How to Get Your Taxes Ready to File With a Free Spreadsheet

Here's how to use a free, easy tax spreadsheet to get your finances organized and ready to file.

One of the worst parts of tax season is getting your past expenses and income organized.

Fortunately, a simple, free spreadsheet is one of the best tools for the job.

The goal is to get a total of your deductible spending, such as home repairs, business expenses, charitable giving, medical expenses, and many other common deductions.

Getting your past year of finances into a spreadsheet is, of course, the first step to organizing your taxes in a spreadsheet.

If you’ve been using Tiller for the past year, most of your data will be ready to go.

That’s because Tiller automates your daily financial transactions and balances into Google and Excel spreadsheets.

You can use Tiller free for a month before you’re charged. But even if you cancel, you’ll keep any data you’ve imported and categorized.

If you don’t want to use Tiller, you can organize and categorize your finances with this free non-automated version of Tiller’s Foundation Template.

Just clear out the demo transactions in the Transactions sheet, and ignore or hide the other sheets besides “Transactions” and “Categories.”

Manually importing your financial data

If you’re brand new to Tiller, you may only have a couple of months of data in your spreadsheets. To get your full year’s worth of transactions, you’ll need to manually add the rest of your data.

Here’s an overview of how to manually import your data from Tiller’s Help library.

Once your data is updated in your Transactions sheet, it’s time to categorize it!

Categorizing your transactions for tax prep

tiller categories sheet

Tip: Unlike any app, when you track expenses in a spreadsheet you have complete control of naming your transaction categories. This is super helpful at tax time.

If you’re using the Foundation template (mentioned above), you have two sheets that handle categorization logic:

  • The Categories sheet is where you create and edit your preferred categories
  • The Transactions sheet is where you assign your transactions to a category

By default, the Foundation template includes 20 sample categories that you can rename or delete.

You can add a total of 200 categories, but for most people, fewer categories are better. Read about this in 4 Tips for Choosing Your Budget Categories (Plus Suggestions).

If you need a more granular way to organize your transactions (for example you want an itemized deduction amount on your tax return), you can also optionally add tags to your Categories sheet.

To read more about using tags in your Categories sheet, visit this thread in the Tiller Community.

Tip: If you’re in a pinch to prep your data for your accountant, just focus your categories on how they break out into tax-related spending/earning.

Manual categorization

Even for hundreds of transactions, manual categorization can be surprisingly fast. For example, with the Foundation template, you can categorize transactions with a keystroke.

Simply hit the first letter of the category, hit return, and voila, the category is entered and you’re onto the next row.

You can also categorize a group of transactions in Google Sheets by sorting by the Description column, then do a quick drag and fill on the categories for similar purchases.

Finally, you could filter and sort transactions into groups for easy categorization.

Faster method: auto-categorization with AutoCat

autocat rules detail

Included with Tiller, AutoCat is a tool that automatically categorizes your financial transactions in Google Sheets.

You can use AutoCat to categorize new transactions as they appear in your spreadsheets, but you can also use it to categorize hundreds of past transactions as well.

Read more about AutoCat

Tip: If you change a category name in a Tiller-powered spreadsheet, you will have to recategorize any transactions originally in that category. You manually recategorize, use AutoCat, or use the free rename or merge category tool from Tiller Community Solutions.

Once you have your year of finances categorized, it’s time to build your reports.

Itemized Deduction Reporting via Category Rollup Report

category rollup report for google sheets

If you prefer to use an itemized deduction amount on your tax return vs the standard deduction you can use the Category Rollup report to get a detailed analysis for your tax-deductible spending.

  1. Tag your tax-deductible categories as “Tax” on the Categories sheet.
  2. Run the Category Rollup report with the “Only categories tagged Tax” option

This will generate a report that summarizes your transaction details organized by type (Income, Expense, Transfer), Group, and then Category for a selected date range for all your transactions using categories tagged as Tax.

If you’re not sure if you should itemize, consult with an accountant or tax advisor. You can easily export or print the report to send to your accountant (see below).

Learn more about the Category Rollup report →

Visualize your yearly category spend with an easy pivot table

Pivot Table Spending Chart Google Sheets

If you need to quickly see the total amount spent or earned for a specific set of categories for the entire year for tax reporting, you can do this easily with a pivot table by year in a Google Sheet.

You can easily filter this pivot table to show you only what you need to see for your tax preparation and share this report with your accountant.

How to generate an annual pivot table for reporting taxes with Google Sheets→

Now you have the data you need to fill in those sections when filing your taxes.

Organizing Self Employed & Small Business Taxes in Google Sheets

Tiller also offers workflows for helping you keep track of your tax-related small business expenses and business-related itemized deduction expenses.

If you’re a sole proprietor, freelancer, or consultant with a simply structured business, Tiller can also help you estimate your quarterly taxes with the Estimated Quarterly Tax sheet from the Tiller Community.

Securely share your spreadsheet with your tax preparer or accountant

The last and final tip is to share this tax reporting with anyone who might need to access it such as an accountant, spouse, business partner, or other family members.

Accountants love spreadsheets because they’re easily editable. It’s trivial to pull additional insights such as a quick sum of your entire year’s spending in a category.

Read more about Google Sheets sharing and permissions over on our help center here.

Tip: You can also download your tax spreadsheet as a PDF

Learn more Visit the Tiller Help Center to learn more about managing taxes with spreadsheets.

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Heather Phillips

Heather comes from a background of user experience design & customer support. She loves helping others learn, explore and discover better ways to use applications and products that improve their lives. When she’s not coaching customers on Tiller best practices, tweeting or writing blogs, she’s probably at a yoga class, out for a hike in the Blue Ridge, or off volunteering for a variety of non-profits.

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