The phrase “time is money” is a tired cliche. But it’s also true. Everyone is obsessed with saving money on their taxes, but what about your precious, precious time? We can help. Here are five priceless tips to help you save that one thing you can never earn back, take out a loan for, or inherit: time.
Trash your box full of receipts
Quit organizing your receipts by hand. Maybe you have a shoebox full of receipts at home, waiting to be sorted when you do your taxes. We bet that half of those receipts will stymie you by the time you get to them: Was this a gas station receipt? Is that a zero or an eight? What was I doing in Buffalo, New York in February again?
Good news: There are online services that make all that quicker and easier. Start with Shoeboxed, a service that lets you scan, upload and store all those pesky receipts… and then makes them searchable. A free mobile app does the scanning; it can even track your car mileage, if you write that off every year, using your phone’s built-in GPS.
If you don’t like scanning, no problem: You can stick your receipts in one of the company’s pre-paid “magic envelopes,” and then kick back while that mail turns into digitized receipts. Even better: You can save more time if you you use Gmail. Shoeboxed can automatically import receipts from that email platform.
Have software do the work for you
Put the pencil away. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? But if you’re still meeting with your accountant every year, that’s time in traffic and in an office that you can save if you just DIY. TurboTax and H&R Block both have options for filing for free if your lifestyle qualifies.
Another reason to use tax-filing software: There are some very new, very daunting tax laws that went into effect recently, and sorting through them yourself is a form of self-punishment we wouldn’t wish on anyone. Any decent online tax filing option, such as the two mentioned earlier, are updated yearly with all the latest in labyrinthine tax law. Love yourself: Let that software sort through those laws for you.
Paper checks are for chumps
If you’re lucky enough to get a refund this year (and a lot of people won’t be) then you can save time processing that windfall, too. When you file your taxes online, opt to receive your money via direct deposit. There will be no check to wait for… and no check you have to head to a bank to deposit. Just have your routing number and bank account number handy when you file your taxes, and your money will go right into your checking or savings account.
Hang up on the IRS
Save time tracking your refund, too. Forget calling the IRS. If you’ve ever done that, you know very well how long they can keep you on hold. Track your refund by bookmarking a single link: https://www.irs.gov/refunds.
Use a good checklist
Sure, it can take hours to do your taxes, even online. But there’s another hidden time-suck you may not even be aware of: Preparing to prepare your taxes. That’s the part where you run around looking for all of your tax forms -- that is, if you even know what tax forms you need, and what you don’t. (What’s this random bank statement? Do I need to worry about this new chunk of income? Is this even a form?)
Save yourself all of these steps with a single checklist that’ll help you cut through that crucial organizing step. H&R Block has a great one.