What Should You Bring To Your Tax Preparer? A Complete Document Checklist
Hanna Kielar6-Minute Read
April 12, 2022
It’s tax season! Hopefully that also means refund season for you.
Deanna Robbins, a master tax advisor at H&R Block with 16 years of tax preparation experience, shared some advice for tax season with us. Whether you decide to prepare your tax return yourself or leave it up to the professionals, here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind.
What Tax Documents and Information Should You Have Ready?
Everyone pays taxes, and working with a tax accountant can prove to be cumbersome if they are taking on multiple clients as once. This is why having your documents for tax preparation and personal information handy can make the process as smooth and easy as possible for everyone involved. Your tax preparer may even have you use a tax organizer form to help with this process. Let’s take a deeper look at all the information you need so you can start collecting it.
Starting with personal information, having all of your identification handy will make it easy to keep track of your individual situation and prove who you are to an accountant. It’s also important to remember that identity protection is vital and that sharing this type of information with others should be done carefully.
Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
“Every person that files a tax return needs to have their identification, Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). All individuals that receive income tax documents need to bring those to their tax preparer,” advises Robbins.
If you don’t have a Social Security number or Social Security card, you’re required to have an ITIN. According to the IRS, the ITIN is a tax processing number only available for certain non-resident and resident aliens, their spouses, and dependents. It is a nine-digit number beginning with the number nine and formatted like an SSN. To obtain an ITIN, you must complete IRS Form W-7.
Other Essential Personal Information
Other important personal information to have on file with your tax preparer includes a driver’s license or personal identification card that matches your Social Security card or ITIN. A photo ID is a critical step in confirming your identity and must be presented to a tax preparer. The same goes for dependents or spouses. Including other members of your household in your tax process can impact your taxes, so having birthdates and personal information for them is crucial.
Your personal financial information is also important to provide to your accountant. Tax returns, particularly the past 2 years if available, will give your accountant an understanding of your past tax history. Also, your routing and bank account numbers should be readily available for direct deposit purposes. Whether you’re being refunded money or left owing more at the end of the process, these credentials will make receiving or paying easier.
Proof Of Income
Each year’s taxes will depend on how much you make over the course of the tax year. This means no matter your situation, you will be required to prove via income statements how you received your pay during the tax year. Nowadays, many of these tax documents are available online or through a portal. However, many accountants like physical copies as well. Let’s take a look at the most common types of income proof and why they’re the most important piece of the puzzle.
A W-2 form states your wages and withheld taxes. This document provides a complete and top-down summary of your income for the last year. Your employer should have sent you a W-2 prior to February 2, 2022. You should contact your employer if you haven’t received this form.
There are various 1099 forms. You may or may not receive one (or many) depending on your situation. According to the IRS, if you made or received a payment during the calendar year as a small business or self-employed individual, you are most likely required to file an information return. The IRS suggests requesting the form from your employer if you do not receive one.
Tax Deductions And Expenses
Depending on your situation, you might need some other documentation to prepare your taxes, including tax deductions. Tax deductions, sometimes called tax write-offs, are deductions that allow a taxpayer to reduce the amount of their taxable income for certain things. Some of the most common tax deductions include:
- Self-employed expenses for personal business (such as home office expenses)
- State income tax, property tax, and sales tax documentation
- Traditional business expenses (travel, meals, hotels, etc.)
- Education costs and student loan interest
- Charitable contributions
- Medical expenses
Tax Credit Documents
Similar to tax deductions, tax credits are another item many taxpayers rely on to help save them money during the tax process. Unlike deductions that reduce your amount of taxable income, tax credits provide a tax break that reduces your overall tax bill. These tax credits can be claimed at both the federal and state level. Think of them almost as a “discount” on your bill, and they can even be a profitable stipend if your credits add up to more than your overall total. Let’s take a look at some of the most common tax credits:
- Child tax credit: A credit aimed to help families with children in their home.
- Adoption credit: A credit aimed to help with any adoption costs in the past year.
- Earned income tax credit: A credit aimed to help many taxpayers with an income. The amount often varies depending on their income and situation.
- Mortgage interest credit: A credit that allows homeowners to write off part of their mortgage interest paid in a tax year.
Tips for Preparing Your Documents
Now that we know which documents and information we need, let’s take a look at some organization and preparation tips from Robbins that will make this process easy and stress-free.
Organize and Categorize
Robbins recommends keeping all of your tax documents in one place, whether it be a shoe box or a big envelope, so things don’t get misplaced.
However, many tax preparers are not bookkeepers or accountants, so bringing in a shoe box full of receipts will cause a seasonal tax preparer frustration, especially in peak season. A good way to keep documents organized is to separate them into three categories: income, assets and personal documents.
“People rush in to get their taxes done, which then causes the tax preparer to rush on getting individuals in and out of the office,” Robbins says. “This is a reason why mistakes happen during the peak of the tax season – which is the last week of January and first two weeks of February. If people wait a little longer, we would not have to amend tax returns as often as we do, due to mistakes or missing documents.”
Robbins says, “Usually the best time to get your taxes done by a firm or company is in the month of March. The rush is over then, and tax preparers can spend real time with their clients. This is when we usually see our more complex tax returns come in.”
Make Sure You Have ALL Your Documents
“A very common problem is people usually do not wait to make sure that they receive all of their tax documents. They usually receive their W-2s and rush in to get their taxes done. After they leave the office and go home, within a day or two, they will receive another document. They will call us back and we will have to amend their return – which we charge for – and then they will usually have to pay back some of the refund they received from this original filing,” says Robbins.
It's important to wait for all documents to come through either in the mail or electronically so you save yourself the hassle of amending your return and the fee that likely comes with it. If you’re not sure what documents to expect this year, it could help to review your previous filing and note the forms you submitted, knowing laws and requirements can change year to year.
The Bottom Line
While taxes may seem daunting now, the more organized and patient you can be, the better your experience will be with your tax preparer. If you take a deep breath, step back, and find a way to keep yourself organized, each year will become easier and hopefully much less stressful. To get started now, get familiar with 2021 – 2022’s tax brackets and tons of other Rocket HQSM advice in order to see where you fall along the tax spectrum.
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