If the thought of tax time sends your stress level skyrocketing, you’re not alone.  Many readers have told me that tax time seems like a day of reckoning – where they’re forced into the unpleasant task of looking at how much they’ve earned, how much they’ve spent, and how much they still owe – and not just to Uncle Sam!

But it doesn’t need to be that way.  By keeping up with your finances throughout the year, getting ready to prepare your taxes can be a lot simpler – and, hopefully, a lot less painful.

First, take small steps.

Don’t plan to sort through all your paperwork in one afternoon.  Set aside one-hour blocks of time over the course of a month or so to begin organizing the receipts and statements that have piled up all year. The more you divide and conquer, the more manageable the process will become.

Next, go digital.

Make it easier to track what’s happening with your hard-earned cash by using online banking tools and apps like Citi’s iPad app and Manilla.com to organize your accounts, categorize your spending and keep tabs on your budget. Apps like Lemon can help you organize receipts by scanning them with your smartphone so that you don’t have piles of paperwork to sort through.

Lastly, plan ahead.

Don’t let the weeks leading up to April 15th be the only time that you think about your taxes.  Compare how much you’ve been withholding in taxes mid-year – you don’t want to discover in December that you’re in the 25% tax bracket but have been withholding only 10% of your income.  And if you’re planning on making a big life change – marriage, divorce or parenthood – find out as soon as possible how your taxes may be affected.

Ask for help from an accountant if you need it — and remember that a little financial foresight can go a long way to take the stress out of tax season.

For more financial tips from Citi’s Women & Co., check out my weekly column on Manilla.com.

Linda Descano serves as a Managing Director and Head of Digital Partnerships, Content and Social for North America Marketing at Citi. In this role, she is responsible for creating and delivering competitively differentiating consumer engagement experiences in digital and social channels to drive brand health and business goals. Linda is also President and CEO of Women & Co., a service of Citi that brings women relevant financial content and thoughtful commentary to get them thinking and talking about money.

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