1. Gather all of your important papers in one place.
    • I use a bankers box for each year.  That way, when I can get rid of the papers for that year, which according to my CPA is 4 years, I can shred everything without going through it again.
    • Make sure to label the box (ie, 2019 Tax Documents) on all 4 sides so it’s easily identifiable
  1. Take out anything that is tax deductible to prepare your taxes. This information will be what you or your CPA uses to prepare your returns.  This varies depending on whether your filing as an individual or on behalf of a business.  Here’s a list of some items you’ll need:

Personal Information

Tax Identification Numbers are mandatory items on your tax prep checklist. All taxpayers will need the following information.

  •  Your social security number or tax ID number
  •  Your spouse’s full name and social security number or tax ID number

Dependent(s) Information

Parents and caregivers should gather this information as they review what they need to file their taxes.

  •  Dates of birth and social security numbers or tax ID numbers
  •  Childcare records (including the provider’s tax ID number) if applicable
  •  Income of other adults in your home
  •  Form 8332 showing that the child’s custodial parent is releasing their right to claim a child to you, the noncustodial parent (if applicable)

Sources of Income

Many of these forms won’t apply every year. For example, you will only receive the investment forms you may need to file your taxes if you had distributions or other activity.

  • Employed
    •  Forms W-2
  • Unemployed
    •  Unemployment, state tax refund (1099-G)
  • Self-Employed
    •  Forms 1099, Schedules K-1, income records to verify amounts not reported on 1099s
    •  Records of all expenses — check registers or credit card statements, and receipts
    •  Business-use asset information (cost, date placed in service, etc.) for depreciation
    •  Office in home information, if applicable
    •  Record of estimated tax payments made (Form 1040–ES)
  • Rental Income
    •  Records of income and expenses
    •  Rental asset information (cost, date placed in service, etc.) for depreciation
    •  Record of estimated tax payments made (Form 1040–ES)
  • Retirement Income
    •  Pension/IRA/annuity income (1099-R)
    •  Traditional IRA basis (i.e., amounts you contributed to the IRA that were already taxed)
    •  Social security/RRB income (1099-SSA, RRB-1099)
  • Savings & Investments or Dividends
    •  Interest, dividend income (1099-INT, 1099-OID, 1099-DIV)
    •  Income from sales of stock or other property (1099-B, 1099-S)
    •  Dates of acquisition and records of your cost or other basis in property you sold (if basis is not reported on 1099-B)
    •  Health Savings Account and long-term care reimbursements (1099-SA or 1099-LTC)
    •  Expenses related to your investments
    •  Record of estimated tax payments made (Form 1040–ES)
    •  Transactions involving cryptocurrency (Virtual currency)
  • Other Income & Losses
    •  Gambling income (W-2G or records showing income, as well as expense records)
    •  Jury duty records
    •  Hobby income and expenses
    •  Prizes and awards
    •  Trusts
    •  Royalty Income 1099–Misc.
    •  Any other 1099s received
    •  Record of alimony paid/received with ex-spouse’s name and SSN

Types of Deductions

The types of deductions you can take depend a lot on your life situation. It’s likely you won’t need all of the records listed below for your tax documents checklist.

  • Home Ownership
    •  Forms 1098 or other mortgage interest statements
    •  Real estate and personal property tax records
    •  Receipts for energy-saving home improvements (e.g., solar panels, solar water heater)
    •  All other 1098 series forms
  • Charitable Donations
    •  Cash amounts donated to houses of worship, schools, other charitable organizations
    •  Records of non-cash charitable donations
    •  Amounts of miles driven for charitable or medical purposes
  • Medical Expenses
    •  Amounts paid for healthcare insurance and to doctors, dentists, hospitals
  • Health Insurance
    •  Form 1095-A if you enrolled in an insurance plan through the Marketplace (Exchange)
  • Childcare Expenses
    •  Fees paid to a licensed day care center or family day care for care of an infant or preschooler
    •  Wages paid to a baby-sitter
      Don’t include expenses paid through a flexible spending account at work
  • Educational Expenses
    •  Forms 1098-T from educational institutions
    •  Receipts that itemize qualified educational expenses
    •  Records of any scholarships or fellowships you received
    •  Form 1098-E if you paid student loan interest
  • K-12 Educator Expenses
    •  Receipts for classroom expenses (for educators in grades K-12)
  • State & Local Taxes
    •  Amount of state/local income tax paid (other than wage withholding), or amount of state and local sales tax paid
    •  Invoice showing amount of vehicle sales tax paid
  • Retirement & Other Savings
    •  Form 5498-SA showing HSA contributions
    •  Form 5498 showing IRA contributions
    •  All other 5498 series forms (5498-QA, 5498-ESA)
  • Federally Declared Disaster
    •  City/county you lived/worked/had property in
    •  Records to support property losses (appraisal, clean up costs, etc.)
    •  Records of rebuilding/repair costs
    •  Insurance reimbursements/claims to be paid
    •  FEMA assistance information
    •  Check FEMA site to see if my county has been declared a federal disaster area
  1. Keep your tax return together with the backup documentation for 7 years. That means 7 years from the date of filing.   Keep in mind that we file the year after so if you file late, in October, then keep your records for 7 years from that date (ie., if you file October 2020 for the year 2019, keep your records until October 2027.

**NOTE:  NEVER throw out the actual “tax returns” unless you are already collecting Social Security.   Even though your CPA may advise you to keep your records for 4 or 7 years, PLEASE keep your tax returns. Why?  Because when you are ready to collect Social Security, the only proof you’ll have is your tax returns.  If there is a discrepancy in the amount that you’ll be receiving, the burden of proof is yours.  The Social Security Administration, The IRS and The FTB are NOT responsible to keep or have your information.  You are!   Therefore, IMO, better safe than sorry