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What You Need to File Your Taxes

Time and time again, we’ve seen that people tend to leave important things related with papers for last. This is especially true when the tax time is approaching. People are stressed because they usually don’t remember what exact papers they need to gather in order to file the taxes.

In this article, we have put together a checklist of the basic forms and records you’ll need to prepare your taxes and make the process a lot easier for you. Not every category will apply to you, so just pick those that do, and make sure you have that information available.

Before you start tax preparation:

1. Download and print this checklist as a PDF
2. Place the checklist in a file folder, or attach it to the outside of the folder.
3. As you receive or locate tax documents, place them in the folder and check them off the list.
4. Scratch off anything on the list that doesn’t apply to your tax situation (it’s organized with the most common items on the first page).
5. Enter information and amounts that are not already available on other documents, such as your bank routing number for direct deposit.

If you use a program such as QuickBooks® to keep track of your finances, print a report of your transactions for the tax year (e.g. 2018). This will make your tax preparation much easier, and helps you clearly see where your money goes each year. Having this information in a report is much easier than going through your checks and bank statements for the entire year. As you review the report, highlight information you will need to prepare your tax return or make notes to remind yourself of something later.

Don’t have Adobe Acrobat Reader? Download it here. Or, print this page and use the checklist below.

Personal information:

The IRS needs to know exactly who’s filing and who is covered in your tax return. To do this, you will need:

• Social Security numbers for you, your spouse, and your dependents.
In other words, you will need a Social Security or tax ID number for everyone included on your tax return. If someone doesn’t have a Social Security number, you’ll need their ITIN instead.

• Dates of birth
For everyone included on your return.

Information about your Income and Investment:

– Income from jobs: forms W-2 for you and your spouse
Your W-2 shows how much you earned and how much was withheld for taxes. Your employer has until February to send you your form. If you haven’t received yours, request it.

– Any (and all) Form 1099s
There are several different types of 1099. Some of the common ones include:
• 1099-MISC if you are self-employed and received $600+ from a client
• 1099-DIV if you received dividends
• 1099-G if you received money or benefits from the government
• 1099-K if you made third-party transactions (through PayPal or Venmo, for example)
• 1099-R for distributions from a retirement plan, IRA, pension, annuity, etc.

– Income from state and local income tax refunds and/or unemployment: forms 1099-G

– Taxable alimony received

– Business or farming income—profit/loss statement, capital equipment information

– If you use your home for business—home size, office size, home expenses, office expenses.

– Bank or financial institution statements
IRA/pension distributions—forms 1099-R, 8606

Did you make contributions to an IRA? You’ll need a Form 5498. Are you paying down student loan debt? Be sure to grab your Form 1098-E. Did you take out a home mortgage? Be sure to have your Form 1098 Mortgage Interest Statement.

– Rental property income/expense—profit/Loss statement, rental property suspended loss information

– Social Security benefits—forms SSA-1099

– Income from sales of property—original cost and cost of improvements, escrow closing statement, cancelled debt information (form 1099-C).

Last year’s state refund amount
– If you itemize your deductions, then your state refund is considered income for tax purposes.

– Prior year installment sale information—forms 6252, principal and Interest collected during the year, SSN and address of payer

– Other miscellaneous income records
This could include award money, gambling winnings, lottery pay-outs, jury duty, Medical Savings Account (MSA), scholarships, etc.

Self-Employment and Business Records (where applicable)

Business expense records
– These could be receipts, credit card statements, records of checks you’ve written, etc.

Quarterly estimated tax payment receipts
– If you make installments to your tax bill during the year, the IRS (and your state) should send you a record of what you paid – similar to a receipt.

Mileage records
– In order to get a deduction for your travel, you’ll need to know how many miles you drove for work purposes.

Home office expenses
– Taking the home office deduction? You’ll need to know how big your space is in square feet. If you decide to use the actual expense method, you’ll also need a record of your home-related expenses, like utilities and mortgage (or rent).

Medical Expense Receipts and Records
Receipts for unreimbursed medical expenses
 These could include exams, surgeries, and preventative care. It could also be braces, glasses, hearing aids, prescriptions – even transportation to and from treatment.

Form 1095: Health insurance coverage forms
– If you are enrolled through the Marketplace, you’ll receive Form 1095-A. Insurance providers will send a 1095-B for individuals they cover. If your employer offers coverage, they should send you a 1095-C.

Social Security benefits
– If you receive Social Security, you’ll receive an SSA-1099 in January showing the total amount of benefits you received for the year.

Property tax receipts
– If you itemize your deductions, you could write off a portion of the property taxes you paid.

Adjustments to your income:

The following can help reduce the amount of your income that is taxed, which can increase your tax refund or lower the amount you owe.
• IRA contributions
• Energy credits
• Student loan interest
• Medical Savings Account (MSA) contributions
• Moving expenses (for tax years prior to 2018 only)
• Self-employed health insurance payments
• Keogh, SEP, SIMPLE and other self-employed pension plans
• Alimony paid that is tax deductible
• Educator expenses

Itemized tax deductions and credits:

The government offers a number of deductions and credits to help lower the tax burden on individuals, which means more money in your pocket. You’ll need the following documentation to make sure you get all the deductions and credits you deserve.
• Advance Child Tax Credit payment
• Child care costs—provider’s name, address, tax id, and amount paid
• Education costs—forms 1098-T, education expenses
• Adoption costs—SSN of child, legal, medical, and transportation costs
• Home mortgage interest and points you paid—Forms 1098
• Investment interest expense
• Charitable donations—cash amounts and value of donated property, miles driven, and out-of-pocket expenses
• Casualty and theft losses—amount of damage, insurance reimbursements
• Other miscellaneous tax deductions—union dues, unreimbursed employee expenses (uniforms, supplies, seminars, continuing education, publications, travel, etc.) (for tax years prior to 2018 only)
• Medical and dental expenses

Taxes you’ve paid:
Properly documenting the taxes you’ve already paid can keep you from overpaying.
• State and local income taxes paid
• Real estate taxes paid
• Personal property taxes—vehicle license fee based on value

Other information:
• Estimated tax payment made during the year, prior year refund applied to current year, and any amount paid with an extension to file.
• Direct deposit information—routing and account numbers
• Foreign bank account information—location, name of bank, account number, peak value of account during the year

It's a Social Media and digital marketing consultant and owner and founder of He is also author and entrepreneur. He helps small businesses to grow, get clients and generate income.

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