Tax Document Checklist: What to Gather Before Doing Your Taxes

by Debbie Dragon on 18 February 2013 3 comments

It’s that time of year again, and you may start feeling overwhelmed when you think about getting your paperwork together and calculating your income tax payment or refund. Tax season can cause anxiety for even the most relaxed people! Steady your nerves with this checklist to help you prepare for filing your taxes and go into everybody's least favorite season with an organized plan of attack. (See also: 15 Surprising Facts About Income Tax)

Gather Personal Information

You need several documents to get started.

  • Social Security number
  • Spouse's and/or dependents' Social Security numbers
  • Last year’s tax return

Gather Financial Information

As you get ready to file your income taxes, take some time to locate the following documents. If you’re like me, they’re not already in an organized filing cabinet where they really should be!

  • Employment W-2s
  • Income statements for self-employment or business, including MISC-1099s and Schedule K-1s
  • Information for any taxes you have paid during the tax year (estimated tax payments, property tax, sales tax)
  • Mortgage interest statement if you own a house
  • College tuition statements, student loan interest, education expenses (if you are a college student)
  • Retirement account contributions or distribution documents
  • Charitable donations made throughout the year
  • Medical expense statements and receipts, medical savings account contributions
  • Job search expenses or moving related expenses
  • 1099-C forms, if you cancelled any debt during the year
  • Investment forms for dividends or interest income earned
  • Record of alimony received
  • Health insurance payments (if self-employed)
  • Energy efficient home improvement records and receipts
  • Child care records, if you have children and pay for daycare or babysitters so you can work

Gather Home Business Information

If you run a business out of your home, you’re going to need additional information to complete your taxes.

  • Records for income
  • Office and supply expenses
  • Utility expenses
  • Total square footage of your home
  • Square footage of your office space or supply storage (so you can deduct a percentage of your utility bill, rent or mortgage, etc.)
  • Car mileage or expense records if you use your vehicle for business

File Your Taxes

Once you have all of the necessary documents in an organized pile, you will find it much easier to file your taxes, whether you do them by hand or use tax preparation software to help. Even if you enlist the service of a professional tax preparer, having everything you need in hand, before you schedule your appointment, will make the entire process easier — and a lot less stressful.

What do you do to make your tax filing go as smoothly as possible?

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Guest's picture

Great tips. Tax season is one of the most annoying and stressful times of the year and getting organized is a great way to keep your head on your shoulders through all of that.

Guest's picture

It's after the fact now, but doing a mid year projection of your taxes and building a proactive tax plan will make the tax season feel a lot less stressful because you will have a good idea of the outcome. There is no worse feeling then dropping off your taxes at your CPA's office and saying a prayer that they will work a magic spell and get you a refund.

Guest's picture

Great list here. You know, I should have made a list like this for myself. There are so many things that I end up thinking of last minute, right before I file my taxes.

I'll probably be headed back here next year! Thanks!