Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tax Prep Checklist - 10 Things to Bring to your Tax Professional

If you are like the majority of Americans, you are probably going to seek the help of a tax professional to prepare and file your income tax return. A few decades ago, most taxpayers filed their own returns. However, the tax code gets more and more complicated each year and as a result millions of taxpayers turn to a tax professional. However, before you leave your house for your tax preparation appointment you will want to bring the following ten items with you:

1. Identification

First and foremost, bring your social security card and a valid drivers license or government issued identification. If you are married then both you and your spouse will need these documents. Finally, if you have children you will also want to have their social security cards on hand.

2. Last Years Tax Return

It is always a good idea to bring your tax return from last year with you. If you are visiting a new tax preparer, they will be able to collect a lot of the information they need about you from the old return. They also might be able to review the old return for errors. If you had your return prepared by someone else you should also look for your receipt. As I will explain this further in number 8.

3. Documentation from ALL Sources of Income

You will need to have documentation of all sources of income from the past year. Wage earning employees will need to bring W-2s from all sources of employment. If you received unemployment compensation then you will need to bring the 1099-G form, which you will get in the mail. Depending on your own financial situation, you might also need to bring documentation of the following sources of income: pension and annuities, alimony received, jury duty pay, gambling winnings, etc.

4. Self Employment Documents

If you are a self-employed individual or sole proprietor you will need to bring 1099 forms from all sources of income. It is also a good idea to put together a profit and loss statement before your appointment so your preparer does not have to add up all your expenses during the appointment. You will also need to bring vouchers for any estimated payments made and copies of health insurance bills.

5. Financial Gains or Losses

Bring along forms and documentation related to all of your financial gains or losses over the past year. This includes interest income statements (1099-INT), proceeds from broker transactions (1099-B), retirement plan distributions (1099-R), etc.

6. Mortgage and Real Estate Taxes

If you own your house, you need to bring a few different documents to ensure you take advantage of all credits and deductions available to homeowners. If you bought a new house in 2009, you need to bring your closing documents. In addition to the first-time homebuyer’s credit, if you are eligible, you will also be able to deduct property taxes and mortgage interest paid. You should receive IRS Form 1098 from your mortgage company, that will give you a total of all interest paid during the year.

7. Automobile and DMV Documents

If you bought a new car in 2009, you might qualify for the vehicle sales tax deduction. If so, bring documentation of the taxes you paid when you purchased the vehicle. Additionally, you should bring proof of any DMV or registration fees you paid for your vehicle.

8. Deductible Expenses Receipts

If you are not going to claim the standard deduction, you will want to bring proof of any deductions of which you think you might qualify. This includes, but is not limited to: charitable contribution receipts, any non-reimbursed expenses incurred while working or volunteering, job hunting expenses, alimony payments, etc. Tax preparation is deductible, so if you had your tax return professional prepared last year bring that receipt as well.

9. Additional Deduction Documentation

In addition to receipts for the expenses listed in number 8, there are a few other deductions that you might qualify for. First of all, you should bring documentation of any state and local income taxes paid. You should also bring records of any IRA or retirement account contributions. Also, if your medical expenses totaled more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income then you will want to bring documentation of the medical costs.

10. Anything Else your Tax Professional Wants

A few days before your tax appointment it is probably a good idea to call ahead and ask your tax preparer what documents you should bring. If you do all these things, you’ll be 100% ready when your appointment rolls around.

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