For many adults, sitting down to file taxes brings back all the anxiety of taking a middle-school algebra exam, but with much higher stakes. The good news is that someone can help you with this test: your tax preparer. Even better, you can, and should, consult your notes: your financial documents and tax statements. But gathering the necessary paperwork to take to your tax preparer can itself be overwhelming if you don’t know what you need. Well, how do you know what tax documents to bring to a tax appointment?
In this blog post, we will discuss both the documents you need, and the best ways to store and organize them to help your tax preparer with your tax preparation.
Let’s talk about what your tax preparer will need to do their job. It’s good to have a checklist of essential information and tax documents at hand. Being able to check items off your list will give you confidence that you are ready for your tax appointment. In general, you will need the information below (though not all items will apply to your particular situation).
Much of this information may not apply to you, but be sure to give your tax preparer all the tax documents that are applicable to your situation. Statements of income from employment and other sources should be mailed to you with a postmark no later than January 31 of the year in which you are filing your taxes. You may be able to download some statements online even earlier.
Of course, income is only half the story. You will also want to provide documentation to support deductions from income, especially if you might be able to benefit from itemizing deductions.
As with most things, organizing as you go along makes life easier when it comes to preparing for your tax appointment. Theoretically, you could throw all of your receipts in a shoebox and give it to your tax preparer, but it will benefit everyone if you can create at least rough categories for the documents you are providing.
For only a few dollars, you can pick up a divided accordion file at an office supply store. Label the sections with tabs like “Income from Work,” “Other Income,” “Business Expenses,” ”Charitable Donations,” “Childcare,” “Healthcare,” etc. If you have a place prepared for them, it will be much easier to store receipts and statements when you get them. That way you won’t have to scramble to look for them later.
Many people are most comfortable with physical receipts and statements, and that’s fine. But there are also higher-tech options available. A simple spreadsheet can help you keep track of income and expenses. There are also numerous online options to track expenses, too. Some programs or apps let you download an annual report that you can give to your tax preparer. Depending on your situation, you may find a receipt scanner helpful.
Gudorf Tax Group offers a tax organizer to help new clients prepare for and get the most out of their tax appointment. Existing clients should contact the office for a “pro forma” tax organizer that includes their prior year information and carryover data. If you have been asking yourself “What should I bring to my tax appointment?” this blog post and those organizers should provide the answer.
The best way to organize information for your tax preparer is the method that works for you and that you will actually use. If you have further questions about tax preparation and tax documents, we invite you to schedule an appointment today with the accounting and tax preparation professionals at Gudorf Tax Group.