Make the most of year-end credit card statement at tax time

Make the most of year end credit card statement at tax timeYear-end statements are a valuable tool for evaluating, and adjusting, your spending habits.(Photo: Getty Images)Of all the documents you shuffle as you get your tax return ready, keep an eye out for one from your credit card company. Year-end credit card statements from 2015 can cut your tax-time workload and help you ferret out deductible expenses. And if you’re always wondering where the money went, they can help you get a handle on what your spending was really like over the past year.Here are ways to make the most of these statements.Find tax-deductible expensesEven if you hire a professional to do your tax return, there can still be a lot of drudge work on your part. Going through 12 months’ worth of receipts and credit card statements to find out what you spent, and where, can take hours. Year-end statements that categorize your spending are much more efficient. Looking for medical expenses? Moving expenses? Job-hunting expenses? Or just want to jog your memory? Check the relevant sections of your year-end statement.USA TODAYTax news and adviceIf you do most of your spending on a single card or a few cards, the statements become that much more valuable. But most people will still have to look in multiple places to find every tax-deductible expense.“It’s only half of the story,” says Jody Padar, chief executive officer of New Vision CPA Group in Mount Prospect, Ill., and author of The Radical CPA. That’s because most people use a debit card or checkbook to pay some of their bills, and even their credit card spending may be scattered across multiple accounts. In that situation, no single end-of-year statement will have everything you need.Track business expensesPadar says end-of-year statements can be extremely helpful for small-business owners and the self-employed — if they’re very organized about their spending.USA TODAYMarried? 6 times you may want to file taxes separately“If you’re a small-business owner and you have one card you use exclusively for business, it’s brilliant,” Padar says. In that situation, a year-end credit card statement does most of the work for you, since it divides your spending into different categories. Check on your budget Beyond their usefulness for sorting out your taxes, year-end statements are a valuable tool for evaluating, and adjusting, your spending habits.If you don’t keep tight control of your budget, getting a bird’s-eye view of your spending throughout the year is all the more important. Dana Twight, a Seattle-based financial adviser, says many of her clients have automatic payments that they’ve authorized on their credit cards and then forgotten. It might be a Netflix account they never use or a monthly donation to a public radio station in a town where they no longer live.“If you’re really good at self-monitoring and self-discipline, you knew all of this stuff already,” Twight says. “But some of us are not like that.”Monitor spending year-roundIf the year-end statement holds any surprises, it may be time to set up a system for tracking your spending on an ongoing basis.“There are multiple online products that can help you organize all that stuff,” Padar says. Many of her clients use Mint, a tool that allows consumers to link credit card, bank and investment accounts, and see the entirety of their financial lives in one place.But Twight says some people may not be comfortable with such a service for privacy reasons, and they may prefer to use credit card statements to track spending instead. Credit card companies are already collecting information about your spending, so you’re not giving an additional company access to your private data the way you would be if you used a broader personal finance tool.The bottom lineYear-end credit card statements can be a shortcut to essential first-quarter financial tasks, like filing your taxes or assessing your spending over the previous year. But they’re not a substitute for tracking your spending on a regular basis, or for organizing your financial life so that tax-deductible expenses are grouped onto one specific credit card. A little extra organization now will make next year’s tax season much easier.MORE: NerdWallet’s best credit cards of 2016MORE: Key 2015 tax changes to know aboutMORE: 2015 federal income tax bracketsVirginia C. McGuire is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @vcmcguire.NerdWallet is a USA TODAY content partner providing general news, commentary and coverage from around the Web. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY. 

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