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I can vividly remember the start of tax season when I was growing up. Starting early on a Saturday morning my father would haul a large brown paper grocery bag out of the bedroom closet, grab the latest bills and receipts from the weathered gray container and sit down at the kitchen table for a marathon of tabulation and calculation.

While it got the job done, my parents' decidedly low tech solution to taxes is time consuming and comes with a higher potential to miss an important receipt. For those of us who would rather do taxes in a more 21st century style, there are two cool new products from Neat called NeatDesk and NeatReceipts to help.

NeatDesk ($399) and NeatReceipts ($199) are scanners, one made for your desk and the other small enough to tuck in a briefcase, that work in tandem with NeatWorks software to organize your life. The NeatWorks digital filing software is able to pick important information off of your receipts, business cards and important documents; making it search-able and file-able on your computer. It even lets you mark expenses with the coordinating IRS deduction for easy reporting come tax time.

If like my parents, and myself, you have a pile of tax related documents at home, it's not too late to make use of either of these products. In testing out the NeatDesk scanner I found that I was able to quickly scan in tax forms and accumulated receipts to prepare a file for my accountant, so even "shoeboxers" can make use of a scanner for taxes.
The combination of hardware and software provided is what sets the NeatDesk system apart from other scanners and collection methods. After I scanned the first round of receipts NeatWorks, I was able to match up additional receipts to the vendor, category and even method of payment. Scanners are a dime a dozen, but the NeatWorks software's ability to accurately recognize receipts from the same store or on the same credit card make it a killer app.

As I made use of the NeatDesk, not only was I able to scan all of the purchases for my new home office into the NeatWorks, but I was able to flag corresponding items to the IRS Schedule for easy reporting. The tax reporting portion of NeatWorks makes it easy to run reports based on your entire collection of scanned receipts or to drill down to a specific IRS schedule for easy tracking. If you have questions, NeatWorks provides basic definitions of the IRS categories. You can even import the information into TurboTax to simplify filing on your own.

On top of the tax time duties that these scanners provide there are many other uses. Since the NeatWorks software tracks information and reports on purchases, you can use it to track your expenses and work on budget. If you subscribe to the scan-and-shred mentality for all of your receipts, you won't have to root through a file folder of crumpled receipts looking for a single purchase; you can search for the vendor and print out a copy of your receipt. You can also organize business cards and import into Outlook or scan your health insurance card to carry around on your iPhone to remove some clutter from your wallet.

The small size of the NeatDesk unit makes it a great fit for the stand that used to hold my random bills, paperwork and receipts. Since it's close to the shredder and the IRS is OK with digital copies for receipts, I can simply scan and shred all my important paperwork. There's something oddly satisfying about digitizing a year's worth of your financial life, especially when it's so easy.

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