Knowing what documentation you need to file your income tax return can streamline the process. Obtain and organize the following documents before you begin your tax return:
Names and social security numbers for all dependents
W-2 Forms from all employers from whom you (and your spouse, if married filing joint tax returns) earned wages during the tax year
Form W2-G for any gambling winnings
Form 1099-NEC or 1099-MISC, as applicable, for any non-employment income (such as income earned as an independent contractor for a side job)
Form 1099-DIV if you received dividends or distributions of $10 or more
Form 1099-INT for interest income of $10 or more
Form 1099-G for unemployment compensation or other government payments
Form 1099-R if you took a distribution from a retirement plan
Records of rental income and expenses
Health savings account forms (5498-SA or 1099-SA), if applicable
Records of alimony paid or received
Amount of any state tax refund received during the tax year
Substantiation for charitable donations
Documentation of medical expenses, if you intend to itemize deductions
This list includes the most common forms and documentation needed to prepare personal income tax returns. Depending on your situation, you may need additional information.
If you are behind in filing your tax returns, it is best to get caught up as soon as you can to avoid tax penalties, loss of refunds due, tax liens, interest changes, and more. Even if you cannot pay the amount owed in full, you should still file your back tax returns.
When you file your individual income tax returns, you have the option of using the standard deduction, which varies based on your filing status, or itemizing deductions. Generally, it makes sense to use whichever method results in obtaining the highest total deduction amount. If you choose to itemize deductions, you may be eligible to claim some or all of the following personal tax deductions:
Taxes paid during the tax year, including certain state and local taxes, property taxes, real estate taxes, and sales taxes
Gambling losses, but only to the extent of gambling winnings
Mortgage interest paid
Student loan interest paid
Medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income
Contributions to one or more individual retirement accounts (IRAs)
Health savings account (HSA) contributions
Expenses related to self-employment, if you earned income as an entrepreneur or independent contractor
Educator expenses of up to $250 spent on classroom supplies by teachers or other eligible educators
Your tax professional can help you determine whether it makes sense to itemize your deductions or to use the standard deduction.
E-filing is the preferred tax filing method. It is faster and easier for all parties. However, you can still file by paper. In the past, you could pick up tax booklets at the local post office or other government offices. Because fewer people file using paper returns today, you may need to request IRS forms and publications directly from the IRS. If you have internet access, you can request paper forms using the IRS website or ask a family member or friend to request the forms for you. You can also request forms by calling 800-829-3676. Usually, it will take longer to process your returns if you submit them by mail.
Generally, your tax debt is due by the filing deadline. Filing an extension does not change the date by which you need to pay. If you cannot pay your entire amount due, you'll need to apply for an IRS payment plan. Applying online is simple and you will be notified right away if your payment plan is approved. Payment options include full payment, long-term payment and short-term payment plans. You may also be required to pay setup fees, penalties and interest. If you need to apply for another person, you may need to be assigned as their agent under a Power of Attorney.
If your business owes taxes due, you may be able to qualify for a long-term payment plan.
If you suspect that you are not withholding enough due to tax law changes or income changes, you can change your withholding amount at any time. Simply request a W-4 form from your employer and change the amount. You can even request that an additional amount is withheld per check if desired. For example, if you think claiming single and zero is not going to be enough, you may have an additional amount withheld from each paycheck to try to make up the difference. If you overpay, the extra amount will be paid back to you as a tax refund when you file your annual tax return. If you do not have not enough withheld, you will need to pay the difference when you file.