Tax Prep Checklist: 13 Key Forms & Reports You’ll Need

Time To Read 8 MIN READ

Whether you file your taxes yourself or hire a professional accountant, the first step in your tax prep is gathering all the information you’ll need to complete your tax forms.

While not exhaustive for every situation, this tax prep checklist can help you hit the highlights.

Essential tax prep info and where to find it

1. Last year’s tax returns

In most cases, you won’t technically need your previous year’s return to file this year’s taxes, but having it handy and reading through it can help jog your memory when it comes to paperwork you’ll want to include again.

If you didn’t keep your return from last year, you can usually get a copy from the accountant, the software, or online system that helped you file it. This year, create a special folder for your tax return, whether paper or digital, and keep that return in your records.

Not every state collects state income tax. If yours does, have a copy of your state return available as well as your federal return.

2. Your W-2 from your employer

If you have a regular job, your employer will provide you with a W-2 form that reports your income as well as the tax contributions made against your income from each paycheck. 

In other words, it doesn’t just show how much money you made. It also shows the wage taxes you’ve already paid.

For people who get money back from their taxes each year, the W-2 report is a major source of that refund. Make sure you include it when you’re preparing your return. 

If you want to get on that return early, most employers will let you view your W-2 online so you don’t have to wait on snail mail.

3. 1099 forms for other income

1099 forms cover many other sources of income that don’t come from an employer’s paycheck. These include, among other things:

  • Self-employment income
  • Income received as an independent contractor
  • Stock trade income
  • Interest & dividends
  • Investment property rents & other income
  • Social Security income

In many cases, you’ll receive a 1099 form automatically from the source of the income, such as your brokerage account. But the IRS 1099 rules don’t require every company to report your 1099 income to the IRS in every situation.

Still, you’re generally required to report that income, whether or not you received a formal 1099 from the source of that income.

If you’re using Quicken or Simplifi by Quicken, you can run an income report to see all your income from every source. If something looks off, it’s not too late to revisit those transactions and fix those categories.

You can also use tags to track these transactions. In either Quicken or Simplifi by Quicken, create a tag called “1099,” or “side-gig income,” or anything else that fits your specific situation. Apply that tag to any related income, and then use a tag report to see it all together. 

4. What about unemployment benefits?

For the 2020 tax year, questions about taxation of unemployment benefits are higher than ever. The short answer is that unemployment benefits are taxed by the IRS, but at least some federal taxes are withheld—meaning you paid some of that tax before you ever got the check. Those benefits are also taxed by many states so you’ll need to follow those guidelines separately. Make sure you have a 1099-G form for any unemployment benefits you received.

That said, the amount of tax you ultimately have to pay depends on the amount of money you make. For the 2020 tax year, single people under age 65 won’t owe any taxes on the first $12,400 of income for the year—meaning your regular income and unemployment benefits combined. That minimum amount varies based on your situation, but with a relatively low income, your taxes should be low too.

5. Does my stimulus checks count as income?

Your stimulus checks do not count as income. They’re not taxable, and they don’t count against you in determining your eligibility for federal funds or benefits like Social Security.

6. Estimated tax payments made during the year

If you made estimated tax payments in 2020, be sure you have your 1040-ES forms on hand. Those are direct credits against this year’s tax liability. Don’t pay those taxes twice!

7. 1098 forms for student loans, mortgages, and tuition deductions

If you have a student loan or mortgage, be sure to get a 1098 form showing how much you paid in interest on those loans last year. 

If you attended college during 2020, a 1098-T form reports your tuition and related expenses.

Make sure you gather all relevant 1098 forms before you prepare your taxes to claim any deductions that you might be due.

8. What about my 401(k) or private IRA?

If you have a 401(k) through your employer, your contributions will be captured by your W-2.

If you have a private Roth IRA, those contributions don’t reduce your taxes, so you don’t need to worry about reporting them. The point of a Roth IRA is to make contributions out of your regular income, which you pay taxes on, so you don’t have to pay taxes when you withdraw that money later for retirement.

If you have a private, traditional IRA, make sure you get a record of those contributions. They reduce your taxable income now in exchange for paying taxes on that money later, when you eventually withdraw from the fund.

Both Quicken and Simplifi by Quicken include expense reports so you can see your contributions for the year. If you haven’t been tracking them or categorizing them as IRA contributions, you can still search for them based on the payee.

Did you withdraw money from your retirement account this year? Make sure you have a 1099-R form showing that income. But remember, if you withdrew from a Roth IRA, you don’t have to pay taxes on those funds.

9. Receipts for charitable contributions and itemized deductions

Make sure you get receipts for any charitable contributions you’ve made throughout the year. If you donate to a cause and get something in return, like a T-shirt, the organization will issue you a receipt showing the portion of your donation that is tax deductible.

Not every charity is a registered 501(c)(3), so check with your specific charities or organizations for the tax-deductible value of your contributions. Remember, most schools and alumni organizations are 501(c)(3)’s, so don’t forget those! 

You should also gather your receipts for any itemized deductions. Check with your accountant for the kinds of things you should look for. For most people, the standard deduction will save you more money, as well as saving you the effort of itemizing all your deductions, but if you have enough individual deductions, listing them out can significantly reduce your tax liability.

This might sound daunting, but if you’ve been categorizing your transactions throughout the year, you can use Quicken to print a Schedule A report with just a few clicks. You’ll find it listed with your tax reports. 

If you have custom categories that aren’t showing up on your Schedule A or Tax Summary report, make sure there’s a tax line item associated with that category. (Here’s how to do that in Quicken for Windows or Mac). Or you can always create your own, custom category report to see those transactions.

In Simplifi, run a Spending report by category and set the time frame to Last Year to see your totals in Charity & Donations and Work Expenses. You can even filter your report to see just those categories. Click on each category to get a list of all related transactions.

If you haven’t been keeping up with your transaction categories as well as you’d like to, it’s not too late to fix it. Find any relevant transaction and update its category to include it in the report.

10. Proof of medical insurance and medical expenses

Your proof of medical insurance should be mailed to you directly by your health insurance company. Be sure to have that documentation available.

Also, if your medical expenses were significant last year, be sure to gather records of that spending. Your Quicken or Simplifi by Quicken spending report is a good way to see them all in one place.

Not all medical expenses are tax deductible, but you can claim those expenses if they make up a high enough percentage of your gross income.

11. Proof of other taxes paid

Be sure to gather records of other taxes you paid during the year. Most importantly, these include:

  • Federal taxes
  • State taxes
  • Property taxes
  • Other ad valorem taxes (like vehicle registration)
  • Sales tax on big-ticket items

12. Other income and deductions

Remember, this list isn’t meant to be exhaustive. Here are a few more things to consider that might affect your taxes, so be sure you have your records available:

  • Childcare payments
  • Gambling income 
  • Trust income
  • Royalty income
  • Alimony payments
  • Health savings accounts and long-term care reimbursements

13. Small business and rental property documentation

If you’re also running a small business or managing rental property, here’s a brief list of some of the information you’ll need to gather.

  • Profit & Loss report for 2020
  • End-of-year balance sheet
  • A list of company assets that were bought, sold, or depreciated
  • Your company’s inventory (if any)
  • Any loans the company holds
  • Payroll data

If you’re using Quicken Home & Business to manage your rental property or business finances, you can generate each of these reports with just a few clicks. 

Many small businesses also received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans or Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) in 2020. If your PPP loan was forgiven, it doesn’t count toward your taxable income. If it wasn’t forgiven, then it does count, but any qualifying small business expenses you used the loan to pay for will be deductible. 

When it comes to EIDL loans and grants, these count toward your taxable income, but, again, any qualifying expenses you used these funds to pay for can be written off on your tax return. Whichever kind of loan or grant you received, whether PPP or EIDL, make sure you have your loan documentation available.

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