Tips & Stories

Evernote Makeover Series: How to Do Your Taxes With Evernote

Posted by Kasey Fleisher Hickey on 15 Mar 2011

Posted by Kasey Fleisher Hickey on 15 Mar 2011

Comment


We’re pretty sure that no one actually looks forward to doing their taxes. In fact, most of us tend to feel a sort of panic when we realize that we have to go through a year’s worth of paperwork associated with all of our finances and whittle them down into a few spreadsheets. Let’s take a look at how you’re used to doing taxes, and how to do them the Evernote way.

The Old Way
For those of us who are organized, doing taxes means keeping a file folder with all of our financial statements, documents, pay stubs and investments somewhere in our house. Then, come tax season, pouring these documents out on our kitchen table (or our accountant’s desk) and manually plugging in numbers into our tax forms.

This process is tedious for those who are organized, but take folks who keep these sorts of documents scattered in all sorts of places – some on paper, some online, some in the closet, some at the office – and a long night(s) is guaranteed.

The Evernote Way

Invest in an affordable scanner for your home (a Fujitsu ScanSnap or one of our other scanner partners). Connect it to your Evernote account. Then, every time you get a pay stub, bank statement, or information about your investments/mortgage documents,  simply scan it to your Evernote account. You can also clip your online statements to your Evernote account. You can drop all of these documents into a notebook labeled ‘Finances’ or even ’2011 Taxes.’ If you want to be even more specific, you can tag each statement with its type (for example: Bank of America, Pay Stub).

When you’re on the go, make a habit of taking photos of receipts (for example: when you’re on a business trip) and tagging these images with a tag like ‘receipts’ to make sure that they’re organized. Check out Trunk partners like Jotnot and Docscanner, which can improve the quality of your photos and make them even more searchable in Evernote.

Come tax time, you can easily find any and all documents that you need in your Evernote account. Once you’ve completed your taxes, save your paperwork in the same folder by scanning it, or simply dropping the PDF into your notebook. You’ll have your previous year’s tax documents in one place for easy reference the following tax season.

Are you doing your taxes with Evernote? Please share your tips and suggestions in the comments.

This post is part of our Makeover Series. Have you used Evernote to makeover an aspect of your life? Please share your story in the comments.

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48 Comments RSS

  • Kevin Neely

    I’ve been using Evernote to help me with my taxes since the 2008 tax season. Whenever I receive something throughout the year that may be a part of my taxes (receipts, donations, etc) I place it in my “Financials” folder tagged with ‘taxes’ and the tax year for which the document will be applicable. When it comes time to do my taxes or take the documents to a tax advisor, I perform a search like “notebook:financials tag:taxes tag:2010″ and all my documents are there.

  • Tom Scholfield

    I used Evernote to do my 2010 taxes and it works perfectly. We have a Lexmark all in one printer, I was able to install a “Scan to Evernote” feature on it. When a tax form came in the mail I simple scanned it straight into Evernote without even going through my computer. They all went into a 2010 Taxes notebook.

    After receiving all of the paperwork it was time to actually use them. No matter what computer I was on I could bring up any form that I needed so that I could start and stop my tax preparation at any time. Now that they are done I have PDFs of my final State and Federal tax forms saved in that same 2010 Taxes notebook for when and if I need them again.

    Evernote is amazing, thank you!

    • Linda

      how did you install a “Scan to Evernote” feature in your printer? i have an HP All in One so i might be able to do something similar.

      • Emily

        If your scanner does not have a “Scan to Evernote” option embedded in its software, try using the Import Folders feature. Scan anything you want to upload to Evernote into a special folder (called “Upload to Evernote” or whatever you like). In Evernote (Windows) go to Tools >> Import Folders… and tell Evernote what folder to look in for uploads when the software starts. You can tell it to delete the files from the folder once it’s finished uploading or keep them there.

  • Graham

    I use Evernote for all sorts of things. I have it sync’d with my work computer and home computer as well as my mobile devices. It’s mainly been beneficial to me to have a place where I can take down minutes from a meeting and have them sync to multiple devices. So no matter where I’m working… I have my most recent notes.

    Love what you guys are doing! Never thought of using them for taxes. I don’t have very complicated taxes (yet) so I don’t think I need it for taxes yet this year.

  • Jerry

    Does the IRS except pdf documents as documentation for taxes? What if I get audited? Will pdf be okay?
    Thanks. I like this idea and hadn’t thought of it before.

    • Kasey Fleisher Hickey

      We’re not tax professionals, so you’d want to run this question by your accountant, but our research indicates that digital receipts can be used for tax purposes. You can also find out more by checking out the IRS website.

    • Mark Harrison

      Can’t talk about the US but most Commonwealth countries (including my own, Australia) require you to keep them for seven years.

      Here’s how I solve this. I don’t file them in individual files. I have an automatic number stamp like this one (http://www.stamps.net.au/products/Great-Wall-Automatic-Numbering-Machine-Self-Inking.html). I stamp pages then scan the document. The stamped number stays with the document. I file the document by stamp number in archive boxes. The boxes have start and end numbers on them.

      I keep within the law and I can retrieve any original document I need to.

      • Elizabeth Moore

        I LOVE this idea. No more wondering which physical file does each piece of paper go into, no more wasting time searching through files for a piece of paper I dropped into the wrong file, just put them in numerical order and index/sort them on the computer. Brilliant!

  • HAB

    Great idea, but it would be nice to be able to encrypt an entire folder when it contains such sensitive information. Any thoughts on making that capability available for this fantastic software?

    • Jerry

      I second the request to encrypt folders. This is so needed if I am going to store sensitive information in the cloud. It would just make most of us be so much more comfortable if nothing else but obviously there is a real security issue. Are there technical issues with doing this? I know this is a common request. Thanks.
      EN really helps me for school.

    • A. User

      Hi -

      I signed up for an EN account years ago, and “rediscovered” it recently after reading an article about using EN for your taxes, similar to this one.

      I thought to myself…this is great, why didn’t I do this before? I had completely forgotten about the security issue though, and I completely disappointed all over again. I’m surprised they haven’t fixed this by 2012.

      EN says that you should NOT store sensitive documents (like financial records) on their servers as they are NOT stored in an encrypted manner. I’m really surprised they would even make an article like this.

      Why does this matter?

      1. Any computer you sync with has a copy of all your synced data unencrypted on the disk. If you sync with your work computer, your employer could access and read all of those documents. If you lose your smartphone, all of the synced documents could be accessed by the thief, even if they don’t have your pin.

      2. Evernote’s servers store your data unencrypted on their disks. If a hard drive fails (which likely happens many times every single day) these drives are removed and replaced. But what happens to these disks with unencrypted data? Are they destroyed? Thrown in the trash? Sold at a yard sale? I’d be interested to hear what someone from EN has to say about this.

      This seems way too loose for storing financial data.

  • Teresa

    I just started using Evernote. One of the things I immediately set up was a folder for my utilities and expenses.

    I work from home and have a home office so some expenses are deductible. I have the best of intentions at the beginning of every year (coincidentally right after I have to search for all the receipts… wonder why) to file everything neatly and keep track of it all.

    Long about June, I start stacking stuff in piles in the closet of the office. Then I have to spend nearly an entire weekend paging through everything, entering the data and then filing.

    Now I scan them into Evernote and I will have everything in one notebook ready to go without searching for anything when I need to pull the numbers for tax time. Whew.

  • Madsbass

    A brilliant idea!
    I have just started to use Evernote to get myself a bit more organized and as a singer and member of an acapella vocalband (we are all self imployed), with Evernote, I will now have a much easier way to have control over receipts and expenses and whatnot.
    I even combine Evernote with Egretlist (a fantastic GTD app that syncs beautifully with Evernote)
    This will be on my recomendation list from now on.

    Off to the scannershop!

  • Vicki

    I filed a few returns today and scanned/filed the Certified mail receipts — now I’ll be able to find the evidence that the returns were timely filed.

  • Joachim

    I’ve been collecting my receipts in Evernote for years now, using a scanner and since the iPhone also scans from DocScanner. This is incredibly useful for reimbursement and tax purposes. The key is tagging. Evernote takes care of the date (you might want to change the date later when you scan your receipts at a later date), but just make sure you tag your receipts properly. I use “office”, “health”, “education” “charity”, “tax”, and “receipt”. You get the idea. And yes, the IRS accepts scanned versions of receipts.

    • Jerry

      Thank you. I will do this from now on then.

  • Mark Harrison

    Mainly because our tax year in Australia runs across calendar years (July to June) I use a tag like FY1011. But even if we didn’t have that, I would probably have a financial year tag (e.g. FY2011) rather than a generic year tag anyway for the purposes of distinction.

    You can do it with two tags, as shown here, but I can think of occasions where you might want to search on a Tax tag and a plain Year tag or even just year if you don’t want to create a tag for it.

  • Lasvegaswil

    I have saved every receipt and paystub and charitable donation stub for the past two years in Evernote. I have a manual 43 folded system for my paper, and every Friday I take 2 minutes ( timed it. Average nuts to bolts for all of my paper) and roll everything through my Fuji. Simple, no stress, and almost no time comparatively. .

    I DARE the IRS for an audit. I actually have thought about how it’s going to be. All I’m going to do is share my Finance notebook with the auditor, tell them to call me with any issues, and sleep with a disgustingly smug smile on my face. Oh, the joy. The unadulterated joy of being super organized with Evernote. Bring. It. On.

  • joowoo

    The experience of the process of re-install is terrible. Data base can’t be imported into evernote,and I lost my almost one year data. FK!
    Although I have located the path of my data base, the Evernote can’t find that. Evernote is dangeous for me!

  • dwt

    Useful a program as Evernote is, I must wonder just how secure all your tax data are out there “on the cloud”.

  • Robert Loewen

    OK, But what happens if you’re audited, do jpg camera-phone images count as the real thing, or pdf?

    I know in Canada the only photo type admissible as a legal document is a raw file because it’s uneditable.

    Does anyone know the Canada Revenue Agency’s take on this?

  • savagemike

    This is a good idea – BUT !
    It points up a problem with evernote not allowing encrypting automatically of entire notes.

    This should be available either by folder or by tags.

    Set a password in the options for a particular folder (or tag – I’d like to see more stuff tied to tags and not folders all around as it is MUCH more flexible).
    Then anything loaded into that folder (or assigned that tag) has the entire note encrypted by default.
    Then have the ability to key the password to light up any viewed note so you don’t have to type it in to look at each particular note – but can scan back through the notebook (or tag) by entering the password just one time.

    • savagemike

      To ease viewing back of encrypted notes as above… perhaps be able to search for a password with special signifier characters so it lists out all notes password protected with that password – and allows viewing them.

      Example – if I use ‘mypass’ as the password for my tax folder (or anything else), then searching for the term ‘PW*mypass’ gives a list of all notes encrypted with that password and also allows viewing of all of them until that search term is cleared.

  • Jim Sewell

    One extra step I take is that when I scan a receipt, say from the pharmacy, I name that note:

    2011_03_16 – Medicines – $34.97

    That way when I get ready for the taxes I can just pull up the notes tagged “medicine” in a list view and then just run down the list adding them all together. It’s better than going into each one to find the amount and I’m not disciplined enough to keep a running total.

    If Evernote ever closes shop there are a lot of us who will feel like we just went back to the stone ages!

    • thomas

      Thank you Jim for that awesome tip!

  • James Titus

    I started this two years ago (2009) and am very glad I did. It’s made it much easier to do my taxes.

    The key for me was having a very easy to use scanner. I like the Fujitsu S1500. I liked it so much I created a website that shows how the integration works between Evernote and the Fujitsu!
    http://s1500-scanner.com/evernote-and-scansnap-an-awesome-duo/

    I try to tag all my tax info with “Tax 2010″ or whatever year. Makes it much easier to find later. I do wish Evernote had a way to encrypt things, I’d feel a little safer knowing all my tax records were encrypted.

  • Myself

    Are there any plans to add the ability to encrypt notebooks?

  • Shakespeare

    Even from a Canadian perspective, this seems pretty straight forward. It’s not too difficult to incorporate and use Evernote as an effective means of making things a little more efficient and organized at tax time.

    Shakespeare
    Stratford Ontario

  • Ryan

    It’s my understanding (though I am not an accountant or anything) that electronic records are acceptable to the IRS *IF* you have bank records that match. ie If you try to claim you bought a computer for $600 for XYZ Store but all you have is a scan of the receipt, that will work if your bank records show a payment of $600 to the XYZ Store on that date.

    Not sure about outside the US though.

    I also would like to see encrypting a whole notebook before I’d do this. Definatley could be useful, I am horrible at keeping receipts, but if I take a picture on my phone or scan it in my computer when I get home and store it in evernote problem solved.

  • Dennis Domingo

    Evernote is my personal assistant for everything. I scan and upload to Evernote. I love it. Thank you Evernote!

  • Chris

    Without encryption any user putting their tax details onto Evernote is running the gauntlet of identify theft and all that may entail.

    • John

      Hmmmm, yeah I think encryption is probably majorly important so where does that leave me. . . .. .(thinking out loud) ok I can put expenses up (not too concerned about that) but no income, no social security numbers, bank records, financials

      • John

        Is there a way to *not* share a folder with the cloud?

        • Kasey Fleisher Hickey

          John, yes. You can make your notebook local, meaning that it will not sync with the Evernote service. Hope that helps!

      • John

        Oh Okay — yeah that helps a LOT. So keep most of the accounting local in a non-synced local folder! But I still get the full benefit of the tab database searching and organization from home. I’m good with that and buying the scanner today — jumping in two feet first

  • funkyj

    I’m a premium user for a year now…

    I’d love to keep all my tax stuff in evernote (e.g. including returns) but worry about the security / identity theft issue.

    Kasey’s comment about “local notebook” seems like the best current solution. If I want to have my electronic document be my only archive (throw away the paper, if there ever was any to begin with) then I still need a redudancy solution since the evernote cloud will not be backing up my “local” notebook.

    It would indeed be nice to have encrypted notebooks. There is a spectrum of possible features/solutions for such a notebook. One possibility is that it behaves largely like a local notebook but it gets encrypted (only user knows the key) and backed up to the cloud.

    • A. User

      But then what is the point?

      If all of your important documents are just sitting on your local computer…why not just scan them and stick them in a folder.

  • Fiona

    keen to try evernote for scanning and filing documents but i don’t have time to sit and “tag” things. I just want to scan and something/someone else do the rest. Is that possible? I like Mark Harrison’s page numbering idea but still have to manually tag, right?
    Also someone in this thread said you don’t have to date. How does evernote do the dating? is the date of scanning or does it read the pdf?
    I have a bit of backlog to sort out going back months…
    thanks people

  • Trent

    I started using Evernote only a few months back, but business and tax reporting being the main reason.. since then every expense i’ve had goes through the Cannon MFD (which through some googling I managed to integrate with evernote), but more often I do it on the road using the “Turbo Scan” app on iPhone… i’ve only had one reporting period so far and it has reduced time by about 80%!!!

  • Jisoo

    I would like to see something being done for the security issue of putting financial records on the cloud via Evernote. Otherwise I am all for the idea.

  • Andrew

    I’ve been using Evernote for taxes the last two years. Couldn’t imagine going back. As well as the receipts themselves, I keep a spreadsheet file in the tagged notes (Salon Receipts, Paint Receipts) to keep a running total. The ability to create note links too is a big help. Attaching a link from receipt to project or purchase is helpful.

  • Chuck

    As a CPA, I can tell you that using Evernote to do your Taxes is a no brainer:
    1. Connect Evernote to Expensify to make sure you have all your important receipts throughout the year.
    2. For cash receipts, use your phone to take snapshots of them before you lose them/throw them away.
    3. Use Skitch to “scribble” directly on the receipt’s image as to who was with you, or write notes about it into your Evernote note.
    4. Tag everything with what type of expense it is, and by the time you have to do your taxes, everything’s there.

    • Laura

      Thank you Chuck! I’m a traveling salesman and nearly ever receipt is important . Your explanation is clear and intuitive. Any way to set up totals to integrate with a spreadsheet for totals?

  • Joy

    I learned this from @MichaelHyatt’s blog but inserted in ALL CAPS how to make it work on a Mac:

    Evernote can encrypt sensitive data within a note. If you have something within a note that you want to keep private—passwords, financial information, counseling notes, etc.—you can do so by highlighting the data, right-clicking – CONTROL CLICK ON MAC, and selecting “Encrypt selected text.” You will then be prompted to enter a password. In order to view that information in the future, you (or anyone else) will have to enter the password to do so.

    • Barb

      Thanks. I did not know that.

  • Way

    Can someone teach me/suggest a solution for me? I am researching my family genealogy. Evernote is wonderful for screenshots of website info that I can later review, save or discard, according to whether applicable to my lineage. I would then like to use selected research and screenshots out of Evernote to attach to my Word documents as sources. But how can I export from Evernote? How do I import the screenshot to my document? Is Evernote designed so that this isn’t possible. Am I limited to using those screenshots only with Evernote documents? If so, I need to find another program for my research? Thanks!

  • Jerica Enriquez

    Wow! I didn’t know that you can use Evernote for filling out your Tax Forms. You can also find blank and fillable tax forms and Pay Stubs at PDFfiller.
    http://goo.gl/YjwbaF
    You can fill the text fields, add a variety of checkmarks, digitally sign the form and even add pictures. After your pdf form is completed, it can be printed, emailed, faxed or saved on your computer. You can even send fillable pdf forms to your customers, employees, vendors and partners.