With April 15th having passed, many people have completed tax forms. Now what do you do with them…and more importantly, is there anything you can do to make the process easier next year?
Aside from determining what you owe or get back from the government, tax forms themselves contain highly valuable personal information about your identity, your family and your life.
Physical copies should always be kept in a locked filing cabinet or safe. Electronic copies can be securely stored in FidSafe® and accessed wherever you are, whenever they are needed. Use of our two-factor authentication security feature (we will send a numeric code to your mobile phone to increase login security) is HIGHLY recommended for storing confidential information such as your tax forms.
According to the IRS, they generally accept electronic copies as records for tax and audit purposes. Electronic records and receipts should be identical to the original, readily accessible and legible for this purpose. Retention rules vary in individual circumstances and jurisdictions, but a rule of thumb used by many for federal tax records is that they should be kept for 7 years after filing. Note that if you lost a return that you previously filed, the IRS currently allows you to request a copy (at a cost of $50 per return as of 2014).
IRS publication 552 provides examples of the types of records you should keep and other basic information.
As you prepare for the coming tax year, consider using FidSafe® to make your life easier:
Tame the paper
- Go digital. Very often tax forms, statements and confirmations are available online from your providers and many offer electronic delivery of these forms. Receipts can frequently be requested via email instead of on paper slips. Consider going digital from the start to save you from clutter later.
- Use a portable scanner. When paper is the only option, consider a portable scanner as an easy solution to digitize records. We believe there are many good ones, including some that make scanning paper receipts easy. For some uses, the camera on your mobile phone may serve as a sufficient scanner, particularly when coupled with a scanning app you like – just make sure any scanned image turns out legible.
Use FidSafe for organization and centralized storage
- You can use FidSafe to store electronic copies of your forms from diverse providers and sources in a central location. By doing this as they become available, you should avoid a pile-up and save time at tax crunch-time.
- Tag your records/receipts when you add them to FidSafe. Consider using tags such as “taxes” and “2014” and any other relevant description such as “income”, “deductions” or “investments.” That way when tax time comes again, you can filter your tags to easily find the information you need.
- Use the description field to record any relevant information you might need to remember later, such as purpose of business expenses or location of original copies, as examples.
- Consider using the FidSafe Password Safe to save your passwords to any electronic tax preparation providers you have and even the electronic filing/payment PIN you get from the IRS.
- FidSafe Notes may be used as a central location to record information where there may not be other supporting documentation such as mileage or certain charitable donations.
A final note: as Ben Franklin once said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Think beyond this year’s April 15th milestone. Do your loved ones know where your tax information is? Consider sharing it with people you trust through FidSafe. And remember, tax forms are but one of life’s essential documents. Also important is keeping your key documents and beneficiaries up to date, so you can protect what’s yours. That way you’ll be preparing for yourself, your family and for Uncle Sam.
FidSafe does not provide tax or legal advice, so check with your tax or legal advisor on rules that may be specific to your situation.