Income Tax Preparation Checklist: 10 Ways to Make Getting Your Refund Easier
Being organized throughout the year can help ensure a successful tax return experience. Having a structured system will make it easier for your preparer and ensure that you reap all your tax benefits. Using this checklist will help you have your information ready for a smooth experience and have your refund to you promptly.
1. Gather your personal information
Personal information includes your social security number and date of birth as well as the social security numbers and dates of birth for dependents and/or spouses,.
Personal info may include but is not limited to rental properties, properties bought and sold, the amount paid for each and expenses affiliated with said properties.
2. Gather your income information
This income information may include but is not limited to:
- Income from jobs (w-2 forms), investment income
- 1099 forms if you and/or your spouse completed contract work and earned more than $600
- Income from state and local tax, unemployment social security benefits (form SSA-1099)
- Pension distributions (form 1099-R, 8606)
- Income from property sales (form 1099-C)
- Business income
- Miscellaneous income (gambling winnings, jury duty, lottery, Medical Savings Account, scholarships, etc.
3. Gather income adjustments
These adjustments help lower the amount of your income that is taxed. This may raise the chances of getting a larger tax refund. These adjustments include but are not limited to
- IRA contributions
- Green energy credits
- Student loan interest
- Medical Savings Account contributions
- Moving expenses
- Self-employed health insurance payments
- Alimony paid
- Educator expenses
4. Make note of taxes already paid
It is important to document the taxes you’ve paid previously. Documenting state and local taxes paid, real estate taxes paid and personal taxes paid can help you from overpaying.
5. Prepare itemized tax deductions and credits
The government allows certain deductions and credits to help reduce the tax burden on individuals. These credits may include but are not limited to:
- Childcare costs, adoption costs,
- Donations or charitable contributions,
- Casualty and theft losses
- Medical and dental expenses,
- home mortgage interest and points paid,
- Investment interest expenses
- Advance Child Tax Credit Payment
6. Get Receipts Together
Gathering receipts can help you decide on choosing to itemize personal deductions instead of claiming the standard deduction. By itemizing, you may have a chance of getting a greater write-off. Comparing the itemized deductions and standard deductions will determine the greater write-off or not.
When itemizing, it is good to find a system that works for you to keep yourself organized for the tax process. Find the receipts that have been acquired throughout the year for various deductible expenses.
Receipts such as medical receipts not covered by insurance, property taxes, job-related and investment-related expenses should be itemized.
If you have a business, your books and records which contain income and expenses will need to be shared.
7. Find a tax preparer
It is important to find a tax preparer that will best suit your needs. Be sure that the preparer chosen has a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). This number will let you know if the person you chose has been authorized to prepare federal income tax returns. Make note of the fees you will be charged, which will be determined by the intricacy of your return.
Try to stay away from preparers who require a percentage of your return. The Internal
Revenue Service (IRS) provides information on choosing a preparer and a link to the IRS directory of preparers. You will be able to decide on a tax preparer according to your specific qualifications.
8. Schedule your appointment as soon as you can
It is important to schedule an appointment to file your taxes as early on as possible. It is always best to being the process earlier than later in order to receive your money more rapidly.
9. Be aware of law changes
Knowing of the latest tax rules is best so that you will not come across any surprises.
10. Decide what to do about your refund
There are various options on what you can decide for the government to do with your expected refund. Some of the refund could be applied to your tax bill on the following return. It would be used for estimated taxes.
Your refund could be directly deposited into a checking or savings account. Your refund could be directly contributed to different accounts. These accounts may include but are not limited to IRAs, health savings accounts, education savings accounts or to buy US savings bonds through Treasury Direct.
Your refund could also be split if you complete Form 8888. You will just have to advise your tax preparer.