Get Organized for Tax Season

There’s no need to wait until the last minute to start getting ready for tax season.  Whether your tax return is prepared by a professional or you complete the process on your own, staying organized throughout the year will help make tax time a little bit easier.  Staying organized will also help reduce the likelihood of an error, helping to ensure the accuracy of your return and reduce the risk of an audit.

As tax deadlines approaches, we always hear clients say, “I’m trying to get everything together!”  Many tax payers have large amounts of documentation and information to gather for the preparation of their annual tax return.  Some of these items only come around every few years and are easily forgotten or overlooked.  For example, most people don’t buy or sell a home every year, but your Settlement Statement or Closing Disclosure documentation is important information to include on your tax return.  Other times clients will receive excessive documentation from a company and they are unsure which pieces are necessary.  If you have investments, for example, you probably receive monthly statements as well as an end of year statement.  You should also receive a Consolidated 1099 – that’s the only document truly needed for your taxes (all pages, not just the cover sheet).  Additionally, if you have multiple investment accounts, you will receive documentation for each individual account and they may not be sent out at the same time (even if they are with the same company).  This leads many clients to believe they have received everything when, in fact, they are missing important information.

How can you make tax season organization easier?  The simplest way is to have a designated folder – either physical or electronic.  When documents are received they automatically go into the folder.  If there are two tax payers in the home, make sure both spouses know about the folder and its location.  It won’t be effective if one partner is putting documents in the folder while the other is placing them in a drawer somewhere else.  Take your organization a step further by including a checklist with your document storage.  “It’s not something most people want to think about, but if you take a few minutes after filing your taxes to go ahead and make a quick checklist for next year while the information is fresh, most clients find it goes more smoothly when the time comes to get organized,” reports Chelsea, Levesque & Associates Office Manager.  “It’s as simple as W-2, 1098, 3 investment statements, childcare, home office, mileage, donations, etc.  Making note of what you needed for your return this year will help guide you as you gather information next year.”

If you’re feeling like an organization pro, leverage technology!  SmartVault is a secure storage solution that is free to Levesque & Associates clients.  With more companies starting to deliver information electronically, it’s simple to upload the documents to your personal vault.  When tax season begins, much of what you need will already be available to your accountant without you having to lift a finger!  Paper documents that you receive can be scanned and uploaded thereby reducing the need to store (and potentially misplace) paper.  Don’t have a scanner?  No problem!  Tons of scanning apps exist for Apple and Android devices.  Check out a list of a few here.

If you don’t have access to SmartVault, electronically storing your documents and information is still a great way to reduce any potential headaches when it’s time to get ready for tax season.  It minimizes, and sometimes even eliminates, the need to locate paperwork.  Additionally, it’s ready to be sent to your accountant via email or through another form of electronic uploading.  Look into secure storage options like Dropbox or Google’s OneDrive.

Not all information needed for tax purposes comes as a document mailed or emailed to tax payers.  Many people will have business expenses, mileage, home office costs, and more.  “I always tell clients to keep receipts in case the IRS comes knocking one day, but so many options are available to limit the storage needs and make tax season go more smoothly.  Apps exist for receipts and mileage.  I personally use them every day.  Other clients choose to track information in an Excel document that they send to me when it’s time to prepare their return.  There are also many affordable bookkeeping programs available for those who require a more robust solution for tracking information,” stated Conrad Levesque, CPA, Owner of Levesque & Associates.

Whichever method(s) you choose for the storing and disbursement of your tax information, spending a little time staying organized throughout the year will make your life much easier when tax season comes.

Questions about your documentation needs or interested in accessing your personal Vault?  Call or email us – we’re happy to help!

Local Business Spotlight: The Weikum Group

It’s time for our next Local Business Spotlight and this time we are excited to be featuring our friend Ken Weikum of The Weikum Group.  Ken has worked in the insurance industry for more than a decade and used his many years of experience to build a business that makes insurance simple and accessible for his clients.  Keep reading to learn about his experience starting and growing his business.  ​

Q: What is the name of your business and when did you get started?

My name is Kenneth Weikum and I am the principal agent of The Weikum Group.  Before opening the agency, I spent 10 years handling claims from auto adjusting, subrogation, and catastrophic property adjustment.  I volunteered to go in after catastrophes, to deal with the tears, to face their fears with them, and to deliver on the promise that they have been paying into.  Yet, as an adjuster, you can only do so much, and it only comes to pass if the worst happens. 

Therefore, I opened The Weikum Group to be in the business of helping people.  As an Agent, I can insure that each one of my clients has the right policy and is matched with the right company.  That way my clients do not have to worry if the policy they bought online is going to cover them or not.

Q: Tell us about your business. What products and/or services do you offer?

The Weikum Group is an Independent Insurance Agency with a laser focus to “Make Insurance Simple” and to place the “right customer with the right company.”  We have appointments with a wide range of insurance carriers, giving us the options to accomplish just that. We can offer our customers coverage for auto, home, life, umbrella, and business insurance.

 

Q: How did you get the idea or concept for the business?

Insurance is not a tangible product and what it covers is often a mystery to most people.  Most Insurance companies are not advertising how their product is different, just that is better than their competitors and its cheap.  With so much mystery behind a product, having an agent is almost a no-brainer.  Then the question is, do you want an advisor who can only advise you with one solution, or with a toolbox of solutions?

I wanted to create an agency where my clients knew what products they were purchasing, what their policy covers, and to know that their policy was tailored to their needs.

Q: Why did you choose your industry/business?

This one is always a funny one.  Nobody goes to school to become an Insurance Agent.  Like many in my field, we fell into it and fell in love with it.  We would spend weeks out in the field, but we were changing people’s lives!

Q: What was your mission at the outset?

Our motto has always been to “To make Insurance Simple.”  Insurance policies are contracts and read like them too; similar to those terms and service agreements that everyone agrees to but has no idea what they mean.

Imagine having the option to call someone each time you came across a terms and service, and we gave you the abbreviated version and could educate you on what you were agreeing to.  That is what having an Agent is all about!  Just like you have an accountant, CPA, or lawyer to advise you, insurance agents can be your partner to build coverages that are right for you.

Q: Which channel(s) do you feel has been the most beneficial to the growth of your business (Social media, web-presence, word-of-mouth, networking, etc)? Why?

I fundamentally believe that people like to do business with those whom they know and trust.  In fact, trust is half the equation when it comes to services like The Weikum Group, Levesque and Associates, or Active Financial.  That is why we do not cold call or buy lists.  We aim to make valuable relationships with other professionals, meet the customer when and how they want to purchase insurance, and then follow up with yearly reviews to make sure we are upholding our end of the bargain.

Q: What do you feel has been the biggest contributor to the success of your business?

I firmly believe that the only real currency in the world is relationships.  I would not be where I am at today if it was not due to the generosity, mentorship, or contribution of hundreds of people.

We are in the same building as Levesque and Associates, and it wasn’t on accident!  I had known Conrad for years, and it was happen stance that he reached out and wanted to help.  During coffee we found out that we had a very similar dream and decided to team up add even more value to our clients.

Q: Can you tell us about a client experience that made you think, “This is why I do what I do!”?

I am blessed to be able to have that feeling almost every day!  About 80% of our clients walk away better covered and spending less money for that policy.  That is a real impact on peoples lives!  Even if we can price match and add coverage, once people understand what they are being protected against, it is a no-brainer.

Q: Do you have a favorite quote, book, or blog that has inspired you as you have grown your business?

“How you do anything…Is how you do EVERYTHING…”

It means that the little details matter.  It means who we are after 9-5 will reflect who we are during 9-5.

Q: What has been the biggest obstacle you have faced while starting and growing your business?

I often remember being resentful when management would take action and it wouldn’t make sense to my role.  I would often talk about ways I would do it better or how that idea was silly.  Now that I am a business owner…everything I do or don’t do comes down to me.  Yet, what is equally gratifying, and terrifying are those moments when it all comes together!

Q: What words of wisdom or advice would you offer to someone starting their own business?

Surround yourself with good people who want to see you succeed.  Know WHY you are doing what you are doing.  Take the leap and keep flapping!

Starting a business is tough as nails and nobody is going to do it for you, yet if you know why you are doing it, surround yourself with good people, and work your tail off, only good things will come!

Contact:
Ken Weikum
The Weikum Group
678-665-0508
ken@theweikumgroup.com