Are you ready to file those tax returns? Sharpen your pencils, get your thinking hat on and line up the calculators: it's tax season, where you need to get your returns ready by April 17, or else potentially be up for some pretty serious penalties. If, like many of us, the thought of sitting down and looking at all those numbers makes you want to move countries, fear not; these nine apps, products, and other unexpected things can make make tax season ever so slightly easier.
The good news about taxes these days is that there are all kinds of tips and tricks to help you file a return that's sparkling and perfect, from specific apps to calculators to a chatbot specially designed to deal with knotty accounting questions. However, that doesn't mean it's not a stressful time of year, particularly if you work for yourself; self-employment means freedom, but it also means taking responsibility for your own taxes, and that may mean you regret going out on your lonesome come April. As a freelancer for over ten years, I can tell you that doing your own tax doesn't have to be a headache, but getting it right is a year-round practice. Get a financial product that suits you and start filing things properly, and come next year your accountant will want to send you flowers.
1. A Good Tax Calculator
Filling out tax forms is about as stress-free as wading through a field of porcupines, so it's valuable to have a simple tool to help you approximate what you might owe. These calculators aren't the same as an official accountant, but they'll give you a basic indicator that you can use as a baseline.
2. Mint App
Mint is one of the most widely-used budgeting apps in America, and it's an excellent all-in-one place to know where your money's going and how it's being spent. If you're looking through boxes of receipts in despair, Mint might be a good thing to download to prep for next year — plus it also includes things like your credit score and how your bill repayments are going, so you don't mysteriously lose track of your money.
3. Pegg, The Accounting AI
Pegg's maker, Kriti Sharma at SAGE, is very excited about the capabilities of the accounting chatbot, the first of its kind. "It’s often only big companies or high-tech start-ups who can afford to access tech like this," she tells Bustle. "There are so many opportunities for people, from freelancers to small business owners, who can benefit from it." And that's what Pegg is designed to do; you tell it your expenses via chat, and it keeps your books for you. Easy.
4. Quickbooks Accounting Software
Quickbooks is a highly-rated piece of accounting software for people who are self-employed and handle their own books; TrustRadius rated its consumer feedback as one of the highest in all of accounting. It's a boon during tax season because it keeps all your invoices in one place and allows easy filing of expenses receipts, complete with attached photos, so if you lose the physical copy you're still sorted.
5. A Filing Cabinet
Everybody needs a basic filing cabinet for their tax returns, important sorting documents, applications, and God knows what else. This orange one from Poppin is adorable, but there are also much more affordable options at Staples and Amazon. I don't care if you do everything on your computer; paperwork is unavoidable and you need somewhere to put it.
6. Stickers To Help Sort Your Stuff
If you're a visual organizer, consider using stickers on the corners of your paperwork to help know what goes where. Everybody's got a system; yours may as well involve adorable stickers about payroll, expenses, retirement savings, and receipts. Just don't put 'em on your official tax return, because the government has no sense of style.
7. A Labelling System
What goes where? Make sure you have a system for putting post-its on your bits and pieces of loose paper and receipts. Whether it's fancy stickers or a multi-colored labelling system of sticky notes, make sure you remember what goes where and why; nobody wants to be wondering what "orange" means at 10 p.m. the night before the return is due.
8. A Stress Squishy Toy
Stress balls are so last year; you need something adorable to squish out your stress until your palms hurt. Fortunately there are options to suit many tastes, including polar bears, strawberries and even sushi. Pick one that best represents your stress and squeeze it to your heart's content.
9. A Relaxing Body Treat
You've filed, and now you basically need a vacation — but you really know you can't afford it. Best option? An affordable de-stressing ritual. Whether it's a candle, some essential oils, or a peaceful eye mask, now is the time to keep within a budget while letting all your stress flow free. Note: screaming into a pillow is free.