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Tax Preparation Checklist: How Do You Prepare for Tax Time?

A tax preparation checklist allows you to get organized and retrieve the necessary documents and information for compiling your tax return. Along with personal information, the checklist contains information about your income, adjustments to income, tax deductions and other information as required by the IRS.

What this article covers:

What Information Do I Need Before Filing Taxes?

To file income tax returns, you’ll need a few key pieces of information including:

Personal Information

This section provides information about who’s filing the taxes, who’s covered in tax returns and how to deposit the refunds.

  • Your name
  • Dates of birth for you, your spouse and dependent children
  • Social Security number
  • Bank account information, if depositing refund directly into the account

Income Information

This wage and earning statements provide information about the income that you and your spouse may have received from all your employers along with income from other sources.

  • W-2 forms for you and your spouse. These forms are ideally issued before the last day of January by employers
  • 1099-MISC forms for independent contractor work
  • 1099-C forms for debt cancellations
  • 1099-R Form 8606 for payments/distributions from IRAs or retirement plans
  • 1099-G for unemployment income or state and local tax refunds
  • 1099-INT, -DIV, -B for interest and investment income
  • 1099-S forms for income for sale of property
  • Alimony received
  • Business income
  • Income from rental property
  • Miscellaneous income

Income Adjustments

The adjustments to income, also known as line deductions, help you lower your tax burden by reducing your total income.

  • Student loan interest (summarized in Form 1098-E)
  • IRA contributions
  • Energy credits
  • Records of educator expenses
  • Records of alimony paid
  • Retirement plan contributions
  • Health savings account (HSA) contributions
  • Premium payments for health insurance, if you’re self-employed
  • Moving expenses

Tax Deductions and Credits

To help lower your tax burden, the government offers a number of deductions and credits.

  • Mortgage interest summary (Form 1098)
  • Medical and dental expenses
  • Child care expenses, including the name, address and Tax ID of your child care provider
  • Adoption costs
  • Tuition expenses for dependent children (Form 1098-T)
  • Charitable contributions, including cash and non-cash donations
  • Theft losses and casualty
  • Unreimbursed work expenses such as travel or uniforms
  • Record of business use of home such as the square footage calculation, utility expenses, the date you started using the space for a home office

Record of Tax Payments

The taxes you pay throughout the year can impact the amount you owe.

  • Real estate taxes paid
  • Personal property taxes
  • Estimated tax payments in the year, if self-employed
  • Taxes withheld from retirement plan distributions (Form 1099-R)

Additionally, while filing the returns, keep a copy of the last three year’s federal and state tax returns on hand to assist with the tax filing process. Businesses should keep copies of articles of incorporation to clarify how the business is structured.

How Can I Prepare for Taxes?

  1. To assemble your financial information and prepare for taxes, attach a copy of the tax preparation checklist in a file folder. Scratch out the items in the list that don’t apply to your tax situation.
  2. As you retrieve and receive the documents for tax preparation, place it in the folder and check that item off your checklist
  3. Print a report of your transactions for the tax year. If you’re using an accounting software, this is an easy process as you can clearly see a detailed report of your income and expenses
  4. Review your year-end bank statements to make sure your financial activity is accurate and accounted for
  5. As you review the report, highlight information you will need to prepare your tax return or make notes to remind yourself of something later

If you have any questions about the necessary information required to submit a return, it’s a good idea to consult a tax professional.

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