Many of us choose to have someone else prepare our taxes. I used to prepare my own taxes, but as I opened retirement accounts and other investment accounts, and as I started my own freelancing business, it became apparent that the whole process was becoming too unwieldy. I am happy to use a tax professional these days. My tax professional, at Saunders, Wangsgard and Associates, in an effort to keep things moving smoothly, sent out a checklist, via email, of all the things that need to be brought to a tax preparation appointment. I find it rather helpful. If you are taking your taxes to be done by someone else, you might find it helpful as well.
Tax Appointment Checklist
First of all, my tax preparer has an itemizer that he sends out. Pretty much, you fill it out with your personal information, and your dependent information, since this is all stuff you will need. Then, it goes through the items you would have on your Form 1040, including income (rental income and expenses, earned income, self-employment income, benefits, scholarships, royalties, unemployment and other types of income). It also includes stuff you would see on the Schedule A. This itemizer is fairly handy:
Data-Itemizer (pdf download)
Once you have all of that information available, and filled out, you can then move on to the other items on the checklist:
- All w-2 Forms, 1099s, 1098s and other income-related forms
- Copies of real estate closing documents if you bought or sold real estate during the year.
- Copies of settlement documents for refinanced mortgages
- Documentation for investments sold during the year. (Must also include documentation of original cost and purchase date.)
- Documentation of interest payed for student loans, mortgages, etc.
- List of new assets purchased for business purposes, including financed assets Make sure complete information about purchase date is included.
- For business vehicles, you should bring information and documentation on taxes paid, interest paid on loans and a breakdown of business miles vs personal miles
- Social Security cards need to be brought for new family members
- Tax correspondence from the IRS and/or your state tax commission
- Notation of changes in filing status, or address or phone number information
- Profit and Loss statement for your business (if you have one)
- Payroll information, bank account statements and other documentation related to your business operation
If you provide documentation for the things listed on your data itemizer (tax credits and tax deductions), then you should be covered. The idea is to be a little more organized. That way, you aren’t running back and forth between the tax preparer’s office and your home, trying to get everything together. On the data itemizer, note that there are places for tax IDs of dependent care providers. You will need this information for your tax forms.
Getting It Together Early
It is a good idea to organize your tax forms as early as you can. Begin working on their organization ahead of the appointment so that you are not rushed. You will be less likely to forget something if you work on it over time. I spend a few minutes each day in the weeks leading up to my tax appointment, gathering documents and making sure I have everything. If you keep your documents organized throughout the year, it takes very little time to prepare for a tax appointment. Use the checklist and the itemizer to set up a filing system that will help you remain organized throughout the year.
This article was included in the Tax Carnival