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Here in Canada, our taxes have to be filed and paid by April 30th.  As a self employed freelance musician, I have to keep my receipts and documents together through the year. For a few years I had an accountant to help me sort through the tax process, but it was quite expensive.  For the past 3 or 4 years I have been doing it myself and I think I have figured out a system that is easy to maintain through the year and simple and quick to process when it comes tax time.

The secret is a good accordion or expanding file.  When Martha Stewart first introduced her line of office products at staples I was instantly attracted to the pretty colours.  It’s not the cheapest, and this year I decided to try the Cardinal brand to save a few dollars.  I use a new one every year, one for myself, and one for my husband, for seven years, as I only need to keep them for up to 6 years.  There are some surprising differences between the two brands and I thought I’d share them with you.

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First impressions: They look pretty much the same. Martha Stewart’s (right) is opaque, and comes with an elastic around the bottom, while the Staples folder is slightly see through with a leather-like trim. Other than that, they’re virtually the same size and shape.

The MS can stand up on its own, while the Cardinal can't.  Not a big deal, as I keep them in a shelf in a closet.

The MS can stand up on its own, while the Cardinal can’t. Not a big deal, as I keep them in a shelf in a closet.

The back side.  The Cardinal has a mesh pocket on the back.  Pretty useless, really... The MS has these notches on the bottom...

The back side. The Cardinal has a mesh pocket on the back. Pretty useless, really…
The MS has these notches on the bottom…

...in order to keep the lid open when I need it--pretty handy.

…in order to keep the lid open when I need it–pretty handy.

Here's where the MS fails.  Because of the way the bottom of the file "accordions", it pushes my letter sized pages up, obscuring the labels, so it always took me some rummaging around the folder to find the pocket I want.

Here’s where the MS fails. Because of the way the bottom of the file “accordions”, it pushes my letter sized pages up, obscuring the labels, so it always took me some rummaging around the folder to find the pocket I want.

The Cardinal brand.  What a difference!  I can see exactly where everything goes with very little effort!

The Cardinal brand. What a difference! I can see exactly where everything goes with very little effort!  For those of you looking for some examples of tax organization, I should also note that I keep a little mini-file in the car glove compartment for all my gas and other on-the-go receipts, and then in January during the holidays I amalgamate them together.

What other things do you do to keep your tax documents organized?  I use TurboTax Small Business for a tax software, and it is quite easy!  They also have people available over the phone or online if you have any questions, which I did use my first year, to understand the numbers better, and they are super nice and helpful!

Good luck during this busy tax season!  Thanks for reading!

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