A Tax Checklist Before You File

by: Russ Thornton
Summary

Following is a quick overview of a few documents or pieces of information you should round up before filing your taxes this season.

If you own a home, you may qualify for specific deductions directly related to home ownership.

To make sure that you’re organized and ready to go this filing season, it is advisable to partner with a CPA.

Are you gearing up for tax season? Taxes are a big part of your financial life, and knowing what you need to get organized before you file can be a big help. Although I don’t personally help clients file their taxes, I partner with their CPAs or tax professionals to help them get organized each filing season. This is a quick overview of a few documents or pieces of information you should round up before filing your taxes this season.

Personal Information

This is a pretty basic item on the checklist – but it’s worth mentioning because it’s important! Having all of your personal information pulled together and ready to file is key. This includes:

  • The name of you and your spouse (if applicable)
  • Your address (and any other addresses you had in the past tax year)
  • The names and Social Security Numbers of any dependents you have
  • Your Social Security Number (and your spouse’s)
  • Bank account information (if you’d like to set up direct deposit or debit for your refund, or to pay what you owe)
  • Childcare records
  • Your driver’s license (and your spouse’s)

Information About Your Income

If you’re a full-time, W-2 employee of a company or organization, you’ll need to have your W-2 in order to file. But the income information that your CPA needs doesn’t stop there! Here are a few other documents you’ll want to bring with you

  • Proof of freelance or self-employment income (1099, Schedule K-1)
  • Records of rental income and expenses
  • Rental asset information (for depreciation)
  • Any interest or dividends earned on your savings or investments (1099-INT, 1099-1099-OID, 1099-DIV, 1099-B, 1099-S, 1099-SA or 1099-LTC)
  • Record of cash gifts you may have received (if they are over the amount that’s excluded from the gift tax – $15,000)
  • Gambling income
  • Jury duty records (if income was lost while you served)
  • Prizes and awards
  • Hobby income
  • Royalty income (1099-MISC)
  • Receipts of alimony paid or received

Records Related to Your Self-Employment

Beyond just submitting records for your self-employment income, you’ll also need to cover a few other things such as business expenses, assets, and your home office. Here’s what you need to know if you had self-employment income last year:

  • Records of all expenses – credit card statements, receipts, and accounting (profit and loss statements, etc.)
  • Business-use assets for depreciation (you’ll need to list their total cost, and the date they’ve been put in place to use)
  • Home office measurements (if you’re not taking the standard home office deduction)
  • Information on utilities paid for your home office (or non-home-office)
  • Record of estimated tax payments made

Medical Expense Receipts

Any amounts you’ve paid toward health insurance, doctors, dentists, or hospitals should be submitted to your CPA.

Home Ownership Information

Do you own a home? You may qualify for specific deductions directly related to home ownership. To claim these deductions, you’ll need:

  • Form 1098 to record mortgage interest paid
  • Real estate and property tax records
  • Receipts for any energy-saving home improvements you’ve made (solar panels, etc.)

Charitable Donation Receipts

Did you make charitable donations last year? You’ll need to provide the receipts for cash or asset donations you’ve made, and any miles you’ve driven for charitable purposes.

Education-Related Expenses

Are you a teacher? Did you attend an educational institution this year? You’ll need to provide the following documentation:

  • Form 1098-T (from your educational institution)
  • Receipts for education expenses you’ve paid
  • Records for any scholarships you’ve received
  • Form 1098-E if you pay interest on student loans
  • Receipts for classroom expenses (if you’re a K-12 educator)

Retirement-Related Savings and Expenses

Already retired? Here’s what you need to round up this filing season:

  • Form 5498-SA that proves HSA contributions
  • Form 5498 showing IRA contributions
  • Proof of pension and annuity income (1099-R)
  • Traditional IRA basis
  • Social Security income receipts

Proof of Federal Estimated Tax Payments

Have you paid estimated taxes? You might be doing this if you’re receiving income beyond your traditional full-time job, or if you received a large amount of taxable revenue from another source. You’ll need to provide proof of your estimated tax payments, including the date you made the payment, and the amount paid.

Need Help This Filing Season?

These are only a few of the common forms, receipts, or documents you might need heading into this filing season. Depending on your financial situation, you may need several more specific forms or documentation! To make sure that you’re organized and ready to go this filing season, I recommend partnering with a CPA (Certified Public Accountant).

Editor's Note: The summary bullets for this article were chosen by Seeking Alpha editors.