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Your Tax Preparation Checklist

Updated for Tax Year 2019

As always, January is the time of new beginnings – starting a year with a blank slate, setting (and keeping) new resolutions, writing goals, and getting prepared for the year ahead. And of course, we must think about taxes…

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While you may not be a typical early filer, it is in your favor to start preparing your tax documents now. In fact, getting started on your taxes early has some great benefits, like:

• You avoid the stress of last-minute filing.
• You leave the appropriate time to gather documents to make sure you claim all credits and deductions you are entitled to.
• You have an opportunity to claim your tax refund sooner.

If you have time to spare during this month, get organized! Dig through those stacks of receipts and documents laying around the house or the office and start putting them in order.   This is easier said than done, right? Well, no, not with the right tools.

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.

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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. 2019). 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.

Before you begin to prepare your income tax return, go through the following checklist. Not every category will apply to you, so just pick those that do, and make sure you have that information available. When you’re ready to prepare your tax return, you’ll be surprised at how much time you’ll save by organizing your information beforehand.

Here is an easy-to-follow list of documents you’ll need to file your taxes this year. If you need a refresher or are just getting started with your tax document organization, here’s an overview of what is needed for this year tax filing:

Tax Preparation Checklist

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:

• Your Social Security number and dates of birth (for you and your spouse and dependents, if applicable).
• If you do not have a Social Security number, your Individual Tax Identification Number.

Information about your income

• Income from jobs: forms W-2 for you and your spouse
• Investment income—various forms 1099 (-INT, -DIV, -B, etc.), K-1s, stock option information
• 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.
• IRA/pension distributions—forms 1099-R, 8606
• 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)
• Prior year installment sale information—forms 6252, principal and Interest collected during the year, SSN and address of payer
• Other miscellaneous income—jury duty, gambling winnings, Medical Savings Account (MSA), scholarships, etc.

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

Childcare Expenses
• Fees paid to a licensed day care center or family day care for care of an infant or preschooler.
• Wages paid to a babysitter.

Charitable Contributions
• Cash amounts donated to houses of worship, schools, other charitable organizations
• Records of non-cash charitable donations
• Mileage driven for charitable purposes

Medical Expenses
• Total amount paid for healthcare insurance and expenses; along with itemized receipts

• Health Insurance
– Form 1095-A if you enrolled in an insurance plan through the Marketplace
– Form 1095-B and/or 1095-C if you had insurance coverage through any other source

• Marketplace exemption certificate (ECN) if you applied for and received an exemption from the Marketplace

Self-Employment Information
• Form 1099-MISC
• Schedule K-1
• Income records to verify amounts paid if not reported on a 1099-MISC
• Records of all expenses paid in 2017 related to your self-employment business
• Business-use asset information (cost, date placed in service, etc.) for depreciation purposes
• Home office expenses

Retirement Information

• Total amount you contributed for 2019
• Total value of your retirement accounts as of Dec. 31, 2019
• Pensions, IRA, and other retirement income (Form 1099-R)
• Social Security income

Rental Income

• Records of income and expenses paid in 2019
• Rental asset totals – cost, date placed in service for depreciation determination.

State & Local Taxes or Sales Tax

• Amount of state/local income tax paid (other than wage withholding) or amount of state and local sales tax paid
• Invoice showing amount of vehicle sales tax paid

Financial Information

Your bank account and routing number
• A list of taxes you paid the previous two years: including property taxes, state and local taxes and any estimated taxes payments you made

Educational Expenses

• Forms 1098-T from educational institutions
• Receipts that itemize qualified educational expenses
• Records of any scholarships or fellowships you received
• Form 1098-E if you paid student loan interest

Job Expenses

• Employment related vehicle expenses (tolls, mileage, gas, maintenance, license, property tax, interest expense, parking)
• Receipts for classroom expenses (for educators in grades K-12)
• Employment-related expenses (dues, publications, tools, uniform cost and cleaning, travel)
• Job-hunting expenses
• Record of moving expenses not reimbursed by employer

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Get access to an ultra-helpful printable checklist to help you ensure you’ve got everything covered before you sit down to file with a tax professional or with at-home tax prep software.

Good luck and happy organizing! If you’re feeling overwhelmed, realize that getting organized is often the most difficult step in tax preparation. After you get your tax documents in order, take the next step and start filing!

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

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