By Stacie Clifford Kitts
My mom had a philosophy about housekeeping. I think this stemmed from her preference to spend her free time on other activities like mastering a still life in watercolor, or watching a classic old movie. In any case, her philosophy usually resulted in our house being in one of two stages. She lightheartedly referred to these as “lived-in clean”, or “company clean”. I can still recall the first time I noticed mom running around the house painting over dirty little finger prints, or using Old English scratch remover (love that stuff by the way) on the furniture. This was when she explained that “company clean” meant paying attention to the details while “lived-in clean”, maybe not so much.
We sometimes see Taxpayers that have this same philosophy. They never quite seem to pay attention to the detail, that is, until they have company knocking at the door. Sometimes that company is a taxing agency. But, more often than not, everyday life events have resulted in the need for “company clean” records. Those include:
1) Accurate tax planning
2) Retirement planning
3) Applying for a home or business loan
4) Divorce or marriage considerations
5) Estate and succession planning
Taxpayers are often shocked at how costly it is to have someone “clean-up” after the fact. But consider the cost of hiring someone to clean or repair your house after a long period of neglect. Imagine the damage that can occur to your property when not taken care of properly. If you cannot, might I suggest an episode of Horders as an arguably extreme example of the damage caused by a lack of proper housekeeping.
“Company clean” records do not need to steal from your free time thought. Here are a few tips.
1) Do not wait until the end of the year to accumulate your records or do your accounting. You should be accumulating this information and doing an accounting (if necessary) at lease monthly.
2) Know what records you should be keeping. Ask your accountant or check out the IRS Website
3) Hire a qualified bookkeeper. This is someone who has a basic knowledge of accounting rules, not just someone who knows how to use Quickbooks.
4) Have your CPA look at your accounting records before the end of the year to make accounting suggestions and to help with tax forecasting.
5) Budget for the costs of hiring qualified tax and accounting professionals. Usually, the quality of your tax and accounting information is a reflection of what you pay for them.