I realize this isn’t exactly a checklist, but it’s a list, so … close enough.
This is a general list that covers the most common tax-related items. It’s completely impractical for me to ask you about every possible source of income or tax deduction, so ultimately it’s up to you to make sure that everything gets reported!
If I did NOT prepare your tax return last year, please provide:
- A signed copy of the Engagement Letter, if you have easy access to a printer. If not, don’t worry about it; you can sign it later. (If I prepared your taxes for you last year, I should already have a signed copy on file for you, so you can skip this.)
- A pdf or paper copy of your prior year tax return, if not prepared by me. PDF strongly preferred! (If I prepared your taxes last year, I already have a copy.)
- A picture ID, for identity verification purposes, if you don’t have a full copy of your prior year tax return.
- Account number and routing number for your bank account, if you anticipate getting a refund and would like to have it direct deposited.
Information I will need from you, in paper or (preferably!) electronic form:
- All tax forms you have received that show income, such as W-2’s, 1099’s, and K-1’s. Please verify that the name and social security number are correct on all forms you receive. (If you’re expecting a 1099-MISC but haven’t received it, there’s no reason to put everything on hold; just make sure you’ve accounted for that income in your own business/self-employment summary.)
- A summarized list of any income not reported to you on a tax form. This would include things like tips, jury duty pay, prizes, scholarships, gambling winnings, foreign income, sales of personal property, etc.
- All tax forms you have received that show deductions. These are usually 1098’s for things like mortgages and student loan interest.
- Note that you might have to do some digging to find 1099’s, 1098’s, etc. These aren’t always mailed to you, especially if you’ve elected paperless statements. You may need to go online to download them from your bank, brokerage, loan servicer, etc.
- New children/dependents. I will need to know full names, birth dates, and social security numbers, if not shown on your prior year tax return.
- Charitable and/or political contributions. Please prepare a summarized list, with separate amounts for cash/check/cc donations, “in-kind” donations (see next bullet point), and political contributions. Please do not send me receipts or confirmations! I only need a summary; the receipts are for your own records.
- Goodwill/Salvation Army/etc donations. If you’ve donated more than $500 worth of “stuff”, I will need a summary showing 1) the name of the organization donated to; and for each individual drop-off, (2) the date of the donation, (3) a rough description of what was donated (e.g. “Clothing and Shoes”, “Misc Household Items”), and (4) the aggregate re-sale value for that donation date. If the aggregate/total is under $500 for the year, I do not need that detail, just the total dollar amount (e.g. “Used items donated to charity – $400”).
- Self-employment income. Please prepare a summarized list of income and expenses. See here. This includes independent contracting, sole-proprietorships, single-member LLC’s, or any other unregistered small business. It’s helpful for me if you can separately show income that was reported on tax forms (1099’s), vs. income that wasn’t.
- Rental income. Please prepare a summarized list of income and expenses. See here . If you have made significant renovations (beyond regular maintenance) to the property, please provide me with the cost of the renovations and the date they were completed.
- Childcare expenses. I will need the name, address, and taxpayer ID# for each childcare provider, and the amounts you paid for each child. I’ll need this even if you were reimbursed via a dependent case FSA. Include only pre-K expenses, after-school care, or summer daycare. Note that the maximum that can generally be claimed is $3,000 for one child (or $5,000 if you use a dependent care FSA), or $6,000 for two children, so if you have multiple providers, I only need info for the first $3k/$5k/$6k. (**If you’ve paid an in-home nanny more than $2,100 “under the table”, then I won’t be able to prepare your tax returns for you! You’d need to go through the whole process of filing a W-2, paying unemployment tax to the state, and so on; that’s work that I may or may not be able to do for you.**)
- College tuition. Please provide me with the Form 1098-T showing the tuition expense for the year; I’ll also need to know the total amount you actually paid during the year, if different from what’s shown on the 1098-T. I may also need the total spent on course books and required supplies. If you used funds from a 529 plan or other tax-deferred college savings plan, I’ll need the 1099-Q.
- College savings. Please let me know the total amount contributed to the Oregon College Savings Plan. I do not need or want account statements; they don’t always capture all contributions, so they can be misleading. If you spend any Plan funds, I’ll need the 1099-Q that’s issued.
- Estimated tax payments. I will need a list of the dates and amounts paid, federal and state.
- Bought a home, refinanced a mortgage, or borrowed against home equity. Please provide a copy of the closing statement, showing all closing costs. For any cash-out refinance or equity line of credit, I will need to know what percentage of the loan proceeds were used for home improvements.
Energy-saving home improvements. Please provide a summary, as these may be eligible for a tax credit.[Most energy-related tax credits, federal and state, have expired, and it doesn’t appear that they’ll be renewed for 2018. There are still credits for energy-generation projects like solar or geothermal installations.]
- Alimony or spousal support. I will need to the name and social security number of the payer or payee, and the amount paid/received.
- Retirement account (IRA, 401k, etc) contributions, withdrawals, and rollovers. I’ll need the 1099-R for any withdrawal or rollover. (Even if you’re certain a rollover was tax-free, I still need to report it as such!) Contributions to your 401k are shown on your W-2; no additional documentation. Please let me know the amount of any IRA contributions, for which you may or may not receive a tax form (5498).
- Health savings accounts. If you pay any medical expenses out of your HSA, there will be a 1099-SA issued. For whatever reason, these often aren’t mailed to you, so you’ll need to access your HSA account online to download it. For contributions, I’ll need to know any amount you contributed to your HSA outside of normal payroll deductions. (Note that Health FSAs, “Flex Spending Accounts”, are different from HSAs. I typically need no documentation for Health FSAs.)
- Health insurance and medical expenses. I’ll need to know if you had any gap in health insurance during the year. Medical expenses are generally deductible only to the extent they exceed 7.5% of your income; for most people, this eliminates any deduction. Note that expenses paid with pre-tax funds (e.g. HSA or FSA funds) cannot be deducted, since they’re already pre-tax.
- Home-office deduction. Please provide me with a summarized list of your expenses. (Rent, utilities, maintenance, HOA fees, etc.) I’ll also need to know the square footage of your office space (used exclusively for business), and the square footage of your entire home. Note that there is no longer any deduction for home office expenses if the income associated with the office space is reported to you on a W-2.
- Unreimbursed work-related expenses, prior year tax preparation fees, financial advisor fees. Please provide a summarized list. In most cases, these expenses are only deductible to the extent they exceed 2% of your income. [No longer relevant for tax years after 2017. Deduction has been eliminated.]
- Electric vehicle purchases. I’ll need the make/model, date of purchase, amount paid, VIN, and expected tax credit amount. (Please note that leased or used vehicles are not eligible for the tax credit.)
- Other tax-related items for which you may not have received a tax form. Please provide a summarized list. Common items include property taxes paid, student loan interest, educator expenses (for classroom teachers), etc. I do not need or want receipts, account statements, etc.
- Anything else that you think might be relevant. You know your situation better than I do!
If you have any questions about the above items, or if you don’t know if they apply to you, don’t worry. Just ask, and we’ll figure it out together.
For record-keeping purposes, I will scan a copy of all documents you provide that are relevant to your tax return. The original copies of all documents will be returned to you when your tax return has been prepared and filed, or at any earlier time if you request them.