Tax preparation checklist: everything you need to file your tax returns

Oou file your income tax return using tax software or work with a professional, a tax preparation checklist can help you stay organized and reduce stress when filing your taxes.

Here is an overview of the tax documents and information you will need.

What documents do I need to file my taxes?

Before you start working on your return, review the tax preparation checklist below. And remember, if you’re married and filing a joint return with your spouse, you’ll also need all of the following information for them.

Personal informations

Your personal information tells the IRS and the reporting state tax authority where to contact you and file your tax refund.

  • Your name as it appears on your social security card
  • Date of Birth
  • Social Security number
  • Home Address
  • Copy of last year’s federal and state tax returns
  • Bank account number and routing number to receive your refund by direct deposit

Dependent information

If you can claim someone else as a dependant, you will need the following information.

  • Dependents’ names (as it appears on their Social Security card), dates of birth, and Social Security numbers (or tax identification numbers)
  • Form 8332 if the custodial parent of your dependent child waives their right to claim the child as a dependent

Source of income

You might receive several different forms documenting the income you received in 2021. Some of the most common include:

  • W-2 from your employer(s)
  • Forms 1099-G for unemployment income and state or local tax refunds
  • 1099-INT, 1099-DIV, and 1099-B for interest, dividends, and stock sales
  • 1099-R and SSA-1099 for pension plan distributions and social security benefits
  • 1099-S for income from the sale of your home or other property
  • 1099-MISC for rental property income
  • 1099-Q for distributions of a 529 plan or Coverdell ESA
  • 1099-SA for distributions of one health savings account (HSA)
  • Schedule K-1 for the income of a passing businesstrust or estate
  • Alimony received (if your divorce or separation agreement is dated December 31, 2018 or earlier)
  • Records of all transactions involving cryptocurrency
  • Information on other sources of income, such as gambling winnings, jury indemnity, debt forgiveness, etc.

Self-employment and business records

If you are self-employed, you must declare this income. You can also claim business expenses to reduce your taxable income.

  • 1099-NEC or 1099-K showing income earned as an independent contractor
  • Records of all business income and expenses
  • Documents for home office expensesincluding the square footage of the home and the square footage used exclusively for business purposes
  • Records of business assets to be depreciated, including cost and date of commissioning
  • Miles flown for business purposes

Deductions

Deductions can reduce your taxable income, reduce the amount of tax you owe, or increase your refund. Usually you can claim the standard deduction, which is a lump sum based on your filing status, or itemize deductions. If you itemize deductions, you need information about:

  • Medical expenses payable
  • Premiums paid for long term care insurance
  • Form 1098 showing mortgage interest, mortgage insurance premiums, and points you paid during the tax year
  • Property taxes
  • State and local income taxes or sales taxes
  • Taxes paid with your vehicle registration
  • Charitable donations
  • Documentation of loss of life (if you lived or owned property in a federally declared disaster area)

If you get any of the following deductions, called income adjustments, you can claim them even if you don’t detail them.

  • Form 1098-E for student loan interest
  • Records of contributions to an HSA, IRA, SEP, or self-employed retirement plan
  • Spousal support paid (for divorce or separation agreements dated on or before December 31, 2018)
  • For teachers, fees paid for school supplies
  • Premiums paid for self-employed health insurance

Tax credits

Tax credits are a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the amount of tax you owe. In general, you will need the following documents to claim potentially attractive tax credits.

  • Form 1098-T showing expenses for higher education
  • Child care costs and care provider’s name, address and tax identification number
  • Adoption fees and social security number for the child you legally adopted in 2021
  • Form 1095-A if you purchase health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace

Estimated tax payments

If you are self-employed or earn a lot of money without federal and state income tax withholding, you may have to make estimated tax payments. Be sure to include these estimates on your tax return, so you don’t pay twice.

  • Estimated tax payments made during the year to the IRS and state and local tax authorities
  • Refunds from the previous year applied to the current year
  • Any amount paid with a extension

Evidence of losses

Different types of financial losses may be deductible. Bring documentation of the following losses if they apply to you in 2021.

  • Records for any stocks or other investments that have become totally worthless or for which you expect to claim a loss, including date of purchase and original purchase price
  • Records of all non-commercial bad debts that are not collectible (example of non-commercial bad debt: you lend your friend money from your personal bank account and he does not pay it back.)

IRS Letters

The IRS and state tax authorities may send you different notices or letters that affect this year’s performance. Make sure you have them handy when preparing your 2021 return.

  • IRS Notice 1444-C, IRS Letter 6475, or other documents showing the amount of your third stimulus paymentalso known as Economic Impact Payment (EIP)
  • Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) issued by the IRS
  • IRS Notice 6419 showing the total amount of Advanced child tax credit payments you received in 2021

Gathering all of this information before you file your return can take some time, but it ensures you have everything you need to claim all available deductions and tax credits.

Keeping tax documents in a safe place after you file can also be helpful if you are audited. If the IRS or your state’s tax authority reviews your return, they may request documentation supporting the income and tax benefits on your return. Having this information in one place will speed up the process and help ensure you don’t lose any of your deductions or credits.

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