It is that time of the year again; the holiday season is freshly behind us and tax season is right around the corner. As we abandon our trees on the side of the road and put the tinsel and lights away, our attention turns to another annual event that requires gathering items most of us use but once a year – our tax documents.

In an effort alleviate some of the stress that is involved with preparing your documents, here are a few tips:

First and foremost, organization is a virtue in the mind of your tax preparer. If you find yourself scrambling year in and year out to locate and compile all of your tax information, I encourage you to start the year anew and make an effort to be conscious of the documents you receive.

Personally, I know what documents I should be expecting and I have a folder in my desk dedicated to their arrival. It might be the simplest piece of tax related advice ever given, but it is definitely helpful; stay organized, find a drawer or a folder and give your tax documents their own home.

Secondly, open your mail. As a tax preparer, I would rather have an extra document that I don’t need than to be missing a document that I need to have. But, that being said, organization is a virtue. Too often we come across files containing “tax documents” that aren’t even tax documents at all.

Remember that not every formal correspondence relating to your assets is relevant to your annual tax return. You can save your drawer some space, your tax preparer some time, and yourself some money if you can sift through your mail and discard unnecessary documents before sending the file to your accountant.

Relatedly, if you are uncertain as to what you need to send your tax preparer, take a moment to do some research. It behooves you to have an understanding of your tax situation. More often than not, people receive the same tax documents every year. If there is a document in last year’s file, (such as a Form 1099, W-2, or 1098), it is likely that you will be receiving a similar form again this year.

In my experience, I have found that a client’s return is usually processed faster if they give us all of their documents at once; mailing items in “piece mail” can convolute the process. While I understand the urgency of wanting a tax refund, returns cannot be filed until all of the information has been received.

If you want to file your return quickly, seek out your tax documents, compile and organize them, then, once complete, send everything to your tax preparer. Keep in mind that the IRS will not be processing returns until Jan. 29 this year.

Lastly, remember that we are always here to help. A big part of our job as accountants is to make our clients lives easier. We are more than happy to alleviate unnecessary stress. In fact, we strive to do so.

John Massey is a senior accountant at Perry, Fitts, Boulette & Fitton, CPAs with offices in Bath and Oakland.