Most small businesses and family units use the calendar year as their fiscal year for tax purposes. That makes December the wrap-it-up month (no pun intended) of the fiscal year.
Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas or another holy day, the pace at the office and at home slows that last week of December. Perhaps it is because your colleagues take vacation, school activities are on hold, and the kids are busy playing with new toys. As of this writing that week will be here in 8 days!
Take advantage of the slow down to shake out files from 2011. Here are a few ideas to get your reduction juices going.
- Weed out articles you thought you would read, but never got around to.
- Finish recording new addresses and recycle the holiday cards.
- Enter automobile expenses into a spreadsheet and ditch the gas receipts and repair bills.
- Make files for your hobbies and fill with those good ideas that you have floating around.
- Donate any magazines you have not read to a doctor, dentist, or senior center.
- Take all newspaper piles to your nearest animal shelter.
- Print out record retention guidelinesand write in bold letters next to each category the earliest month and year that should be kept. (Ex. Pay stubs - JANUARY 2011, until verified with W-2, Auto records – AS LONG AS OWN). See:
- The ABC’s of Important Papers – Julie Morgenstern
- What Financial Records to Keep and How Long to Keep Them – Bankrate.com
- Shred documents in each category that are have dates prior to your cut off.
- Get a head start on tax preparation by pulling together all your charitable receipts and business expenses. A couple hours of work now can mean a speedy refund by March. Be aware that your accountant has the last word on which documents you need to complete tax forms. When in doubt, do NOT throw it out!
Have your paper shredder handy for sensitive documents, along with a box for papers you can recycle.
Paper purging is best done with a refreshing drink in front of those Bowl games, while watching the kids play on the floor, or with soothing music in the background. Think of it as a “paper purging party!” You will be that much ahead going into the New Year!