Equine Accounting: Getting your information for your tax return organized...

How to organize your tax return documentation for your tax return in a few easy steps:Day 1: Read this article. It's probably going to be the step that takes the greatest amount of time so it's all downhill from here.

You need to get your records organized. But you open the file/shoebox/drawer and there is just so much there, in no particular order. That looks like a whole day's worth of work and there are horses to be ridden, lessons to be taught and stalls to be cleaned. So you put away your good intentions for another day.
It doesn't have to be that way. Here's how to get organized without spending lots of precious time sitting at your desk. But first a brief review of what your records should include.
The IRS requires documentation for all expenses that you deduct. You must be able to back up deductions with documentation such as canceled checks or receipts. If you are selected by the IRS for an audit, you may not be audited for several years after you file your return. Memories fade so be sure to create a system of organization that you will remember and understand in years to come.
Generally, the law does not require any specific kind of records. You can choose any recordkeeping system suited to your business that clearly shows your income and expenses. For most small businesses, the business checkbook is the main source of recordkeeping. In addition, you must keep supporting documents. Purchases, sales, payroll, and other transactions you have in your business generate supporting documents. Supporting documents include sales slips, paid bills, invoices, receipts, deposit slips, and canceled checks.
Gross receipts are the income you receive from your business. You should keep supporting documents that show the amounts and sources of your gross receipts. Documents that show gross receipts include:
· Bank deposit slips.
· Receipt books.
· Invoices.
· Credit card charge slips and statements
· Forms 1099-MISC.
Expenses are the costs you incur to carry on your business. Your supporting documents should show the amount paid and that the amount was for a business expense. Documents for expenses include the following.
· Canceled checks.
· Credit card sales slips and statements
· Invoices.
· Petty cash slips for small cash payments.
Get started:
The trick of getting this done is to do little bits each day. Set a reasonable daily goal. If you can't accomplish the goal you set, the next day you need to finish that goal before moving on to the next one.
Day 2: Get together all of your bank statements, credit card statements, receipts and other supporting documentation (your proverbial shoebox), prior year tax return and check book .
Day 3 and for each succeeding day until done: Decide on categories of expenses for your business. If you look at the portion of your prior year tax return which reports the activity of your business, you will see the types of expenses that your tax preparer used - e.g. Utilities, Feed and Grain, Legal and Accounting, etc. Grab a manila envelope, label it with the name of one expense type and go through your pile of receipts for only that type of expense. Toss all of the Utilities bills into the Utilities envelope and pick a different category the next day. Save all of the receipts that are for miscellaneous expenses for the last day and create a Misc envelope for those. HOWEVER, if you have more than a few documents for the same category and the total for that expense is significant for your business, you should probably create an envelope just for that type of expense. If you have a category with only a few documents, do an additional category that day.
The day after all the expenses are sorted and each succeeding day until done: Take out of the manila envelope the documentation for one type of expense. Put the receipts in order by date, earliest date first. Make a list on a piece of paper for each document listing the date, the vendor (who you paid), the amount and the business purposes for the payment (e.g. hay and grain, saddle fitting, etc). When you are done with that expense, put the paper into the envelope and the next day, start with the next expense. Again, if you have a category with only a few documents, do an additional category that day.
The day after all of your expense envelopes have lists and each succeeding day until done: Pick an envelope and review your credit card statements, bank statements and check book for expenses that may be included there but for which you don't have supporting documents in your envelope. On a piece of scrap paper, put the date, vendor name, amount of the expense, toss the paper into the envelope and add the expense to your list.
Follow the same procedures for gross income. Income categories might include lesson income, board, training, sales commissions, etc.
Now you are ready to hand everything over to your tax return preparer. Going through this process has many benefits. It:

· Has saved you the cost of having your tax preparer sort through everything.
· Reduced the possibility of the preparer misclassifying an expense ("What's a gogue???")
· May show you that there are some documents missing.
· Provides a good review for you of your business finances.