First, I don’t want to have to amend my return; I had to do that about a decade ago, and the process nearly gave me a medical issue. Second, I need and want all the deductions I can get. Third, our accountant charges by the hour, so it’s important to ensure that she has all of the documents she needs at one time. (I don’t want her or her staff having to follow-up with me and ultimately costing me more money.)
So I find a tax checklist can help me figure out what forms I’m supposed to have from whom. I have a list with the following sources:
- Employers. I use this term loosely. You will need W-2’s from each of your household’s employers. But if you are an independent contractor, you will need 1099’s from the entities that contracted for your talents. If you’re a weekend warrior, don’t forget the Navy or Army Reserves or the Air or Army National Guard.
- Banks and credit unions. If you have received any interest from any banks or credit unions, check to see if those entities issued you 1099’s.
- Colleges and universities. If you took any classes, you should receive a 1098-T.
- Student loan lenders. If you paid any interest, you should get a 1098-E.
- States that paid you tax refunds last year. If you received a refund, you should get a 1099-G.
- Mortgage company. You should get a statement of how much interest you paid in the previous tax year.
- Charities. If you donate to charities, make sure you get a statement of your contributions. Our church provides ours yearly, and so do the charities we support. I don’t know if they are actually deductible, but I also keep receipts for monies expended on Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes, Angel Tree gifts, etc.
In past years, I’ve kept receipts for my husband’s unreimbursed work travel expenses and our moving expenses. Think about what taxable events you may have had this year. Write them all down. Figure it out.
I’ve said it before: I’m not your tax attorney or your accountant. Your mileage may vary, and your list will definitely be different from mine. The previous tax year, we purchased a house and had to furnish our accountant with a copy of our HUD settlement statement. I also provide our accountant with documents relating to my husband’s thrift savings plan, my mutual funds, my husband’s retirement, etc., just in case. Because I’d rather be safe than sorry. I’ll gladly pay her to sift through extra information to make sure I haven’t left anything out.
If you have a business, you’ll have a lot more documents than I’ve listed here, and I’d recommend getting this stuff handled ASAP, given that certain entities are required to file by March rather than by April. (If you issue W-2’s and haven’t already, you need to get working on this today. It’s not just a requirement; getting these delivered to your employees is a nice thing to do so they can file taxes sooner if possible).
Whether you own a business (or not), if you don’t know what you’re doing (and maybe even if you do), I always suggest paying a CPA. You’d rather not get crossways with the IRS. I can tell you this. My husband can tell you this. My parents can tell you this. My in-laws can tell you this. Seriously. Pay the money and get an accountant if you’re in over your head. I feel certain that I could do our taxes myself, but I do not. That few hundred dollars is worth a reduced stress level for me. It may (likely) be for you, too.
Time required: An hour to create the checklist and ensure I had everything gathered in my envelope.
One more time: I’m not an accountant or a tax attorney, and I’m certainly not yours. Please seek professional advice if you need it. I’m just here to help you organize your life, not to give professional advice. Because I promise you I’m not qualified to do that.