financial management program at an international technology company. The program consisted of graduate level classroom study and two six-month rotational assignments in financial operations.

She graduated cum laude from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and holds a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting. McGivern also holds a license in Massachusetts as a Certified Public Accountant and is a member of the American Society of Certified Public Accountants and the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants. She resides in Stoughton, Massachusetts with her husband Brian, and their sons Sean, Ryan and Conor and their dog, Davis.

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