With the New Year comes the annual filing of income tax returns. While not a task most of us look forward to, there are steps you can take to significantly ease this burden whether you are a do-it-yourselfer or you seek professional tax help.

Here are some ideas to organize 2016 tax records. By creating a solid recordkeeping system now, you will save time and frustration later.

  • File in tax return order. Create your files to match the flow of your 1040 tax return. For example:

– Income: copies of W-2’s, 1099’s, Social Security statements, interest income, K-1’s, and investment activity go in this file.

– Charitable donations: Create a separate file for cash donations and one for non-cash donations. Include a copy of your charitable mileage log in this file.

– Medical and dental: create a file for all your medical related expenses. Include a copy of your medical mileage log in this file.

– Other itemized deductions: Include all other proof of itemized deductions such as property tax statements, mortgage interest, state income tax documents, casualty and theft loss information, and unreimbursed business expenses.

– Business activity: Create a file for each hobby and business activity. A tax professional can help you understand if your hobby is actually a business with tax implications.

– Education: Create a file for all documents related to educational expenses, including tuition and student fee payments and any other class activity for your student such as music lessons or tutoring. Adults can receive tax benefits for educational expenses as well.

– Credit card statements: Sort your statements by month and highlight any charitable donations, medical and dental charges, educational charges or unreimbursed business expenses.

Some tax breaks have ended as of Dec. 31, as a result of the Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act). This includes:

  • Tuition and fees: A popular deduction up to $4,000 of qualified tuition and fees
  • Mortgage insurance premium: If you are required to pay mortgage insurance premiums, 2016 is the last year for this deduction.
  • Cancellation of debt: A tax break for debt forgiveness
  • Business credits: A number of small business credits expire from 2016 through 2018.

If you were affected by Hurricane Matthew, you might be eligible for some tax relief. While your trip to visit your brother-in-law during the evacuation is not a tax deductible expense, any losses you incurred that were not covered by your insurance carrier will qualify for a deduction known as a casualty loss.

If you paid for repairs or restorations that were not covered by your insurance, including deductibles, you can claim this deduction on schedule A of your Federal 1040 tax return. Your deduction must exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income plus $100. Business losses might qualify for a casualty loss as well.

In addition, some tax deadlines have been extended to March 15, including some business payroll tax returns and the final 2016 estimated tax payment.

Too much to think about? Consider hiring a tax expert such as a certified public accountant.

Kenneth G. Vella is owner of KG Vella CPA. www.KGVellaCPA.com