Tax Filer's Checklist
Having a system for keeping your documents organized is one one of the single best ways to make filing your taxes go smoothly. Here is a quick checklist of documents you may need in order to file your taxes:
Gather up last year's state and federal tax returns. If you used E-file.com this information will be saved inside your account.
In order to electronically transmit your return you will need your adjusted gross income from last year's return. You may also need to reference additional information from your prior returns. Having them available ensures you'll continue to submit correct and consistent information regarding your tax situation.
Aside from your own information, also make sure that you have the full legal names and social security numbers for your spouse and any dependents you plan to be claiming.
Income and Earnings Forms
You'll need your W-2s and 1099s to calculate your total income.
W-2: All employers are required by law to send W-2 statements to employees (current and prior) no later than January 31. Some employers will post W-2s in an online payroll portal, which you may be able to access from a computer. Others will hand them out with checks or mail them.
1099: You'll get 1099s if you earn non-taxed income. For example, you'll get a 1099-misc if you worked as a private contractor, earned royalties from publishing books or music, earned revenue from website advertising or contest/lottery winnings. You'll also receive a 1099-int which reports interest and dividends earned on an investment account as well as proceeds from stock sales.
Tax Deductions and Credits
Deductions: You're entitled to take tax deductions, which can reduce your taxable income. A wide range of costs and expenses, including qualifying amounts for IRA contributions, classroom expenses if you're a teacher, charitable donations, and medical costs can be deducted. You may choose to take either the standard deduction or itemize your deductions, depending on your tax situation.
If you plan to itemize or are even considering it, try to make a list of your planned deductions, such as property taxes and job-related education expenses. Collect all related statements and bills in advance, this way you won't need to stop and research which the ones you qualify for when you're entering your information. Our software will help you determine if you can save more money by claiming the standard deduction or by itemizing.
Credits: Tax credits lower the amount of tax you owe to the IRS dollar for dollar. Tax credits such as the American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning credits, Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit are a great way to lower your tax bill or increase your refund if you qualify.
The IRS has a number of tax credits available to tax payers. While a software program such as ours will often point out credits that you may be eligible for, familiarizing yourself with them in advance can certainly be beneficial You can find more information on popular tax credits here.
Whether you're itemizing your deductions or taking tax credits, have all of your receipts and statements available, as you may need to give them to the IRS in case of an audit.
Health Care Forms
Have your Form 1095A, 1095B, or 1095C on hand. Which form you receive will depend on whether you purchased health insurance privately, from the Health Insurance Marketplace or received it from an employer. You will be asked for this information to complete your 1040 tax form and it may impact your refund or how much you pay. For example, tax filers who bought their own health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace and received Form 1095A may be eligible for a tax credit.
Estimated Tax Payments
If you own a business or are self-employed and pay your taxes quarterly during the year, you'll need to pull together a record of your estimated tax payments. This should include the exact amount sent each quarter and the date in which the payment was sent, so that any remaining balance can be calculated appropriately.
Whether you plan to file early or at the last minute, it is important to keep your documents organized. It's also important that you use a system, like E-file, that is built to help to simplify the filing process. On average, filing online takes less time and typically results in a much faster refund than mailing your tax return.
Q&A: How much do you have to make before you have to file taxes?
There is an income requirement for which, if you do not exceed this, you may not be required to file. Note, even if your income does not reach this threshold there may be situations where filing is still required or recommended.
To help determine whether you need to file a tax return, you can compare the standard deduction to the amount that you earned in wages. For tax years 2017 and earlier, you should also include personal exemptions, but changes for 2018 and beyond simplify the process by having a larger standard deduction and eliminating the personal exemption.
The standard deduction amount for individuals in 2018 is $12,000, or $24,000 for married couples filing jointly. If you earn less than the deduction amount for your filing status, you may not have to file a tax return. That does not mean you should not consider doing so, especially if any federal income tax was withheld through your paychecks. If this is the case, you could qualify for a refund.