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Cleaning up the Paperwork

Here are some tips to help you get your papers organized for tax time.

Nashville, Ark. – Tax time is a great time to clean up and clean out, especially papers that have accumulated over the year. In many homes, managing the important papers and the mail can be challenging. Many people have stacks of paper that need to be managed and they are looking for ways to get better organized.

            Whether you have a home office or a kitchen table for paying bills and keeping records, your job will be more difficult if you accumulate stacks of papers. As you open your bills or deal with important papers, it’s best to handle each one only a few times and to file them as soon as possible. If that’s not possible, use a box, basket, or envelope to temporarily hold mail you don’t have time to open, or papers you’ve gathered but haven’t yet sorted, processed, or filed.

            Filing papers in labeled folders works best for most people. For ease of access, many people prefer the hanging style of file folder that can be suspended in file drawers or in any of the various plastic or cardboard boxes available at discount and office supply stores. As you file each item, date it. If you decide to discard it instead, be sure to shred it or safely burn it if it includes sensitive information that could be misused by an identity thief.

            Plan a system that will work for you – one that will help you make decisions easily. Some people set up permanent files for those important documents you will always keep. These types of paper need to be stored in a fire safe box or safe deposit box.

            For items that you may keep for just a year or so, keep them in a separate, easy-to-access place. This could be a box that contains hanging file folders or a desk drawer. After the year is over or there is no longer a need for the item, the folder can be emptied and used for the next year’s items. For example, some people keep their bank statements for a year and at the end of the year and after taxes are filed, shred them.

            Keep items used to support tax deductions separate. That way at tax time you can easily find them, process them for your tax return, and then file them together with the tax return when completed.

            Keep receipts for major purchases or warranties with the product information. For example, if you purchase a new refrigerator, make a file folder labeled “refrigerator” and place in the folder the receipt, warranty information, as well as the product information.

            For managing the monthly bills, some people use a box that easily moves from place to place and they file while watching TV or right as they are paying bills. The box can then be easily put aside until next month. Most of us get a lot of junk mail. Don’t stack it or store it; pitch it into a conveniently-located trash can or a paper-recycling container. To avoid identity theft, shred credit card offers and other papers that include personal information before you discard them.

            Through the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you can opt out of receiving unsolicited offers of “preapproved” and “prescreened” credit cards and insurance policies by visiting the official Consumer Credit Reporting Industry web site at, or by calling 1-888-5optout. Using this website, you can tell the credit-reporting companies Equifax, Experian, Innovis, and TransUnion not to provide your credit file to companies that want to offer you credit or insurance you didn’t request. That will keep your name off the lists that these credit reporting companies supply to creditors and insurers.

            To set up a home filing system that works, contact the Howard County Extension Service at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse and ask for the publication, FSHEC75 “A Sample Filing System”. You might also be interested in the publication, “Financial Smart Start for Newlyweds: Recordkeeping”. Both of these publications are free of charge. For those who want a more detailed record keeping system, you can get the publication MP171-Household Account Record Book.

            By limiting the mail that comes in and managing the important documents as you get them, there will be less clutter and you’ll be able to find documents when you need them.

Recipe of the Week

            This recipe is from the Living Well Cookbook which features recipes compiled by Family & Consumer Science Agents from across the United States. This recipe would be great for a family meal, Sunday dinner or potluck.

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

1 (3 lb. or larger) chicken

2 ribs celery, chopped

1 bay leaf

1/16 teaspoon salt

1 (6-ounce) package wild rice

2 onions, chopped

1 Tablespoon butter

8 ounces hot bulk sausage, crumbled

2 (10-ounce) cans cream of mushroom soup

2 Tablespoons bread crumbs

            Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Boil the chicken in water to cover with the celery, bay leaf and salt until cooked through; drain. Let the chicken stand until cool enough to handle and cut into pieces. Prepare the wild rice using the package directions. Sauté the onions in the butter in a skillet until translucent. Stir in the sausage and soup. Spoon into a 9x13-inch baking dish. Layer the chicken and wild rice over the sausage mixture. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes or to 165 degrees on a meat thermometer. The recipe freezes well. Yield: 10 servings

Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories 277, Protein 21 g, Carbohydrates 20 g, Total Fat 12 g, Fiber 2 g, Sodium 602 mg.

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

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