Thursday, April 12, 2012

Getting Organized for Tax Time


stressed woman




Are you pulling your hair out getting ready to file your taxes?  Swearing next year will be different?  Next year, you will be organized?  Start working now to be prepared next year.

I love this quote:
Small things, done consistently and in strategic places, produce the greatest results.*
I try to keep this in mind whenever I’m tackling a big project or changing a habit.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the big picture.  Sometimes I tend to think “if I can’t do it all perfectly - right now, then I just won’t do it at all”.  I’ve learned that this thinking is a recipe for disaster.  
Making small changes, and sticking to those changes, can have an amazing impact.


The following are a few tips for starting to get organized.  


tax paperwork
Photo courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
  • Use technology.  There are tons of tools to help you with your bookkeeping.  Take some time to look around and find what will be a good fit for your business.  There are many benefits to using a web-based system - we’ll delve more into the pros and cons of that in another post.
  • Use a separate credit card for business purchases.   Only use it for business.  This makes it much simpler to keep your personal and business expenditures independent.  
  • Enter your income from each client every day - as it happens.  While you are settling up with your client, and scheduling their next appointment - input their payment info into your bookkeeping system so you stay on top of it.  Why wait until you can’t remember or have month’s worth of sessions to record?
  • Set an hour or two aside each month, or 20 minutes each week, to input all of your expenses into your bookkeeping system.  If you keep up on it, 20 minutes is all you’ll need.  Schedule it into your business - just like doing massage, or marketing, or washing linens - this is part of running your business and you should schedule and prioritize it as such.  Have a designated file for receipts to be entered at this time.  Keep a master list of recurring expenses you need to remember to be entered each month like credit card processing fees, rent, linen service, etc. so you don’t forget anything.  Make this time enjoyable by treating yourself to a latte while you work, or schedule your massage or a pedicure as a reward after doing your bookkeeping.
  • Make copies of your tax returns and file them in a handy place. You’ll need to reference these if there’s a question about your filing, so know where they are!
  • Make use of cancellations/no shows.  Use this time to stay caught up on bookkeeping.  Using a web-based system for your bookkeeping makes it easy to use sudden free time for organizing.If you have time to Facebook, you have time to get organized.
  • Small steps.  If you’re overwhelmed, you’re likely to throw in the towel and go back to old habits (i.e. a box with a year’s worth of receipts, or even more adventurous: a “receipt hunt”).  It takes time to implement new habits.  Choose one organizational improvement per month and implement it!  Small changes really add up.
  • Talk to your accountant to get setup to make quarterly payments.    Set this money aside each week and do not touch it.  Create a sub-account in your business bank account to put this money in, so you’re sure to remember it goes to the IRS.  This may not seem necessary when you’re first starting out, but as your practice and your income grows, so will your tax bill.  It’s best to get into the habit of setting that money aside now.
  • Setup a meeting with your accountant to create a full list of what expenses you can write off.  You might be surprised at the expenses you didn’t think of, and every little bit helps.


Are you already an organizational wizard for your massage business?  Great!  Comment below to share some of your tips!


Cindy Iwlew is co-founder of Bodywork Buddy Massage Software, a complete online management solution for independent massage therapists that includes online scheduling. She continues to operate her own private massage practice of 13 years, and has been an associate instructor for Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy since 2007.  www.BodyworkBuddy.com

*I found many references to this quote online, but didn’t have any luck finding who actually said it originally.
Photo courtesy of


2 comments:

  1. I may disagree on the quarterly tax thing... I've never done it, and I am a solo practice. The first year in practice- I had the whole "surprise! you owe $1500! Yay for you!" thing going on.
    But then I spoke with my tax accountant, and she told me about quarterly payments.
    I'm of the belief that my money is my money- and if i didn't legally have to pay, i would keep it all! But since I am a law abiding citizen, I do pay. But the quarterly thing didn't sit well with me.
    I took the Financial Peace University course by Dave Ramsey and in it he spoke of Money Market accounts. without going into great detail- rather than paying the government quarterly, he recomends putting the money into a high yeilding interest account, making some money off of it, and then paying at the end of the year.
    You just have to know how much to set aside. My accountant suggested 30% of the net income I make.
    I like doing it this way because I have access to the money if need be, and I can potentially make money off of my "investment"

    This isn't for everybody, my Mom pays quarterly. It just works for me. :-)

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    1. Interesting - thanks for the tip, Justine!

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