2009-06-26

The importance of keeping good records

I'm a bit of a pack rat. Ok, I'm very much a pack rat. I don't like to throw anything away on the off chance that someday, I might have a need for it. It's especially bad when it comes to financial information. I have receipts dating back to the 1900s — which used to sound much more pathetic than it is, but considering they were 9½ years ago, I think we can safely upgrade that statement from "sounding pathetic" to "actually pathetic" now.

Regardless, I finally am able to reap the rewards of not throwing papers relating to money away. I got a letter from the IRS a couple weeks ago that I had been selected for an audit (What, I didn't mention that in my "pity party" post? Hmm, probably should've; it definitely qualifies) and that I needed to gather information about my charitable donations for 2007 (what fellow Geezer Gamer "SlapShotSal", who does taxes for a living, tells me is a "substantiation audit").

I knew the bulk of my donations for the year would be to my Church, so I got the statement I received from the Church for 2007, which had a list of all donation dates and amounts for the year. Then I pulled a report in Quicken for that year and found the check numbers that corresponded to those dates and amounts. With that list, I went to all my bank statements for the year and found the statements they appeared on and the dates they cleared. I figured these dates would be important to get the images of the canceled checks from my bank, since to see old checks, I usually have to select the statement they were on. This could've been a tedious process of having to download each statement from my bank, but I keep copies of my statements on my home network for easy reference. (It worked, too; it was very easy to reference all those old statements.) Yes, the pack rat trait applies to digital files as well — probably even more so.

Now that I had a list of check numbers and dates, I logged on to my bank for what I dreaded would be the most tedious part of this whole process — having to find each check on the old statements and get the images, one by one. Maybe I would take them into Paint.Net (my favorite free image editing program du jour) and stack three or four of them on a page to save paper.

I found the link to prior statements, but much to my disappointment, they only went back 18 months, the earliest one available being January 2008. So that wouldn't work. But there was another link for searching for transactions that indicated check images were available as far back as 2005. (Glad I didn't get audited for any years prior.) I entered a date range of the whole year, a check number range from the lowest to highest number I had, and selected "Check" for transaction type.

I couldn't believe what I saw. There was a list of all the checks, with a checkbox by each one. At the bottom of the list were two options, one to select Large or Small images, and one to select Front only or Front and Back, and a button marked View Images.

Actually, the search results were limited to 100, so I had to do the first half of the year and then the second half, but big whoop. There it was, exactly what I needed. Select the checks I needed to see, and hit View Images to see just those checks.

When I viewed the images, it showed me two checks at a time, with front and back images — so four images total — with some simple navigation at the bottom to move to the next pair of checks. Since the site's not in a frameset, I couldn't tell my browser to just print a single frame (i.e. the one with the images), and I didn't want to print the navigation links (or the rest of the webpage for that matter), so I figured I'd still be copying images from the screen. Just for kicks, though, I called up the Print Preview to see what would happen if I tried to print.

They thought of that, too. Apparently there's a printing stylesheet in place that turns off everything but the content, because in the Print Preview, the only thing visible were the check images. No navigation, no links, no tabs or corporate logos or anything extra.

Here I thought I'd be at this for days, or at least hours, gathering images and printing them out one by one, and all I had to do was click "Next, Print, Next, Print, Next…"

I'd love to publicly praise this bank for their extremely useful website, but at the same time I don't necessarily want to advertise to the rest of the internet where I keep my money. I did make a point of sending a message of thanks to their customer service inbox, though.

So, with that out of the way, now I can go back to playing my Xbox. Except that is currently on its way to a repair center in Texas and probably won't be back for a couple weeks.

Yeah, I guess I forgot to mention that, too.

1 comment:

SlapShotSal said...

Glad you were able to easily find the checks. Should be in and out of their office within minutes.