The short version of everything below is: I’ll need your tax return from last year (unless I prepared it, in which case I already have a copy); any tax forms you received (W-2’s, 1099’s, 1098’s, etc.); and a summary of your tax situation including any income sources and deductions for which you didn’t receive a tax form. That’s a good start, and from there we should be able to fill in all the gaps with some back-and-forth via email. For a list of the most commonly overlooked items, see here.
I realize this isn’t exactly a checklist, but it’s a list, so … close enough. It’s not intended to be complete; it covers only the items that are most common to my clients’ income tax returns. (It’s impractical for me to ask you about every possible source of income or tax deduction; there are too many to count!)
If you believe there’s a tax-relevant circumstance that applies to you but isn’t included in the list below, then by all means tell me! It’s ultimately up to you to inform me of all aspects of your tax situation.
- New for 2021: I need to know the total of any Economic Impact Payment(s) you received.
- New clients only: A pdf or paper copy of your prior year tax return. PDF strongly preferred! (If I prepared your taxes last year, I already have a copy.)
- New clients only: A picture ID, for identity verification purposes.
- All tax forms you’ve 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.
- 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.** Tax forms aren’t always mailed to you if you’ve elected paperless statements. You may need to go online to download them from your bank, brokerage, loan servicer, etc. These can be very easy to overlook if you closed or transferred an account mid-year. For example, if you transfer an investment account mid-year, there will generally be two 1099’s, one from each financial institution. Likewise with mortgages — if your loan servicer changes mid-year, there may be two 1098’s.
- 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.
- Account number and routing number for your bank account, if your bank account has changed since the previous year. This is not required if you do not want to have any refunds direct-deposited.
- Change of address. Let me know if you’ve moved.
- Changes to your marital status or household arrangement. Married? Divorced? Living apart from your spouse or kids? Joint-custody arrangements? These can have significant tax implications.
- 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.
- Tax-deductible charitable donations. Please prepare a summarized list, with separate amounts for cash/check/cc donations vs. non-cash “in-kind” donations (see next bullet point). Please do not send me receipts or confirmations! I only need a summary; the receipts are for your own records. (Generally speaking, if the charitable organization hasn’t provided you with a receipt that clearly shows the tax-deductible amount, then it’s not a tax-deductible donation. Auction purchases, GoFundMe gifts, raffle tickets, political contributions, and the value of your own time/services typically aren’t deductible.) Separately indicate any donation made to the Oregon Cultural Trust.
- Non-cash (Goodwill/Salvation Army/etc) charitable donations. If you’ve donated more than $500 worth of “stuff” for the year, then the IRS requires the following info for each donation date: 1) date of donation; 2) name of the charity/organization; (3) a rough description of what was donated (e.g. “Clothing and Shoes”, “Misc Household Items”); and (4) the aggregate value (re-sale, not original) for that donation date. If the 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”).
- Political contributions to candidates, PACS, etc. I’ll need to know the total contributed. Not deductible, but there’s an Oregon tax credit that you may qualify for.
- Self-employment income. [This includes independent contracting, sole-proprietorships, single-member LLC’s, etc.] Please prepare a summarized list of income and expenses, subtotaled by category. See here. It’s helpful for me if you can separately show income that was reported to you on tax forms (1099’s), vs. income that wasn’t. Use any method of presentation that makes sense to you; I’d rather have you do that, than have you force it into a format prescribed by me. If I don’t understand something, I’ll ask! Likewise, please ask me about any item that you’re unsure what to do with. Also: if you’re expecting a 1099-MISC or 1099-NEC but haven’t received it (they’re often issued very late), there’s no reason to put everything on hold; just make sure you’ve accounted for the income in your summary.
- 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 or energy-generating home improvements. This is complicated, but ultimately all I need to know is how much you spent on qualifying improvements. You’ll want to keep the manufacturer’s certification with your records.
- Alimony or spousal support. I will need to the name and social security number of the payer or payee, and the amount paid/received.
- IRA contributions. Please let me know the amount of any IRA contributions, for which you may or may not receive a tax form (5498). Contributions to your 401k are shown on your W-2; no additional documentation required.
- Retirement account (IRA, 401k, etc) withdrawals and rollovers. I’ll need the 1099-R for any withdrawal or rollover, issued by the financial institution the funds were rolled out of, not into. Even if you’re certain a rollover was tax-free, I still need to report it as such!
- Health savings accounts. If you pay any medical expenses out of your HSA, there will be a 1099-SA issued, though you only have access to it via download from your HSA bank. For contributions, I’ll need to know any amount you contributed to your HSA outside of normal payroll deductions. Note that healthcare FSAs, “flex spending accounts”, are different from HSAs. I typically need no documentation for healthcare FSAs.
- Medical expenses. Medical expenses are generally deductible only to the extent that they exceed 7.5% of your income; for most people, this rules out 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.
- Health insurance. If you purchased health insurance on the federal exchange, I’ll need the 1095-A, which you can download from healthcare.gov. I don’t need copies of 1095-B or 1095-C forms for employer-provided insurance; these have no impact on your tax return.
- Home-office deduction. [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; that is, if you’re an employee. As of 2018, the home office deduction applies only to self-employment income.] 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.
- 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. [These deductions have been eliminated as of tax year 2018.]
- Electric vehicle purchases. I’ll need the make/model, date of purchase, amount paid, VIN, and expected tax credit amount. Note that leased or used vehicles are not eligible for the tax credit.
- Virtual currency holdings and transactions. I’ll need a detailed list of gains/losses from transactions. Note that you may be subject to foreign financial account reporting requirements if you hold virtual currency in an account not located in the U.S., depending on the value of the account; see here for details. You’ll need to let me know if this applies to you.
- Other tax-related items for which you may not have received a tax form. Please provide a summarized list. Common items include property taxes, foreign financial accounts, 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.