Get Ready to File Your Tax Return: Documents You Will Need [Checklist]
It’s tax time! You know what that means: time to pull together all those important documents you need to take to your accountant to complete your tax return. Having all the documents organized will help ensure your tax return is completed correctly the first time. Also, having all the necessary documents helps ensure completion of your tax return is not delayed, while you look or wait for additional tax forms.
If you plan throughout the year for filing your taxes, as advised by the IRS, it will make it easier when tax time arrives. You only will need to wait for the necessary documents to arrive in the mail or electronically, and you will be ready. Most documents are required to be mailed by January 31st. Allowing a few days for mailing, you should receive them during the first few days in February at the latest.
Organize Your Tax Documents
Whether you keep an electronic or paper file, just add your documents throughout the year. Using the list below, create a personal list for you that you can check off as documents arrive. Keep a separate file for each tax year, so you do not have to sort through old records every year. Below is a list of documents you will need to take to your accountant, who is preparing your tax return:
Tax Return Document Checklist
□ Driver’s License or State Identification for you and your spouse
□ Social Security Numbers for you, your spouse, and dependents (If you do not have a Social Security Number, you will need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.)
□ Dates of Birth for you, your spouse, and dependents
□ All documents showing earned income from jobs, self-employment, and retirement including forms W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, 1099-MISC, 1099-G, 1099-SSA, etc.
□ All documents showing interest and dividends received from banks including forms 1099-INT, 1099-DIV, etc.
□ Copy of last year’s federal and state tax returns
□ Bank routing and account number for direct deposit (This is the quickest way to get your tax refund!)
□ Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, Form 1095-A, if you receive health insurance through the marketplace
□ Sign your tax return
If you file your tax return without having all your necessary documents, it can delay your refund, causing additional work, and additional expenses for interest, penalties, and filing an amendment. The IRS published a guide for year-round tax planning tips, which can be found here. It is better to check twice and make sure you have all of your documents ready.
Common Tax Preparation Errors
To avoid some of the most common errors, double check the following items as they cause some of the most frequent issues flagged by the IRS.
Dates of Birth and Social Security Numbers (or ITINs). For you, your spouse, and dependents, it is important you have the correct dates of birth and Social Security Numbers (or ITIN). Check them twice! For parents, who file separately, it is important you both do not claim the same child. If the same Social Security Number (or ITIN) is used on different tax returns, the IRS will red flag the tax return.
Earning Statements. Did you change jobs? Pickup a side job? Drive for Uber or LYFT? Start receiving money from your retirement account or Social Security? Make sure you have received all of your earning statements or have all the pay you received during the tax year documented before submitting your tax return (Forms W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, 1099-MISC, 1099-G, 1099-SSA). Forgetting an earning statement such as a W-2 will mean your tax return is not filed correctly. The IRS may delay your tax refund by adjusting your tax return for you, which may not be completed correctly, or withholding your tax refund.
Health Insurance. If you have private health insurance or health insurance through an employer or Medicaid, you do not have to worry about whether it will affect your tax return. For the majority of people, this does not need to be reported or does not change your tax liability / refund. However, if you receive health insurance through the marketplace, where your premiums (amount you pay for your health insurance) is based on your income, it is important you give a copy of Form 1095-A to your accountant to use to complete your tax return.
The penalty for not having health insurance has been eliminated. However, depending on how much money you actually earned during the tax year determines the cost of your health insurance through the marketplace, not the amount of income you were earning when you signed up for the insurance. If the amount you earned changed during the tax year, this means you may owe additional money for the health insurance or you may be owed a larger refund, if you overpaid. Either way, if you purchased health insurance through the marketplace and did not file Form 1095-A with your tax return, the IRS will be following up.
To ensure your tax return is completed correctly and you are receiving the tax credits you qualify make sure you take all of your tax forms to your accountant.
The Bottom Line
The most important thing to do to ensure your tax return is filed correctly is to make sure you take all your tax documents to your accountant. If you forget an earning statement or other relevant form that applies to your tax situation, like Form 1095-A, if you purchase health insurance through the marketplace, it can cause your tax refund to be delayed and incorrect.
Don’t stress! By having a file where you can drop relevant tax documents throughout the year, it will be a lot easier when time to file arrives. You will just need to wait to receive a few documents in the mail (or electronically). For the majority of the taxpayers, this means the beginning of February at the latest.