The agony of absent-minded accounting

I am in the midst of an annual reminder of my inadequacy at financial record-keeping: tax time.

Once again, I found myself staring at a stack of receipts that weren’t even in chronological order and which needed to be matched up with incompletely-tagged records on Intuit’s Mint.com. With that done (I think), there’s a largely-vacant business-mileage spreadsheet to fill out by cross-referencing my calendar with Google Maps driving-distance estimates.

I assure you that I don’t operate at a Gene Weingarten level of financial absent-mindedness. I pay my bills (though it helps to set up some for automatic payments) and I have a pretty good idea of my bank account balance on a given week. It’s just that I have a habit of letting other financial chores slide until a deadline compels my attention.

Now is one of those times.

And this year, it’s a lot more important that I not neglect any legitimate business expenses, lest I make a overly generous contribution to the Treasury Department. (I’ll leave the subject of how the tax code is stacked against the self-employed for another post.) So even though I’m officially giving up on preparing my own taxes, I still have to line up this data in formation so my preparer can plug it into the appropriate forms.

(In contrast, there’s a pleasant simplicity to my county’s business-license tax: Take your business’s gross income; multiply it by this percentage; pay. I’ll leave a discussion of how the federal tax code has become so nauseatingly complicated for another post.)

I’ll get it done. But I seriously don’t need to repeat this experience next year. Is there an app or Web service I should have been using all along? What works for you? Or should I just add these record-keeping chores to my productive procrastination workflow of things to do–like, say, writing posts on a personal blog–when I’m avoiding work?

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