Don't let a mess of papers set you back! Learn how to organize all your important tax documents.

GATHER YOUR PAPERWORK

Tax-related income statements: Last year’s reports should have been sent to you in January. These include W-2s, 1099s and other papers related to income and earnings (including unemployment insurance, dividends and interest paid on accounts).

Records of general expenses: These include end-of-year statements for major expenses that might qualify as deductions, including annual student loan interest; mortgage or home-equity-loan interest; property taxes; bank fees and credit card expenses; medical bills (if you think they will amount to more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income); day-care and tuition bills; and receipts for charitable donations.

Business records and receipts: If you run a business, keep these records separate from your general expenses: business-related income (invoices and pay stubs), receipts for expenses (including travel, meals and entertainment) and costs relating to a home office.

 

FILE IT

Group like with like: Organize your papers and receipts into envelopes or folders.

 

USE YOUR CALENDAR

Recall your major events: Go through your 2009 datebook month by month to recall and write down purchases and events that qualify as itemized deduction.

 

TALLY YOUR RECEIPTS

Add it up: If you plan to itemize expenses as deductions, make sure you have a receipt for each one, and use a spreadsheet program or tax-preparation software to add up the expenses in each category. Never estimate. If you’re missing a receipt, use a credit card statement as a record of the purchase.