Whether we like it or not, tax season is upon us again. While it might not be on the top of your priority list right now, that April 15th deadline is creeping closer and closer.
Don’t wait until the last minute to get your taxes done. At the very least you should prep them for filing so you have a good idea if you’ll be getting a refund or have to pay a balance.
Waiting until the last minute to complete everything is not only stressful, but it also leaves more room for error. Any small mistake can cost you, whether in the form of an audit or a smaller refund.
Getting your taxes done (and done right) can take a while. If you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to start now.
Here is a checklist of what you need so you can make doing your taxes as painless as possible.
1. Verify your personal information.
The first and easiest step is to gather all your personal information. You’ll need this to accurately identify yourself on your tax return. This is especially important if you’ve had a recent name change (due to marriage or divorce), or new addition to the family.
Create a new file or folder and put your social security number, date of birth, and ID card or drivers license information in it. You also want to put the exact same information for your spouse and dependents if applicable.
2. Gather your income documents.
Now it’s time to gather all of your income data. Your employer should have already sent out the W-2s by January 31st (they’re required to, so if you haven’t received it follow up now).
Have your spouse’s W-2s at the ready too. If you have other income not documented on your W-2s, make sure you have those records handy as well. This can include anything from freelancing work to alimony.
And don’t forget about investment & rental property income.
If you have investments or rental property income, you’ll need to report those too. When it comes to your investments have your 1099-INT, -DIV, -B, K-1, and stock option information ready.
There are other income documents but these are the major ones you need to worry about. If you have rental property, have the total income you received from it in 2014, along with any expenses and losses.
3. Create an itemized list of deductions & credits.
Most of us don’t understand, or simply don’t know all of the deductions and credits we qualify for, and therefore end up paying for more taxes than we actually need to.
Don’t give more of your hard-earned money over to the IRS than you have to. Talk to a tax professional or CPA to create your custom list of all the deductions and credits you can claim on your taxes.
Here are some of the most popular ones to look out for:
- Childcare costs
- Medical expenses
- Job related expenses or moving costs
- Education costs
- Mortgage interest
- Investment interest expenses
- Charitable donations
- and more
4. Consider your income adjustments.
Income adjustments can help you reduce the amount of taxable income (meaning, less of your income will be taxed), which can help lower the amount of taxes you owe overall.
These are above-the-line adjustments, not credits or deductions, and include things like; retirement fund contributions, student loan interest, energy credits, and health insurance costs if you’re self-employed.
Consider these when talking to a tax professional or doing your taxes on your own.
5. Know what taxes you’ve already paid.
If you’ve already paid taxes during the year (such as real estate taxes or quarterly taxes), record exactly what you’ve paid and make sure you have it easily accessible.
Put copies of your cleared checks, or bank statements, verifying the amount of money you’ve already paid in taxes throughout the year, into your tax file. You’ll want this handy when filing your taxes because this will help prevent you from overpaying or essentially double-paying.
Use This Tax Checklist
Use this simple tax checklist to prep your taxes for filing. Like I mentioned, you still have plenty of time to submit them, but you’ll want to get a good idea of where your tax situation lies waaaay before the April 15th deadline.
That way if you need more time to pay your tax bill, or even get more tax savings (in the form of a Traditional IRA for example), you won’t be rushed.
If you are self-employed or own a business, your taxes get a little more complicated. So be sure to consult a financial professional to make sure you get all the deductions and credits you rightfully deserve.
Are you prepping for tax season? What’s another step we can add to the list?