“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” wrote Benjamin Franklin in 1789. It is now 223 years later and for most of us, our tax records, data and narratives have gone digital. We are in a paperless world. And perhaps even our bodies will be recycled; see Jae Lee’s mushroom burial suit (A TED talk).
It’s that time of year when those of us in the USA populate our excel spreadsheets, drop totals into online tax software’s and await refunds. This is our annual financial accountability to our country.
As a former CPA, tax, trust and estate consultant, I’ve seen all kinds of strange records, especially when a person passes unexpectedly. Part of this career is to help clients prepare. Technology has made that much easier for us; although not perfect, most voice recognition and scanning software has saved us time, energy, file cabinets and warehouses full of paper. Forests in particular.
I have to confess, it was far more interesting to meet client’s in person and sort through boxes of ledgers, receipts, inventories, coins, stamps, rare books, etc. than just digitally receiving their data and e-filing as it is today.
The heavy lifting has moved from physical to digital; our data is in the clouds. I have a necklace of portable SanDisk Cruzer sticks with my Power Point’s; Apple idevices with books, records and assistants. Soon they will be in the clouds.
I’ve noticed my students no longer choose to process things on paper. With Siri, Moodle and Veracross, they no longer desire the tangible physical experience of interacting with an artifact (paper, books, maybe even humans). And yet others flock to art, organic gardening and sustainability lifestyle classes to reconnect with a real physical world.
Going digital and getting your data in the cloud can be scary. Decide what you want to have remain on a safe, portable terra flashdrive, make a copy for your safe deposit box and gleefully be free of boxes of records and paper; saving forests and reducing your GHG emissions. The rest can be on the cloud, (which costs fewer GHG emissions) shared between all your portable devices saving you time, energy and contributing to you making smarter choices for a sustainable lifestyle.
This week, your challenge is to reduce your energy output by doing your taxes online and reducing any remaining paper records by scanning your documents year round: go digital, if you haven’t already. Use your smartphone, docupen or portable scanners for larger scanning projects. This could be your annual opportunity to examine what ways your financial accountability can become more sustainable.
And after you are finished completing your taxes, reward yourself and head on down to the Sustainable Living Expo, April 9-11 at the Hynes and taste organic wine, foods, learn about organic pet care, organic landscaping and all things green!
Excel maestro’s can import and export all kinds of financial data from 1099’s, K-1’s, W-2’s, business accounting software’s, summaries from your banks and credit cards, etc. to your favorite tax software and save 6-10 hours of manual preparation. Scan your receipts with one of many devices saving file cabinets and warehouses of physical storage.
Make use of the following Federal and State Business and Individual Deductions (check your state for customized incentives, these tax laws are complex, consult a professional):
- Federal incentives (New Energy Efficient Home Credit (IRC Section 45L), Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Deduction (IRC Section 179D, Residential Energy Credit Form 5695 , Plug-In Electric Vehicle Credit (IRC 30 and IRC 30D), Federal Brownfields Tax Deduction
- Gifts in Cash or Kind to Non-profit organizations, places of worship, foundations, land trusts and charitable institutions.
- Retro-fitting, building, renewable energy and appliance incentives, deductions and credits
- Statutory Incentives (investment credits, jobs/ employment credits, R&D credits, and energy credits)
- Negotiated Incentives (training grants, sales/use tax incentives, property tax abatements, utility rate reductions, Tax increment financing (TIFs))
The Deep Dive:
The Top 7 Income tax software’s compared here.
Energy Star’s 2011 Environmental Tax Credit Advice
Going Green Tax Breaks from Turbo Tax