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Tax Prep Checklist: What Documents Do I Need to File Taxes?

‘Tis the season—tax season, that is! And you know what that means? Gathering all your documents. Instead of pulling your hair out at the last second, wouldn’t it be easier to have all your documents wrangled and organized beforehand? Of course!

So if you’re hunched over a mountain of paperwork wondering what documents you need to file this tax season—we've got a nifty tax filing checklist just for you.

Let’s dive in.

Personal Information

Before we hop into the nitty-gritty, let’s go over the basics. You’ll have to know who you are to file your taxes. No—we’re not talking philosophy here. You literally need to have a bunch of personal information on hand. This includes your (and your spouse’s):

  • Full legal name
  • Date of birth
  • Home address
  • Social Security or tax ID number
  • Driver’s license
  • Last year’s tax return
  • Routing and checking account numbers for direct deposit or to pay your bill

Dependent Information

Listen up, parents and caregivers—this is for you. There’s a solid amount of sweet deductions and tax credits for parents to take advantage of. But you’ll need some important information about your dependent(s) first.

  • Date of birth
  • Social Security or tax ID numbers
  • Childcare records
  • Income of dependents

Sources of Income

Here’s where things really get going. You need to report income on your taxes—aka how much money you made last year from work or investments (and a few other things). For most people, taxable income will just include salaries and wages, but if you’ve got other sources of income (like royalties, tips or rent you collect), the IRS wants a cut of that too. We’ll discuss these sources and the forms you can expect from Uncle Sam for each of them below, but let’s start with the money you made from your main employment:

Employee Compensation

In general, the IRS considers employee compensation anytime you’re paid for personal services.1 If you’re a salaried or hourly employee, you should get a FORM W-2 from your employer around mid- to late-January. This is the big kahuna of tax forms! On it, you’ll find your income and how much you paid in federal, state and FICA taxes throughout the year. You’ll also find your employer’s identification information. You’ll need all this when filing your taxes.

Taxes shouldn’t be this complicated. Connect with a RamseyTrusted tax advisor.

Usually, W-2s are sent directly to your mailbox by your employer—so be on the lookout. And if your W-2 happens to grow legs and walk away (or your dog eats it)—don't sweat it—you can request a copy from your work. You can also usually find and download your W-2 online if your employer uses an electronic payroll system (yay technology!).

Let’s look at some of the other forms that Uncle Sam may send your way in January besides your W-2:

Self-Employment and Small Business Income

Let’s say you’re self-employed—you own a small business or you work freelance—well, Uncle Sam wants his share of those earnings too. Let’s go through it together.

  • Form 1099-NEC: NEC stands for nonemployee compensation—aka freelancers and independent contractors. Your clients are responsible for issuing you a 1099-NEC for payments over $600.2 You’ll get multiple 1099-NECs if you work for more than one client throughout the year.
  • Form 1099-K: A 1099-K form reports any income you receive as a small-business owner or independent contractor from debit cards, credit cards, and third-party payment networks like PayPal and Venmo. You may have heard that big changes were happening with 1099-Ks this tax season. Basically, the IRS wanted to rake in more tax dollars by drastically lowering the amount of money it’d take to trigger a 1099-K. But they decided to delay those changes until the 2023 tax year.

Business Records

Do you own a business? Great! But here’s the bummer: Businesses have a lot more record keeping to do—especially if you want to score some awesome business-related deductions (trust us, you do). Here are several records you’ll need:

  • Your business’s income
  • Miles traveled for business purposes
  • Depreciation of business assets (equipment, vehicles, buildings, furniture, etc.)
  • Home office expenses—make sure to include the square footage of your home and the square footage used only for business
  • All other business expenses (keep those receipts!)

Investment or Interest Income

Did you make money off investments this year? The IRS wants to know about that too. Here are some of the most common forms you’ll need to report (a bunch of 1099 forms):

  • 1099-INT: Interest payments over $10 from a bank or financial institution3
  • 1099-DIV: Dividend payments from companies to stockholders or distributions from mutual funds to shareholders4
  • 1099-B: Selling stocks, bonds, commodities, or other types of investments through a broker or exchanging products or services (barter exchange transactions)5
  • 1099-R: Distributions from pensions, annuities, retirement or profit-sharing plans, IRAs, insurance contracts, etc.6

Other Sources of Income

Oh, look—even more forms. These are some additional documents you might need depending on other sources of income:

  • 1099-S: Home or property sale7
  • 1099-MISC: Income from business rental property and royalties8
  • SSA-1099 or RRB-1099: Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits9
  • Form 1041 or Schedule K1: Trust and estate beneficiary earnings10
  • 1099-LTC: Long-term care reimbursements11
  • 1099-G: Unemployment income12

There are also some sources of income you have to record and report yourself—like cash tips, cryptocurrency, gambling and prize winnings, and jury duty pay.13

Tax Deductions and Tax Credits

When it comes to taxes, deductions and credits are your best friends. Tax deductions reduce your taxable income—and the lower your taxable income, the lower your tax bill. Nice! Tax credits cut your actual tax bill down dollar for dollar. The more credits you claim, the less you’ll have to fork over to Uncle Sam.14 Even nicer!

Here are some common credits and deductions and what you’ll need to get them:

Education Expenses

  • Tuition statements
  • Itemized receipts of qualified educational expenses (Form 1098-T)
  • Student loan interest statements (Form 1098-E)

Homeowner Expenses

  • Mortgage interest statements (Form 1098)
  • Property tax payment receipts
  • Energy efficiency upgrade receipts (Form 5695 if provided by installer)

Charitable Contributions

  • Detailed list of donations
  • Receipts for contributions
  • Form 1098-C for vehicle donations (or a letter confirming your donation)

Child and Dependent Care Expenses

  • Provider name
  • Provider address
  • Childcare records
  • Tax ID or Social Security number for provider

Self-Employment Expenses

  • Records of business/home office expenses
  • Assets
  • Pension plan contributions
  • Health insurance payments
  • Estimated tax payment receipts (state and federal)

Health Care Expenses

  • Any 1095 forms (for health care coverage)
  • Records of medical and dental costs

Job-Related Educational Expenses

  • Records of expenses for things that strengthen your business knowledge (classes, books, seminars, etc.).

IRA Contributions

  • Form 5498

Health Savings Account Contributions

  • Form 5498-SA

Remember, many tax deductions are only available if you itemize your deductions—meaning you’re not taking the standard deduction.

Now, that may sound like a bummer, but if you have a simple tax situation without a ton of deductible expenses, you’re better off taking the standard deduction anyway. Itemizing only makes sense if your itemized deductions are worth more than the standard deduction. If you qualify for tax credits, you can snag those without having to itemize.

If that seems like a ton of documents to keep track of—you'd be right. But don’t sweat it! A tax pro can help make sure you have all the right forms lined up so you don’t miss out on any credits or deductions.

Estimated Tax Payments

If you’re self-employed, you probably made estimated tax payments throughout the year (quarterly payments). You’ll need to keep records of these payments as proof so you don’t get hit with additional tax bills or penalties by mistake.

Proof of Losses

Financial losses stink! But here’s the good news: You might be able to deduct some of those losses.

A few examples include capital losses (selling an investment for less than what you bought it for), property losses from a federally declared natural disaster, and losses due to theft.15 You’ll also need documentation of those losses to qualify for a deduction.

File Your Taxes With Confidence

Win with taxes (and avoid costly mistakes) when you do your taxes the Ramsey way. Ramsey SmartTax is the no-nonsense tax software you can trust. It’s simple with no hidden fees and no hidden agenda. It will even teach you and educate you along the way so you feel empowered to do your own taxes with confidence.

File your taxes with Ramsey SmartTax!

But what if you have a more complicated tax situation or had a wild year? In that case, working with a tax pro is a smart move. And if you’re looking for a trustworthy tax professional in your area, try one of our Endorsed Local Providers (ELPs). They’re RamseyTrusted and know the tax code so you don’t have to.

Find a tax pro in your area today!

Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey Solutions

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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