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Tax preparation checklist

By Louis DeNicola

Between the tax forms you’re sent and the records you might need to dig up from the previous year, you could have a lot to keep track of during tax time. However, you can help set yourself up for success by getting all your documents in order ahead of time.

By using a checklist, you can mark off the forms or records you know you should have, such as a Form W-2 from your employer. You can also scan the checklist for information you might be able to use to claim additional money-saving deductions or credits.

Here's an overview of some of the common tax forms you might receive during the tax season, or information you’ll need to have on hand to prepare your tax return. We also include a brief explanation of the information that the form helps report and why it might be important.

Want to print this checklist? Download it here.

You won't necessarily have every one of these forms or need all the information listed below, and in some cases, you could have several of the same type of form.

As your forms start to arrive, make sure the information, such as the spelling of your name and your Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), is correct.

Personal information

  • Your full name, date of birth and address.
  • Your personal and business TINs, such as a Social Security number (SSN), Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or Employer Identification Number (EIN).
  • If you're claiming someone as a dependent or exemption, you'll generally need his or her TIN and date of birth.
  • Your bank account number and routing number if you want to receive your refund as a direct deposit.
  • You might also want to have your prior year's tax return, particularly if you're working with a new tax preparer this year.

Personal income and business expenses


Investment-related income

Other income-related forms

Adjustments, tax deductions and credits

You might owe less in taxes if you can adjust your income or receive a tax credit.

Sometimes you'll receive a form with the information you’ll need to claim a deduction, which could reduce your taxable income and, as a result, how much you’ll owe. Or you may receive a credit, which could reduce the amount you owe on a dollar-for-dollar basis. Alternatively, you might need to rely on your records to fill out the forms or schedules.

Itemized deductions

When you file your federal income tax return, you can choose to take a standard deduction –  $6,300 if you file as “Single” or “Married filing separately” – or itemize your deductions. You’ll generally want to do the later if your itemized deductions exceed your standard deduction. Some of the deductions you could itemize, and the related forms, include:  

You can also deduct tax payments that you’ve made during the year as an itemized deduction on Schedule A.

You can also subtract your estimated tax payments (Form 1040-ES) from your total tax bill.

Don't panic if you're missing a form.

Hopefully you receive all the tax forms you need to file a complete and accurate return, but sometimes mistakes happen.

Keep in mind some tax forms don’t have to be provided to you until later in the tax-filing season (you may not receive your K-1 until mid-March, for example).

But if you're missing a tax form, perhaps because it was sent to a wrong address or you lost it, you might have time to request another copy of the missing form.

John Kane, a CPA with Cook Martin Poulson, P.C. in Logan, Utah, says, "the first step would be to contact the individual or business that was responsible for issuing the form to you."

For example, contact your employer if you're missing a W-2 or a client if you're missing a 1099-MISC. "Most of the time they will simply send it to you again," Kane says.

If you can't get a copy from the individual or business, you can call the IRS at 800-829-1040. You'll need to verify details about yourself and the business or other individual, and the IRS will send a letter requesting the information on your behalf.

When it's close to the tax-filing deadline — this year, it’s April 18, 2017 — you could file for an extension.

You’ll still need to pay your estimated taxes due by April 18 to avoid a penalty, but you'll have an extra six months to file your return.

Another option, if you know the information but don't have the form, is to file your tax return using Form 4852, which can act as a substitute for Form W-2, Form W-2c or Form 1099-R.

If you receive the actual form later and the information is different, you may need to file an amended tax return using Form 1040X.


About the Author: Louis DeNicola is a personal finance writer and educator. In addition to being a contributing writer at Credit Karma, you can find his work on MSN Money, Cheapism, Business Insider and Daily Finance. When he's not revising his budget spreadsheet or looking for the latest and greatest rewards credit card, you might spot Louis at the rock climbing gym in Oakland, California.

Disclaimer: We know taxes are complicated, so we provide this information for general educational purposes only. It isn’t intended to be personalized legal, financial or tax advice, and we don’t guarantee the accuracy, completeness or reliability of this content. If you have questions about your personal tax situation, consider contacting an accountant, tax attorney or financial advisor. Come back to Credit Karma Tax when you’re ready to file your taxes for free!

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