Confused about what you need to file your taxes? We've got you covered:
Gather These Documents
• Last year’s tax return: To file your tax return, the tax accountant will need some important documents. If it’s your first appointment, make sure to bring last year’s tax return for their reference. This gives them a good place to start from because you may qualify for some of the same deductions or write-offs that you received last year, and the information may help them calculate this year’s return.
If you’re worried there may be some issues with older returns, bring those along as well for the accountant to review. I switched accountants a few years ago and he found that I hadn’t deducted moving expenses the previous year. He amended my previous year’s return and got me a refund for the taxes on my moving expenses.
• Your wages statements: You should receive a W-2 from your employer outlining what you earned and paid in taxes for the year. If you worked for more than one company, you will receive a W-2 from each. If you are self-employed or do freelance work on the side, you should have received 1099 forms by January 31 for income over a certain threshold; bring them to your accountant.
• Interest and dividend income: You will need to bring 1099 forms reporting interest and dividend income for any bank or brokerage firm that you have accounts with now or within the prior year. The institution will be mail or email you them, or you can pull them from its website. If the forms aren’t available by the time you meet with your accountant, you can download the year-end statement for the same information.
• Other income: If you received any other income in the year, bring documentation for that income to your accountant. This includes unemployment income, social security income, or income from partnerships (which can be found in a Schedule K-1).
• Gains or losses: If you sold any investments during the year, bring a report of your realized gains and losses so that your accountant can incorporate the additional income. If you didn’t make any sales over the last year, this isn’t necessary.
Identify Deductible Expenses
When you take a deduction, it reduces the amount of income you have to be taxed on. So the more you deduct, the less you pay in taxes. Gathering your deductible expenses and the necessary documentation at the end of the year can take time, but it’s worth it.
Here’s a list of some expenses you may be able to deduct:
- Mortgage or home interest paid (Form 1098)
- Real estate and personal property taxes paid
- Expenses associated with the purchase or sale of a residence
- Medical, eye, and dental expenses
- Charitable contributions
- Moving expenses
- Student loan interest
- Tuition and education fees
- Job-related education expenses
- Unreimbursed employment-related expenses
- Child care expenses
- IRA contributions
- Alimony paid or received
- Income expenses from rentals or other business
- Casualty or theft losses
[Editor's note: This was originally published March 3, 2015.]