Can you feel the anxiety in the air? Sure you can. After all, it’s tax season!
Tax software commercials are filling the airwaves with smiling actors happily filing taxes (that’s how you know they’re actors), and you’re starting to feel the sense of dread about the giant pile of papers you’ll have to sift through to get your taxes in order for filing to the IRS.
Fret no more! Instead of scrambling at the final hour this year, you can get a jump start on your taxes by organizing your documents in a Trello board. And if you are self employed or own your own business, maintaining a tax board in Trello can help you organize your deductible purchases and receipts throughout the year. So you’ll no longer spend hours rummaging through a shoebox full of receipts now that you have everything stored digitally in Trello cards.
Best of all—the sooner you submit your taxes, the quicker you’ll receive your return from the IRS. Now who doesn’t love some extra cash money at the beginning of the year?
Whether you’re filing taxes solo or jointly, Trello is the place where you can create a workflow and get a snapshot of where you are in the tax filing process. As the tax forms start coming in, before you start to feel overwhelmed, consider how putting a simple process together like this one can seriously reduce your stress levels.
Here’s the process I’ve developed for organizing my tax documents with my husband, along with tips to help you keep your sanity during this time. Soon enough, you'll become the Tax Titan you always knew you could be.
Tax Time Trello Board
View the sample Trello board here.
I file my taxes jointly with my husband, and we use the services of an accountant. You might use an accountant as well or an online software to file your taxes. Whichever way you file your taxes, you’ll need to organize all of your financial and income information and documents to submit your federal and state taxes.
The first thing I do each year when the first tax form comes in is to create a Trello board. The purpose of this board is to aggregate all the disparate tax forms. Doing this helps assuage my worry that I’m going to miss something, because I can now visualize all of the moving parts. Once the board is created, I add my husband and accountant as members of the board so they can access and work on it too.
Lists are labeled “Information,” “Needs Document,” and “Ready To Go.” The first list has a card containing a checklist from our accountant stating all the things we need to prepare. It also has some reference cards with due dates and previous returns.
Pro Tip: The IRS recommends keeping returns on file from the past 7 years so Trello is a great way to store this information and reference whenever needed while filing taxes.
In “Documents,” I create cards for each tax form we need to find, and assign someone to find it.
For example, my husband and I both have separate cards for our retirement accounts. Assigning him to his own card means he is explicitly aware of what he needs to find. This creates a sense of accountability which is super important during the tax filing chaos so we don’t drop the ball on any important information and scramble at the last minute. Some people, who shall remain nameless (for a happy marriage’s sake), can be a little forgetful from time to time.
Another important feature you can add to the cards is due dates. Adding due dates to your tax filing to-do's ensures reminders are sent and everyone knows when we agreed to have paperwork uploaded and ready to go. And when we complete the task, we can mark the due date as done—a visual indicator that the finish line is near!
Other ways to visually organize your cards, for instance if you're self-employed and have income coming from many different sources, include labels and Custom Fields, which can be used to track any special details on the front of cards.
Easy Document Upload
As tax forms come in, I scan and upload them directly to the Trello board. I can easily add cards and attach documents, whether it’s on the web or on the go. Sometimes I even do this directly from my mobile phone using Trello’s iPhone app after I open the mail. Tax forms have a pesky habit of getting lost and I don’t want to forget anything so snapping a photo of documents and adding it to my Trello cards helps to keep everything organized.
The best way to keep on top of all the details is to send key information to Trello as soon as you receive it. Check out this article for all the ways to send info to Trello. Some of my favorites include the Trello Add-on for Gmail or the email-to-board feature, which make it easy to forward details from my employer and investment advisor to the board in a single click.
Sending It In
Once all of my paperwork is aggregated and in the “Ready to Go” column, I double check to make sure I have everything I need. If I have questions about documents, I can ask my accountant directly in Trello. This is great because the reference document is literally right on the card, so not only is my accountant clear on what form I’m referencing, but I can look back later if I’ve forgotten where we landed.
Communication with your accountant is smoother: no back and forth email chains, and no digging around for documents. All communication exists together on one card.
Finally, when everything is ready to go and my accountant gives me the OK, I can upload everything into his secure, online document storage system.
If you aren't working with an accountant, or are handling the tax filing submission yourself, your Trello board can still come in handy! Our Package Tracker Power-Up directly integrates courier tracking numbers onto cards so you can watch the progress of your registered mail and be confident that it made its way to the IRS.
Once the tax forms are submitted, I’ll create a new folder with all of these documents in Dropbox and close this board. I can’t emphasize how much stress is removed by just getting a process down and creating accountability with this workflow. It means tax time is no longer a threat to marriages everywhere.
For extra credit, consider making this board earlier than filing season and adding documents throughout the year. You’ll be able to keep track of things like charitable contributions rather than scrambling in April. Staring at a bunch of blank charity receipts without remembering the details from donations made months ago means you may be missing out on potential deductions.
Now to start planning how to spend my tax return…*creates new board*.
Are you using Trello to file your taxes? We want to hear more workflows! Good or bad, we'd love to hear your thoughts. Find us on Twitter (@trello) or write in to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in February, 2016 but has been updated with heaps of new information and ideas.