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How to Clear the Financial Clutter When Filing Your Income Taxes

Q. One of our resolutions this year was to file our taxes early, rather than at the last minute like we usually do. Our kids are away this week at camp, so this is our week to make this happen. What can you suggest to get us started?

A. This is a great time of year to get your financial house in order and file your taxes well ahead of the April 30th deadline. Here are some tips to get you started:

Get Organized Before You Start on Your Income Tax

Every busy household needs a good filing system, so organize your important papers. As you sort your 2011 paperwork, take note of what you need to keep track of and create folders for those categories for 2012. Also create a general folder for anything tax related that you’ll need for next year. The first things to put into that folder are your 2011 Assessment Notices, which you’ll receive from CRA.

As you organize and find your payments aren't up to date, consider creating a household budget.

Take a Look at Your Spending – Will Your Income Tax Refund be Eaten up by Debt

Review your current money management system as you organize and sort your bills. As you’re organizing your papers, if you notice that your payments aren’t all up to date, make it your next goal to establish a realistic household budget. Nothing eats up a tax refund faster than having to use it to play catch up with your bills.

Check in with Your Financial Professionals – Financial Planner, Insurance Agent, & Income Tax Professional

Make appointments with various professionals to keep informed. Speak to your financial planner about how your RRSP contributions are stacking up, if you’ve got the right savings accounts for long as well as short-term goals and if your lending products (e.g. over draft, loans, line of credit and mortgage) are keeping you in debt or allowing you to work towards becoming debt free.

Contact your insurance agent and make sure you’ve got the right policies in place. Balance your needs carefully so that you’re not paying for coverage you already have elsewhere or can’t use.

If your tax return is complicated, consider using a tax professional to help you review your work before you submit it. When your paperwork is in order it’s easier for them to review your situation. They can see if there’s anything you missed and help you plan for next year. If your employer can decrease your income tax deductions at source, you’ll end up with a little extra money in your pocket throughout the year. Rather than lending it to the government for free, you can use it to pay your bills, top up savings . . . or even go out for dinner with your partner, now that the paperwork is out of the way.

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