Tax season is upon us and if you haven’t yet, you’ll be getting a request from your CPA to pull together all your documents to prepare your tax returns. Keep in mind that if your social security number and personal information is shared with others, you can be the target of identity theft. Here are some ways to safeguard your tax returns this year.
Scan Your Receipts
It’s a lot easier for your CPA if all of your receipts are scanned electronically. This also prevents having to mail a lot of receipts and statements to your CPA.
If you don’t have a scanner, you can purchase an inexpensive all-in-one printer/fax/scanner from your local office supply store.
Be sure to buy one with an auto-feeder as it will save time in scanning multiple pages. You can pick one up at Office Max for about $199: HP OfficeJet Pro 6830 Wireless e-All-In-One Printer, Scanner, Copier, Fax.
- Medical Receipts – Doctor, dentist and hospital visits as well as purchases of medicine.
- Property Tax Receipts – Receipts for payments of property taxes.
- Financial Receipts – Brokerage statements, dividends, capital gains, mortgage interest, and other financial receipts.
- Rental Property Receipts – Receipts for utility bills, rental history, upgrades and property enhancements, etc.
- Charity and Donations – Receipts for charitable giving and donations to Goodwill and other organizations.
- Business Expenses – If you have a home business, receipts for purchases of office supplies, postage, shipping, and other business expenses.
Once you’ve scanned your receipts, don’t put them in the trash because people tend to go through trash this time of year looking for personal information. Instead, shred your receipts with a good shredder.
Not all shredders are created equally as some simply shred your document into strips which can be easily put back together to see the document.
At a minimum, consider purchasing a cross-cut shredder since it would be much harder to reconstruct the shredded document. For more extensive information on shredders, see this article from eHow. You can pick up a cross-cut shredder for about $79 from Office Max, here is one to consider.
Do Not Send Tax Records via Email
Email is not a good way to send tax documents that contain your account numbers or social security number. It is simply not secure and can be intercepted by hackers. A better approach is to upload your documents to a secure document storage platform and have it notify the person you are sending it to via email. Once they get the email, they can download the document but it will be transferred in a secure encrypted format.
Some people use Dropbox for tax returns and preparation documents, but it’s just not secure enough. You’ll want to use a service that encrypts the document during transport (when being sent over email) and keeps the document encrypted when stored there.
The TriggerBox is a low-cost service that does this and as you send documents to your CPA, friends or peers, they don’t have to have a paid license of the TriggerBox to download the document you sent them. Here is a quick video that shows how it works, you can get a free 30 day account here:
Store Your Tax Returns for the Future
Once your tax return is completed, keep a copy of it online so that you can easily retrieve it. The TriggerBox software can also be used for this. You can create virtual safety deposit boxes and place your tax return there. You can also add other sensitive documents like Wills and other Estate documents. By keeping all of this in the TriggerBox, you’ll never lose access to it, it will be kept safe via encryption and will be backed up so that you never lose it.
Start off the year by scanning all your tax related receipts. If your CPA or anyone else needs you to send them tax documents electronically, put them in a secure location, like the TriggerBox. Your CPA or others you are sharing these documents with don’t have to have their own TriggerBox account to receive them. Once done, store your tax returns there to keep them safe and backed up.
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