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Tax Documents to Look For: What You Need to File Your Taxes

A quick guide about how to do your taxes. Here is your income tax preparation checklist!

There are many life skills that we don’t learn in school. We usually need other people to teach us about manners, insurances, finding a job, and handling finances. Or, we learn about them on our own. Although, there is one thing in particular that we all have to know sooner or later一filing our taxes. Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, you will need certain information and documents to file your tax return.

These are what you need to file your taxes!

Personal and dependent information

Let’s start with the most basic information that you need to submit. The IRS has to know who is filing and who is covered in your tax return, and these documents will show that.

  • Social Security or tax ID number - You need your own number, as well as your spouse’s and everyone dependent on you (if applicable). If one doesn’t have a Social Security number, their TIN can be used instead.
  • Date of birth of everyone on your return
  • Last year’s taxes (if applicable) - While these documents aren’t strictly needed, they’ll give you an idea of the documents you used and what you filed last year.

Income information

You’ll need all the documents that show the money you received last year.

  • W-2 Forms and Tax Statement - These documents will show how much you earned and how much was withheld for your taxes. Your employer must issue your W-2 forms before February, so always check your mail.
  • Bank or financial institution statements - These are situational documents. For example, if you made contributions to an IRA, you’ll need a Form 5498. Or, if you took out a home mortgage, you’ll need to prepare your Form 1098 Mortgage Interest Statement.
  • Miscellaneous income records - Documents that show your income that came from award money, gambling, lottery winnings, etc.
  • 1099 Forms - There are many different 1099 forms depending on the type of payment you receive, and you’ll need each one of them. The most common 1099 forms you’ll need include the following:
    • 1099-NEC for non-employee compensation
    • 1099-DIV for dividends and distributions
    • 1099-G for government payments
    • 1099-K merchant card and third-party network payments (PayPal, Venmo, etc.)
    • 1099-R for distributions from annuities, pensions, retirement plans, IRAs, or insurance contracts
    • 1099-MISC - for miscellaneous income (check the IRS website for more info)

Adjustments to income

The following documents can lower the amount of your income that is taxed, lowering the amount you owe or increasing your tax refund.

  • Energy credits - claim up to $500 for qualified nonbusiness energy efficiency improvements
  • Medical Savings Account (MSA) contributions
  • Student loan interest
  • Alimony paid that is tax-deductible (only applicable to divorces completed prior to January 1, 2019)
  • IRA contributions
  • Educator expenses

Deductions and credits

There are a number of deductions and credits you can get, which may lower your tax expenses even further, saving you more money. To make sure you’re receiving all the deductions and credit you deserve, make sure to prepare the following documents:

  • Child care costs - including your name, address, tax ID, and expenses
  • Adoption costs - Social Security Number of the child, legal, medical, and transportation expenses
  • Education costs - form 1098-T, tuition, and other educational fees

Investment interest expense

  • Casualty and theft losses - the amount of damage and insurance reimbursements
  • Medical and dental expenses - include payments for the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of disease or injury
  • Charitable donations - all out-of-pocket expenses, including cash amounts and value of donated property
  • Other miscellaneous tax deductions - union fees, unreimbursed employee expenses such as uniforms, supplies, seminars, education, training, travel, etc. (applicable for tax years prior to 2018, or depending on the state)
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