It seems like we just rang in the new year. While we’re all adjusting to this new reality and managing uncertainty, there’s one thing that is certain: taxes. Tax time is coming up and now is a good time to get prepared. Before you sit down to do your taxes, here’s a tax preparation checklist that can help you get organized.
Gather your personal info
When doing your taxes, a little tax preparation can go a long way. You’ll need to gather your personal information to get started.
Your tax PIN. If you have a tax PIN, you’ll want to have that handy for submitting your tax return.
Social Security Number (SSN). You’ll need your unique 9-digit Social Security Number when filing your taxes.
Your tax return from last year. If you have your state and federal tax return from last year, that could help you with this year’s tax return.
Bank account information. Whether you’re getting a refund or have to pay, having your bank account number and routing number ready will make the process easier.
Many employers, financial institutions, etc. have to send you tax forms by January 31 so you have plenty of time to file by April 15th. Here are some of the most common tax forms to look out for.
W-2. Your W-2 is the form you’ll get from your employer about income received during the tax year.
1099-MISC. If you worked a side hustle or took on any freelance work, it was likely 1099 income. This type of income isn’t taxed, so hopefully you set aside some money to pay for taxes or adjusted your withholding at your job. If you didn’t, now is a good time to update it.
1099-INT. If you earned interest from a bank account or investment, you’ll receive a 1099-INT.
1099-G. If you were unemployed this year and received unemployment benefits, you’ll get Form 1099-G. In many states, unemployment income is taxable. If you received a stimulus check, the good news is that it is not taxable.
1098-E. You should receive form 1098-E from your student loan servicer. This form shows how much student loan interest you paid in the tax year. You can deduct up to $2,500 in student loan interest if you meet the eligibility requirements. This perk is phased out if your MAGI is more than $85,000.
1098-T. If you were in school and paid tuition, you’ll receive a 1098-T which will outline how much you paid. This may qualify you for additional education credits such as The Lifetime Learning Credit and the American Opportunity Credit.
Form 5498. If you put money into a Traditional IRA, you may be able to deduct your contributions. You should receive Form 5498 from your IRA trustee in late May. The reason it’s so late is because you can contribute to your IRA up until the tax deadline on April 15. You’re not required to file this form, but it can be handy to see how much you can deduct. Since you’ll receive the form after the tax deadline, you’ll want to check your total contributions for the year with your IRA holder.
- Depending on where you get health insurance coverage, you should get a 1095-A, 1095-B, or 1095-C. According to the IRS website:
- Form 1095-A – Only individuals who enroll in coverage through the Marketplace will get this form.
- Form 1095-B – Individuals who have health coverage outside of the Marketplace will get this form (except for employees of applicable large employers that provide self-insured coverage, who will receive Form 1095-C instead).
- Form 1095-C – Individuals who work full-time for applicable large employers will get this form. Also, part-time employees will get this form if they enroll in self-insured coverage provided by an applicable large employer.
Records of your expenses. If you’re self-employed, you can lower your taxable income by deducting business expenses. Anyone who has contributed to a charity may be able to deduct their contributions. As part of tax preparation, you want to have records of all of these expenses before doing your taxes.
After you gather all of your personal information and paperwork and sit down to do your taxes, you also want to consider any adjustments you want to make in the coming tax year. For example, now is a good time to look at your tax withholding. Do you want to adjust it to take more out or less?
Plus, now is a good time to see if you can switch your student loan repayment plan to something more affordable. At FutureFuel.io, we have a tool called Reassess, which helps you optimize your federal repayment plan. You can discover, select, and enroll in federal income-driven repayment plans.
All of the results are completely personalized based on a few key inputs:
- tax filing status
- income (AGI)
- number of dependents
- state of residence
- federal student loan info (my student data file)
Using Reassess we show you personalized calculations for each plan. So you can get a glimpse at your prospective monthly payment, total cost of the loan, repayment term, as well as any student loan forgiveness options.
That way you can see if switching to an income-driven repayment plan or switching to a different type of IDR plan can save you money and be a better fit for your financial situation. You don’t want to leave money on the table or pay more than you need to, so using the tool you can easily find what’s most affordable for you.
Tax season is a stressful time for a lot of people but using this tax preparation checklist can help. Gather all of your info and set aside a chunk of time to do your taxes or hire a professional. While you’re at it, see if you want to make any adjustments to your tax withholding or your federal student loan repayment plan so you can map out your next year in a way that serves you best.