Organizing Your Paperwork
Why Recordkeeping Can Help You Make the Most of What You Have
and Become a Better Advocate for Your Child
We mentioned that staying organized and on top of your finances helps you become more effective in advocating for your child. Here’s why. You will frequently need to refer to and provide documentation for a variety of situations in caring for your child. Take a look at the two examples below.
- To qualify for medical assistance, you may have to demonstrate financial need through:
- Pay stubs
- Income tax returns
- Receipts for disability-related expenses
- To challenge denial of a health care claim, you may need to reference your:
- Health care plan’s Summary of Benefits
- Your doctor’s visit Explanation of Benefits (EOBs)
- Notes from conversations with health care plan representatives
The more accessible and organized you keep financial and disability-related information, the quicker you can meet your child’s needs. Listed below are other reasons for organizing your records that can have a financial pay-off.
Why Keep Income Records? To...
Create a Spending Plan
Through your spending plan, you may be able to identify areas to cut back and make it easier to spend within your means and avoid expensive costs of using credit.
Complete Income Tax Returns
You must declare all of your income on income tax returns. Keeping your income records organized will help you complete your tax returns faster and more accurately. That will help you avoid having to pay penalties that result from filing incomplete, incorrect, or late tax returns.
Apply for Benefits
Many kinds of benefits, not just medical ones, are based on financial need. To demonstrate that, you’ll need quick access to your income through pay-stubs or the prior year’s income tax return. With accurate income records on hand, you may be able to receive benefits that you don’t have to pay for yourself.
Why Keep Living Expense Receipts and Bill, Loan, and Credit Card Payments? To…
There are times you may need to request credit, and therefore, demonstrate your history of paying bills. We talk more about credit later, but paying bills on time, every month, is the single most important thing you can do to establish and maintain good credit. Your billing statements help create your payment history.
Challenge Items You Did Not Buy but Charged to Your Account
Occasionally a mistake occurs. You may find you have been incorrectly charged for something, or incorrectly charged a fee. Or, someone may have stolen your credit card. By regularly reviewing your expense documents, you will be able to quickly identity when something isn’t right.
Create a Spending Plan
You will use the amounts of recurring monthly expenses to create your spending plan. Through your spending plan, you will know when it’s time to look for lower costs of credit, find inexpensive alternatives to certain monthly expenditures, or learn to do without non-essential items you’ve been spending money on.
Complete Income Tax Returns
You may be able to deduct certain expenses, such as home mortgage interest, on your income tax returns. By reviewing your expense documents, you may find expense items that can lower your income tax liability (the amount you owe). Speak with a financial or tax professional for (1) information on what expenses you might be able to deduct on income tax returns and for (2) an overall tax strategy.
Why Keep Documentation of Special Expenses Related to Your Child’s Disability? To…
Complete Tax Returns
You may be able to also deduct some disability-related expenses on your income tax returns. Again, speak with financial or tax professional about which expenses are allowable. For more information about the tax benefits available to persons with disabilities and the parents of children with disabilities, please refer to IRS Publication 3966, Living and Working with Disabilities .
Here is a list of disability-related expense items that might be deductible. Be sure to save and file receipts for these items:
- During hospitalization
- Transportation to and from treatment
- Parking while at treatment
- Lodging (if you must be away from home for treatment)
- Child care costs for your other children
- After hospitalization
- Special dietary supplements or food
- Medical equipment
- Assistance with activities of daily living
- Special home care
- Utility costs
- Home modifications
Why Keep Checking Account Records? To…
Balance Your Check Book
Keep track of your checking account balance by recording all deposits, checks written, ATM and debit payments, and cash withdrawals. By doing so, you avoid bouncing checks and paying expensive overdraft fees. And that helps you protect your credit, and ultimately, qualify for lower interest rates on loans.
If you bank or pay your bills online, be sure to compare your online banking and bill-pay transactions with what you’ve recorded in your check book.
Why Keep Health Care Plan Records? To…
Understand Your Medical Coverage
Your health care plan summary that describes your benefits is one of the most important documents you own. You may need to refer to it often to find out if you have coverage for the types of health care benefits and services listed below. By knowing exactly what benefits and services are covered, you may want to consider setting aside funds or investigating alternatives before getting an expensive service or treatment that is not covered by your health care plan.
- Clinical services
- Practitioner services
- Home and community-based services
- Assistive technologies
- Institutional and long-term care
Why Keep Receipts and Warranties? To…
Get Refunds, Reimbursements, and Rebates or Exchange Items
Sometimes new items don’t work the way they should or break during their warranty periods. A store may replace or fix an item still under warranty. Sometimes you’re eligible for a reimbursement or rebate if you can show proof of purchase. By keeping receipts and warranties, you avoid having to replace items sooner than you need to, or you get that rebate!
Why Keep Social Security Administration Documents? To…
Keep records of all communication or transactions with the Social Security Administration (SSA), initiated either by you or the SSA:
- Payments received and sent
- Correspondence received and sent
- Notes of all telephone and in-person conversations with SSA agents
- SSA income and retirement benefits statements
You may need to reference your SSA documents in order to maintain your child’s eligibility for benefits or to help avoid possible misunderstandings with the IRS. Also, SSA statements that document your annual income and future retirement benefits can help you determine how much you need to save for the future.
If you make an overpayment based on an obvious math error, the IRS will refund the overpayment only if you don’t owe the IRS other taxes. If you do, the IRS will apply that overpayment to any owed tax (see IRS.gov. “CP 12 - Changes to Tax Return, Overpayment” Retrieved from http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=125360,00.html on October 28, 2010).
Keep SSA documents forever. There is no expiration date for when the government can check on whether the SSA ever overpaid you (by error).
Why Keep Communication Logs? To…
Quickly Recall Important Information
Set up some system that makes sense to you so you can quickly recall important conversations and meetings or find important emails, notifications, announcements, and faxes. As an example, if someone doesn’t do what he or she promised to do and it ends up costing you money, you may be able to put together a good case for recovering that cost.
For conversations, keep a special notebook handy for recording just about everything you discuss about your child’s disability. Here is a short check list to help you make sure you record essential pieces of information:
- Date and time
- Name of the person and place of work
- Things discussed (try to record these things in the order discussed)
- Types of information you gave
- Action items: who will do what and by when
- Contact information
- Case number (or some identifying code referencing the conversation)
For e-mail, if you use it, create subfolders in your inbox so you can quickly find important pieces of information. Create as many subfolders as you need to stay organized. Decide on a consistent way to file them.
For announcements, notices, and faxes, file these by subject matter or keep them all in a handy box.