It’s almost time to start preparing for filing your taxes. Whether you’re filing on your own, using a software provider like TurboTax or TaxAct, or working with a qualified tax preparer you’ll need to have your tax documents ready to go.
We recommend setting aside a folder every year (paper, electronic, or both) to put these documents in as you receive them in the mail or via email.
They’ll start trickling in beginning in January and continue to come in for several weeks. You’ll want to have them together when you start the filing process in February or March (hopefully not April!) As far as knowing what to look for, your last year’s return is a good place to start since you’ll likely need most of the same documents again. But don’t limit yourself to just that return; consider any changes in your life, financial or otherwise.
Here’s a partial list (with links to the IRS pages about the various forms) to get you started:
A W-2 is the document you’ll receive from your employer with your annual wage and withholding information.
1099 forms show income not covered by a W-2.
1099-C shows debt cancellations, 1099-DIV reports dividends and other distributions from financial institutions, 1099-INT reports interest, 1099-MISC for income you may have received as in independent contractor, 1099-R for distributions from a retirement plan and 1099-SA for distributions from a health savings account (HSA).
1098 forms report payments or contributions you’ve made that may be tax-deductible.
Form 1098 reports mortgage interest and other items like mortgage insurance or mortgage company paid property taxes that may be deductible. You’ll receive a 1098-C if you donated a car to a charitable organization, a 1098-T for tuition payments, and a 1098-E for interest paid on student loans.
1095 forms deal with health care coverage and payments.
Form 1095-A is sent to individuals who enrolled themselves or family members through the federally-facilitated Healthcare.gov or one of the state-based marketplaces. You won’t receive this form if you didn’t purchase health insurance through a marketplace. Other 1095 forms are sent from health insurance carriers and governmental agencies (1095-B) and employers (1095-C).
A change to the tax laws in 2018 increased the standard deduction so that most tax filers don’t need to itemize deductions. However, if you think you have enough expenses to still itemize, you’ll also want to gather receipts dealing with property taxes (home, car), medical expenses, charitable contributions and any “disaster area” related expenses / losses you think may be deductible.