Let’s face it, tax season is a procrastinator’s paradise. Unless you’re getting a refund. Then it’s the biggest hurry up and wait event as you try to file your return early. In either case, being organized beforehand will make the process much smoother. That’s where a tax preparation checklist comes in handy.
There’s nothing more I hate than having to waste several hours digging up that one misplaced tax form. It’s one reason I use TurboTax because it keeps track of all my tax records year after year so I don’t miss anything.
If you do your own taxes like me, this checklist has all the tax forms, receipts, and records you might need to file your taxes this year. Then, when you finally sit down to do your taxes, you’ll have everything in front of you, so you save time and money on your taxes every year.
This handy checklist will be updated each tax year, so you don’t miss anything. Cross off any categories that don’t apply to you, focus on the ones that do, and collect that information throughout the year. Save this list, bookmark it, or print it out and check things off as you go along.
Updated for the 2015 tax year.
Tax Preparation Checklist 2015
Using the wrong information is the biggest mistake made every year. Make sure to check and double-check these.
- Social Security Number – for you, your spouse and dependents
- Date of Birth – for you, your spouse, and dependents
- Copy of last year’s tax return
- Your Electronic Filing PIN used on last year’s tax return
- Bank account and routing number to direct deposit your refund
- Wages, Salary, Tips (W-2 Forms)
- Unemployment (1099-G)
- Interest – savings account, money market account, mutual funds, etc (1099-INT)
- Dividends – stocks or mutual funds (1099-DIV)
- Capital Gains (Loss) – sale of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate, collectibles, etc (1099-B or broker statements)
- Capital Loss Carryover – (last year’s Schedule D – Capital Gains and Losses)
- Undistributed Capital Gains – RIC’s or REITs (Form 2439)
- Social Security benefits (SSC-1099)
- IRA, 401k, 403b, or pension distribution (1099-R)
- 2014 Roth IRA Conversion – if you converted an IRA, pension, 401k, or 403b to a Roth IRA in 2014 taxes are due on the converted amount
- Rental income/expense statement
- Health Savings Accounts (1099-SA)
- Gambling winnings
- Alimony income
- Jury Duty
- Business income/sale
- Farm income
- Partnerships, S Corps, Estates and Trusts (K-1)
- State and local tax refund (1099-G)
Deductions And Credits
There are several deductions and credits available to help lower your taxes. This includes eligible expenses for itemized deductions. Keep all related documents to get the full credit or deduction.
- Mortgage Interest and points you paid (Form 1098)
- Property Taxes (real estate tax bill)
- Mortgage Insurance (Form 1098)
- Moving Expenses
- Energy-Efficient Improvements – receipts of Energy Star approved products i.e. windows, doors, insulation, appliances
- Cash Donations (receipt from the charity)
- Item Donations – clothes, cars, household items (receipt from the charity and/or Form 8283)
- Student Loan Interest Paid – deduct up to $2,500
- Education Expenses – there are several education credits and deductions for those pursuing post high school educations (receipts for tuition, books, and fees)
- Child and Dependent Care Costs – includes day care, nursery school, day camps (care provider’s name, address, tax ID or Social Security number and amount paid)
- Adoption Expenses – Social Security number of child, any legal, medical, and travel expenses
- Medical and Dental Expenses – includes treatment, doctor visits, drugs (receipts for all medical expenses)
- Medical Insurance Premiums
- Health Savings Account Contributions
- Personal Property Tax – includes Vehicle Registration fees
- Sales Tax – best for big-ticket items like a boat, car, home renovation (receipt of all items)
- Estimated Taxes – if you make estimated tax payments (Form 1040-ES)
- Foreign Taxes (statement showing foreign taxes paid)
- Traditional and Roth IRA Contributions – make IRA contributions up to the April deadline, check the traditional IRA and Roth limits
- 401k, 403b, and Pension Contributions – check the 401k contribution limits
- Keogh, SEP, Simple 401k self-employment plan contributions
- Investment Expenses – includes safe deposit box, investment advisor, custodial fees, and transaction costs
- Job-Related Expenses – (travel costs, uniforms, union dues, job hunting costs, education)
- Teacher/Educator Expenses – teachers grades K-12 can deduct non-reimbursed supplies for the classroom (receipt for all items)
- Tax Preparation Fees – includes cost of accountants, tax software, and postage
- Casualty and Theft – stolen or damaged property from accident, storm, fire, flood, etc. (police report, insurance claim, documents showing fair market value of item)
- Alimony Payments
- Legal Fees – related to employment, business, or taxable income (legal bills)
Once your tax return is finished, you still need to keep your tax records in a safe place. Audits are just one reason, loans and insurance applications often ask for prior year income history too. You can easily make a digital copy of everything and save it to a backup hard drive or online storage for safe keeping.