What Should Be On Your Tax Preparation Checklist?
Why should I use a tax prep checklist?
Even if you’re having a professional tax preparer complete your tax return, a tax prep checklist can definitely come in handy. Using a checklist will help ensure you have all the information and documents needed to file.
You’ll need to gather forms and documents that fall into the following categories:
- Personal information
- General income
- State & local taxes or sales tax
- Homeowner/Renter information
- Medical expense & health insurance
- Education expenses
- Childcare expenses
- Retirement expenses
- Charitable donations
- Alimony paid
- Federally declared disaster
- Tax preparation
Aside from helping you organize your documents and forms, tax prep checklists will also help get you in the right frame of mind to start filing. Kick procrastination to the curb by using your own tax prep checklist.
How should I use this checklist?
Move down the list slowly, finding documents you need and storing them safely in a folder meant for your 2019 tax documents.
Keep in mind that you may not need every form and document listed on the checklist. In fact, if you’re using the standard deduction, it may not be worth tracking down every single document on the checklist. Even if you itemize your tax deductions, you may not need every item on this list depending on your income and the expense amounts. Feel free to mark off any of these unnecessary items for you so you can focus on the forms you do need.
Once you have all the documents you need from this checklist, you’ll be ready to file. If you don’t have all the documents you need to file before Tax Day 2020 (which is now July 15), you can always file a tax extension.
What Information Do I Need Before Filing Taxes?
To file income tax returns, you’ll need a few key pieces of information including:
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
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. These can include:
- 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
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
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
- 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?
- To assemble your financial information and prepare for taxes, attach a copy of the tax preparation checklist in a file folder. Remove items on the list that don’t apply to your tax situation and add additional ones that do
- As you retrieve and receive the documents for tax preparation, place it in the folder and check that item off your checklist
- If you’re self-employed, 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
- Review your year-end bank statements to make sure your financial activity is accurate and accounted for
- 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.