Get the Tax Refund You Deserve with an Organized Tax Binder

Whether you file your own taxes or use a service or CPA to help prepare them for you, the tried and true tax binder can help you collect the necessary records you need to file your taxes accurately.
Looking to get the maximum refund this year? Or, how about lowering your tax bill if you owe?
An organized tax binder is your answer.
Whether you file your own taxes or use a service or CPA to help prepare them for you, the tried and true tax binder can help you collect the necessary records you need to file your taxes accurately. And when you have all your paperwork organized, you'll have the proof you need to get the deductions and credits you deserve. Putting your own tax binder together is easier than you think. Let's take a look at the essentials you'll need.

Building the perfect tax binder

  • Binder. With a tax binder, you'll have a system in place that makes it easier to prepare your taxes year after year. Look for a sturdy binder that's built to last, and with rings that are easy to open and close so you can quickly add and remove documents as needed.
  • Sheet protectors. These clear, handy pockets can be used to hold receipts, forms and other loose paper. To keep your papers in top condition, choose sheet protectors made of acid-free and archival-safe material so the print won't lift from paper over time.
  • Dividers. Use customized dividers to create sections for your tax documents. Make sure your divider tabs are easy to read from the front or back so they'll be easy to flip to no matter where you are in your binder. Dividers with reinforced holes are designed to stand up to frequent use, so you won't have to worry about them ripping away.
  • Tabs. Flag items, jot notes or create sub-sections with repositionable note tabs and margin tabs to call attention to areas you may have questions about or need to highlight.
Now that you've collected these items, let's sort through your paperwork.

Putting your paperwork together

Begin by sorting all the records and paperwork for the past year by type. Examples include:
  • Income documents, which include W2s (for salaried and hourly wages) and 1099s (self-employed income)
  • Deductible expenses, such as mortgage interest, real estate taxes paid and receipts for charitable contributions
  • Rental property income and expenses
  • Investment records, including year-end statements of earnings from bank accounts, stock portfolios, mutual fund managers, etc.
  • Records of any expenses associated with such investments, including investment counsel and advisory fees and safe deposit box rentals
  • Medical receipts, including health insurance payment records, which may be required under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
  • Business records, including income statements, expense receipts, etc., if you run a small or part-time business out of your home
Place your documents into their proper sections. You might also consider creating an index, logging each item you place into each section. Place this index at the beginning of each section. Now that you've got a record of each item you've gathered, it's easier to know what you have and what's missing at a glance.

Making it easier to prepare for tax time each year

Like any good investment, the time you take to create your tax binder will return dividends in the years ahead. That's because your tax binder system can be reused each and every tax season. If there are no major changes the following year, you can replicate the same sections for next year's tax binder. Start fresh at the beginning of each year, and you can make things easier by collecting your tax paperwork throughout the year instead of waiting until the last minute.
Once you've filed your taxes, keep your tax records for future reference in case of an IRS audit. Here are a couple ideas on how to store your past records:
  • Keep them in your tax binder. Create a cover and spine for your binder and include the tax year. Then, start a new binder for the current year. Eventually, you will have an organized library of your past tax records.
  • Remove this year's documents from your binder, empty your receipts into labeled envelopes, and box them away for future reference. Your tax binder is ready to go, so you can start collecting your receipts and documents in the year ahead.
Take the stress out of tax preparation with these basic supplies to create an organized tax binder. You'll find them at your local office supply store, or online at Once you've put yours together, you'll have a system that will work with you to make tax time easier each and every year.