There’s a saying about nothing being certain in this world, except for taxes.
It would be a lot funnier if it wasn’t so true.
Yet, even though it comes at the same time every year, tax season always seems to catch us off guard.
Even the prospect of a tax return isn’t enough to stop some of us from procrastinating and saving our taxes for another day.
But that ends now, because we’ve created the ultimate tax preparation list! Whether you file your taxes on your own or use an accountant, this is a list of documents and information that you will need to successfully complete your tax return.
1. SSN or ITIN
First and foremost, you will need some basic personal information. This will include your social security number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), plus your name, address, and marital status. If you are filing a joint tax return, you do not need to provide a marriage certificate.
2. W-2 from employer
The W-2 form, sometimes called a Wage and Tax Statement, reports your annual wages and the taxes withheld from your paychecks. This will be provided by your employer. Legally, they must provide it on or before January 31st of each year.
3. 1099 from banks and other payers
The 1099 form reports additional earnings you’ve received throughout the year. This does not include the earnings reported on a W-2 form. There are several different 1099 forms you could receive, depending on your situation. For example, independent contractors will receive a 1099-MISC form which will have the income they earned for their contract work.
Other 1099 forms include:
- 1099-INT–used to report interest income greater than $10 from a bank account
- 1099-DIV–used to report stock and mutual fund dividends greater than $10
- 1099-B–used to report sales of stock
- 1099-C–used to report the cancellation of debt
4. Other income documents
There are many other forms of income that are not reported on either a W-2 or 1099. This can include foreign earned income, sale of property, rental property income, or royalties, among many others.
Oftentimes, you will not receive an official form for these kinds of income. However, you still need documentation. For example, if you have foreign-earned income, you may not get a W-2, but you will still need to know how much you earned so you can report it. Or, if you earn money from a rental property, you should have receipts or bank statements that prove the total income you are reporting.
Although you do not need to submit this documentation, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may ask for proof during an audit. It is recommended that you keep documentation for up to three years.
5. Proof of medical insurance
To avoid a penalty, you must prove you are covered by medical insurance. There are three different 1095 forms, depending on your situation.
- 1095-A–enrolled in a health plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace
- 1095-B–enrolled directly through a private health insurance provider
- 1095-C–enrolled in an employee-provided health insurance plan
6. School tuition and loan documents
If you are paying university tuition or student loan interest, you may be eligible for a tax credit or deduction. There are two important 1098 forms you will need to claim tuition or loan interest on your taxes.
- 1098-T–tuition statement reports how much you are paying in tuition and fees, plus how much reimbursement you receive in scholarships. You will receive this from your university and need to report it to receive an education credit.
- 1098-E–student loan interest payment statement reports how much you are paying in loan interest. You will receive this from your student loan provider and need to report it to receive a tax deduction.
7. Previous tax filing information
Last but not least, if you have filed taxes in the previous year, you should have the finished return in case you have to verify any information. You may also need it to electronically sign your current tax return in some instances. If this is the first time filing taxes, this will not be required.
Are you ready to file your tax return?
Now that you have everything prepared, are you ready to get started on your taxes?
Whether you’ve filed many times before or this is your first time, taxes never seem to get any more fun, but it’s all about taking the first step.