Tax Document Checklist: What to Gather Before Filing Your Tax Return

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Filing your tax returns typically requires a bunch of documents and paperwork you need to prepare. While the process can be overwhelming and stressful for many, doing it sooner allows you to receive your refund in no time. 

The requirements needed to file your taxes may vary depending on your situation. That’s why it’s important to determine which documentation is relevant to you. 

Remember this: Preparation is a crucial step in the tax return filing process. 

Whether you’re filing online or with a tax preparer, using a tax document checklist can help you get organized. Simply highlight the applicable categories and make sure you have this information ready before starting the filing process. 

By gathering the necessary tax documents and forms, you can save a lot of time and effort when it’s time to file your taxes.

Tax Document Checklist to Help You File Your Tax Return

Here’s a complete checklist of all tax information you may need to help you get started. 

 

Personal Documents

This information lets the IRS know exactly who is filing, who is covered in your tax return, and where to deposit the tax refund. To do this, you will need the following:

  • Your Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
  • Your spouse’s Social Security Number or tax ID number (and those of your dependents, if applicable)
  • Dates of birth for you, as well as your spouse, and dependents (if applicable) covered in your tax return
  • Copies of tax returns for you and your spouse from previous years, if you have them (they are helpful but not exactly required)
  • Photo ID
  • Identity Protection PIN (if issued by the IRS)

 

Information About Your Dependent(s)

Parents and caregivers should gather the following documents:

  • Your dependent(s)’ Social Security numbers or tax ID numbers and dates of birth 
  • Childcare records, including the provider's tax ID number (if applicable)
  • Income of dependents and other adults in your home
  • Form 8332 showing that the custodial parent is releasing their right to claim a child as a dependent to the noncustodial parent (if applicable)

 

Information About Your Income Sources

Prepare all documents that apply to you:

Employment Income

  • W-2 form(s) for you and your spouse

Self-Employment Income

  • 1099-NEC and/or 1099-K form(s)
  • Records of income to verify amounts not reported on new 1099-NEC or 1099-MISC
  • Records of all expenses, including receipts, check registers, credit card statements, etc.
  • Form 1040–ES for record of estimated tax payments
  • Business-use asset information for depreciation, including date placed in service, cost, etc.
  • Office in home information, including home and office size, home and office expenses (if applicable)
  • Mileage records

Retirement Income

  • 1099-R form(s) for pension, IRA, annuity income
  • Form 1099-G SSA-1099 for Social Security benefits or RRB-1099 for RRB income
  • Traditional IRA basis (i.e., the amounts you contributed to the IRA already taxed)

Unemployment Income

  • Form 1099-G for unemployment benefits, or income from state or local tax refunds

Rental Income

  • Records of income and expenses
  • Information on rental assets for depreciation, including date placed in service, cost, etc.
  • Form 1040–ES for record of estimated tax payments

Savings and Investments or Dividends

  • 1099-DIV, 1099-INT, or 1099-OID form(s) if you received interest or dividend income 
  • 1099-B, 1099-S form(s) if you received income from sales of stock or other property
  • Expenses related to your investments
  • Form 1040–ES for record of estimated tax payments
  • If basis is not reported on 1099-B form, you need records of your cost or other basis in sold property and dates of acquisition
  • Form 1099-SA for Health Savings Account or Form 1099-LTC for long-term care reimbursements
  • Transactions that involve virtual currencies, such as cryptocurrency

Other Income Sources or Losses

  • Income or loss from rental property
  • Income or loss from the sale of real estate, stocks, or bonds
  • Statement of interest and dividends from banks
  • Record of alimony received or paid with ex-spouse’s name and SSN
  • Trust income
  • Hobby income and expenses
  • W-2G or records that show gambling income and other expense records
  • Statements for prizes or lottery winnings
  • Form 1098-T for scholarships or fellowships
  • Form 1099-R for disability income or distributions from a retirement plan, pension, IRA, annuity, etc. 
  • Form 1099–MISC for royalty income 
  • Form 1099-G for refund of state and local income taxes or other benefits from the government 
  • Jury duty records
  • Form 1099-K if you made third-party transactions (i.e., through PayPal or Venmo)
  • Any other 1099s and records of other income received

 

Itemized Tax Deductions 

The types of tax deductions greatly depend on your unique circumstances. You may claim tax deductions for some of your expenses to help reduce your tax burden. 

Bring the applicable documentation for the following expenses you may have: 

Retirement and Other Savings

  • Form 5498 that show your IRA contributions
  • Form 5498-SA that show your HSA contributions
  • All other 5498 series forms, including 5498-ESA and 5498-QA

State and Local Taxes

  • Amount of state or local income or sales tax paid (aside from wage withholding)
  • Invoice that shows amount of personal property tax on vehicles or vehicle sales tax paid

Home Ownership

  • 1098 form(s) for mortgage interest statements, private mortgage insurance (PMI), and points paid
  • Records of real estate and personal property tax 
  • Receipts for energy-efficient home improvements, like solar panels or solar water heater
  • All other 1098 series forms

Childcare Expenses

  • Amount paid to a care provider or babysitter of your child under 13 (including their name, address, and tax ID)
  • Fees paid to a licensed day care center for care of an infant or preschooler
  • Expenses paid through a dependent care flexible spending account (FSA) at work

Educational Expenses

  • Form 1098-T for tuition paid to educational institutions (including receipts or canceled checks for tuition paid for post-high school) 
  • Form 1098-E for student loan interest paid or loan statements for student loans
  • Itemized receipts of qualified educational expenses
  • Records of any scholarships or fellowships you received

Charitable Donations

  • Cash amounts and value of property donated to schools, houses of worship, and other charitable organizations
  • Receipts of charitable donations
  • Records of non-cash donations
  • Amounts of miles driven for charitable or medical purposes

Medical and Dental Expenses

  • Amounts paid to healthcare, including hospitals, doctors, and dentists
  • 1095 form(s) for health insurance coverage plan (you will receive Form 1095-A if you are enrolled through the Marketplace)
  • Insurance providers will send Form 1095-B for individuals they cover. Form 1095-C will be sent by employers offering coverage.
  • Receipts for unreimbursed medical expenses (i.e., surgeries, exams, preventative care, prescriptions, hearing aids, glasses, braces, and transportation to and from treatment)
  • Form SSA-1099 if you receive Social Security benefits 

K-12 Educator Expenses

  • Receipts and records for classroom expenses, if you are an educator in grades K-12

 

Other Tax Information

  • Bank account and routing numbers, if you choose to receive the refund directly into your account
  • Foreign bank account information, including name of bank, location, account number, peak value of account during the year
  • Economic impact payments (EIPs) or information about your stimulus payment (if applicable) — the IRS Notice 1444, 1444-B, and/or 1444-C may show your EIP amount
  • IRS Notice 6419, if you received any advance payments for the Child Tax Credit in 2021
  • Documents from the IRS, your state tax agency, Health Insurance Marketplace, or anything that says “IMPORTANT TAX DOCUMENT”

 

Tips for Preparing Tax Return Documents

Here are some tips to make your tax return preparation easier and more hassle-free:

  1. Download and print this tax document checklist.
  2. Attach the checklist to a file folder.
  3. As you organize tax forms and documents, check them off the list and arrange them in order.
  4. Highlight anything on your checklist that does not apply to your situation. 
  5. Take note of information that is not available on your tax documents. 

 

3 Ways to File Tax Returns

There are three ways to file your taxes. Discover what each method involves, so you can decide which suits you best. 

 

1. E-Filing On Your Own

Electronic tax return filing has become popular among many taxpayers over the years. It is a more convenient alternative to traditional filing, enabling you to get refunds faster. 

E-filing also automatically checks for missing information or errors to ensure accuracy. You can prepare taxes by yourself by downloading the forms online and printing them. If you owe a payment, you can submit the return with a check. 

Another option is filling out the forms electronically and sending the return with a credit card payment. You can find all federal tax forms at the IRS.gov website, while state income tax forms are available at your state's official website.

 

According to the IRS, “almost 195.2 million tax returns and other forms had been filed electronically, representing 81.3 percent of all filings”. 

 

Filing your own taxes does not require any fees or charges. It also gives you insights regarding your financial situation by tracking your earnings, spendings, and other transactions. 

 

2. Hire a Tax Preparer

If you are dealing with a complicated situation about your finances, you may benefit from hiring a tax preparer. These qualified tax professionals can help you prepare and file your taxes. 

They provide guidance if you need to understand specific forms or documents. Tax preparers can also assist you in maximizing your tax deductions and reducing the amount you owe. 

Once you’ve decided to hire one, make sure that they have an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) and ask about their service fees upfront. 

 

The IRS requires your tax return to be filed electronically if the preparer files 10 or more tax returns in a year. 

 

You can also file taxes without meeting with your tax preparer in person. There is a secure portal that allows you to share documents electronically with them. 

The preparer will email a link to the portal, where you will set up your password. Then, you can start uploading PDF files or photos of your tax documents. 

 

3. Use Tax Software

Using tax preparation software is another way to file your own federal and state tax returns. The software lets you input your information and is designed to make the filing process easier. 

If you use it for more than a year, the software can automatically fill in information from last year. Most major tax software providers offer packages that come with support available by phone, online, or both. 

This gives you access to human tax professionals who can answer any inquiries, review your returns, or file taxes electronically for you. 

The IRS Free File Program enables you to prepare and file your federal taxes online for free. It is a partnership between the IRS and leading tax prep and filing software brands. You can get tax prep programs for free if you qualify. 

 

Takeaway

The earlier you start filing your taxes, the sooner you can get your refunds. A tax document checklist is a helpful tool in organizing the records and forms you need. 

Whether you are filing your own taxes electronically or with a professional tax preparer, following your checklist can save you time and money throughout the entire process. 

If you need help with your unique financial situation, 121 Financial Credit Union has qualified advisors who can provide you with professional guidance. Contact us today to get started. 

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