Tax Prep Checklist: What You Need to File Your Own Taxes

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Tax Prep Checklist
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Filing tax returns is something most people dread to do. But like most things you’d rather put off for later, filing early has its benefits. To help you go through the process as painlessly as possible, here is a breakdown of everything you need.

You need to have your personal documents, like your tax ID number and bank account details, to file your tax returns. You also need documents supporting tax deductions, income earned, adjustments to income, and tax credits. These include your W-2 if employed and 1099 if in self-employment.

Having all the documentation you need before you start filing can make the e-filing process simpler. These forms and documents vary depending on your situation, for instance, whether you are married or have investments.

Keep reading to learn more about what you need to make your filing trouble-free, whatever your financial circumstances.

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Personal Documents

To file your returns, you need to provide your Tax Identification Numbers. These include your social security or tax ID number and if married, your spouse’s. You also need to supply the date of birth, plus the bank account number in case of a refund. 

Tax Deductions Supporting Documents

It can be pretty challenging to claim tax deductions for certain expenses without the necessary documents. To make the process more straightforward, keep all your receipts. 

This will help you ascertain the exact amount you can claim for specific deductions, particularly if you elect to itemize the qualifying expenses.

Such deductions include: 

  • Charitable gifts 
  • Health insurance
  • Medical expenses
  • Income taxes 
  • State and local property

You must complete the list of qualifying expenses and submit the same with your tax return. Do note that for your filing status, you could also opt only to claim the standard deduction.

Income Documents

You require investment forms to declare your income from the previous year to the IRS. In addition, any employer who paid you $600+ within the tax year should report the payments by filing an information return by January 31. 

The form indicates your overall earnings and the income tax deducted from your pay and remitted to the IRS. 

Depending on the source of income received, you will need some or most of the following forms:

To help you fill in your tax return, get a copy of these forms from your employer (s) or the IRS.

Adjustments to Income Documents

If you wish to claim above-the-line deductions, you can do so on Schedule 1 alongside your tax return. In addition, you can claim the total of your itemized deductions.

Form 1098 applies for these expenses and includes:

You will receive the above forms from the respective recipients (payees) upon making payments of $600 and above.

Keep a record of all contributions made to retirement accounts as well, and if you are a teacher, your educator expenses. These are deductible up to certain amounts. For a detailed list of the available adjustments to income, check  Schedule 1 from the IRS.

Income From Self-Employment 

Suppose you are self-employed as an independent contractor (1099-NEC income). In that case, you can deduct business expenses considered necessary to conduct business on Schedule C.

As such, you need supporting documents or receipts to support the expenditures and to put together your Schedule C.

Tax Credits Documentation

You will want to have documentation to help you claim tax credits because, unlike deductions, they reduce the income tax you owe the IRS. This makes them more beneficial since they affect your tax burden directly.

On the other hand, tax deductions only lessen your taxable income.

To claim tax credits, you need Form 1098 for paid expenses like education. Keep detailed records of your expenses to support claims for other tax credits. Some tax credits require your tax return plus income documentation. 

Some of the commonly available credits include the following: 

What You Need When Using a Tax Professional

If you plan to use a tax professional to help you file your returns, you will need to provide them with all the documents and info mentioned above. 

You can either have them with you during your appointment or send them through before you meet. However, if this is the first time you are using such services, you will need to gather additional documents.

To prepare your tax returns, the tax professional will require the following documentation:

  • Identification documents like your Social Security card. They will also need the same from your spouse and all qualifying dependents. Alternatively, you can provide a copy of the previous year’s tax return. However, do supply identifying information for any additional dependent whose details do not appear in that return.
  • Dates of birth and photo ID for everyone (you, spouse, and dependants), particularly if a previous year’s tax return is unavailable.
  • Information related to your bank account. If you are entitled to a refund and opt to receive the same through direct deposit, you need to supply your bank account’s routing numbers.
  • Proof of home purchase or any other additional changes that might have occurred in the previous year. Note that if you retain your property tax receipts, you can itemize the home purchase and write off a portion of the taxes paid. 

Next Steps

Preparing your tax returns need not be a headache. Not if you know what you need to do. To make the entire process less complicated for you, ensure to have all the documentation required on hand. 

Besides, since the level of information needed depends on your tax situation, if yours is not complex, you will have a much easier time filing your returns.


When it comes to filling your own taxes online, Turbotax is one the elite softwares for individuals and small business owners. It offers a quick and easy way to file your taxes online accurately.

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I'm Donny. I'm a world traveler, investor, entrepreneur, and online marketing aficionado who has a big appetite to compete and disrupt big markets. I thrive on being able to create things that impact change, difficult challenges, and being able to add value in negative situations.

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