Monday marked the day the IRS officially started accepting returns for 2016 taxes.
While most are still waiting on those final tax forms to trickle in, it’s possible that you have everything you need to file now. This is especially true if you have a simple tax situation.
This year, since refunds may be delayed, filing early is important if you’re expecting your refund within the next couple of months. If you’re not sure whether or not you’re ready to file here are some of the most common tax forms you’ll receive.
*This is not an exhaustive tax form checklist. These are common forms but depending on your situation you may receive a form that is not on this list.
The Most Common Documents You’ll Need
If this the first time you’re preparing your taxes here’s a list of the most common forms you’ll need to get started. We’ll first look at income forms.
(Income) W-2 and 1099-MISC – These are what your employer reports income on. If you work for a traditional employer and have taxes withheld from your paycheck you’ll receive a W-2. If you work on a contract or freelance basis and pay self-employment taxes you’ll receive 1099-MISC.
(Investments) 1099-INT, 1099-DIV, 1099-B – These are the forms in which you’ll receive tax statements for your investments.
(Social Security) SSA 1099 – You’ll receive this form if you receive social security benefits.
Rental Income Profit and Loss – Any profit and loss statements from rental property.
If you’ve received any other type of income such as that from gambling, scholarships, alimony, etc. this will need to be reported and in most cases a tax reporting form will be sent to you. If you haven’t received a form you’ll need to contact the issuer.
Adjustments, Deductions and Credits:
Here are some of the most common adjustments, deductions and credits.
(Mortgage Interest) 1098 – Form 1098 is your mortgage interest statements.
(Education Expenses) 1098-T – If you have education expenses you should receive this form from your college or university.
IRA or Self Employed Pension Contributions – If you’ve made contributions to either of these types of plans you’ll need to have these statements handy.
Childcare Expenses – If you’ve used a private babysitter or daycare you’ll need the amount you paid, the childcare giver’s name and address.
Self-Employment Taxes Paid – If you’ve made self-employment tax payments, quarterly or otherwise, you’ll need the amounts you’ve paid for the tax filing year.
Some other common adjustments, deductions or credits are moving expenses, student loan interest, alimony paid and charitable donations.
This list is meant to cover the most common items and is far from exhaustive. Contact a CPA if you have questions about specifics.
Aside from the items listed above you’re also going to need to full names, birthdates and social security numbers of anyone you’re listing or claiming on your tax return.
Paying for Tax Prep vs. Doing It Yourself
Once all of your tax forms comes in you’ll have to decide whether you want to do your taxes yourself or hire a professional.
If all you have is a couple of W-2s and not much else, filing taxes yourself is extremely simple.
You can file online for free and have everything done within a half an hour. Even if you have a W-2 plus a couple other forms (like investment income and childcare expenses, for example) filing is still pretty simple. Most online software companies will walk you through everything you need to do, step-by-step.
If your situation is more complicated and you’ve never filed taxes on your own then by all means hire a CPA to do your taxes for you. A CPA will be able to help you save on taxes and may even come up with a strategy for you to minimize your tax burden the next year.
If You File Your Own Taxes…
If you’re ready to file your own taxes here’s what to do:
- Choose your tax software – There are a myriad of free tax software options for simple returns such as H&R Block, TurboTax and TaxAct.
- Have All of Your Tax Documents and Personal Info Available
- Double Check All of Your Numbers
- Run the Alerts at the End – Most programs will double check for mistakes.
- File Electronically and Opt for Direct Deposit in Order to Receive Your Tax Refund Quickly
That’s all there is to it! If at any point you feel stuck or confused contacted a tax professional may be needed.