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2015 Tax Prep Checklist

3/06/2015

Whether you are planning to prepare your tax returns yourself or work with a professional tax preparer to file your 2014 taxes, there’s no better time than now to get a jump-start on what, for many, is considered a burdensome and tedious process. But, with the help of this tax prep checklist to serve as a step-by-step guide, filing your taxes needn’t be such a daunting task.

  • Compile Everything. The first step is collecting all the forms and documents you will need and gathering them in one place. This includes everything from W-2 and 1099 forms from your employers to documents from banks and investment firms. Start a folder or box in early January to begin to accumulate all the tax documents that will be coming in the mail. This will avoid scrambling to find something or forgetting to include a document. If you lose track of an important tax document you might miss out on a credit that you qualify for. Of course, if you do miss a credit you qualify for you can always file an amendment with the IRS but this will slow down your refund. Click here for a full list of necessary documents.
  • Documenting Your Purchases Is Key. It’s always best to save all receipts, whether you are an employee or a business owner, as many purchases may be eligible for tax deductions and in case there is a question regarding the deductibility of a given item. Things such as health care, mortgage interest and charitable donations are all eligible expenses. For those who are self-employed, many items you use to conduct or promote your business may be deductible as well, including items such as computers, desks, tools, utility bills, advertising fees, etc.
  • Review Everything Closely! Once you’ve collected all of your documents, read through them carefully to make sure they are accurate. If you find an error, contact the human resources or payroll department at your company as soon as possible and request that they re-issue you a corrected form.
  • Consider Paper & Paperless Documents. If you have accounts that only send you communication electronically, make sure you print your tax documents because you might not receive these in the mail. This might be the case for things like student loans, tuition expenses, or any accounts where you do online banking.
  • Have Last Year’s Tax Return Handy. When it’s time to prepare this year’s taxes, whether you are preparing them yourself or going to a tax preparer, it can be helpful to use last year’s as a reference. Of course, sometimes it’s easier for a preparer to start with a clean slate. Either way, having them nearby can’t hurt.
  • Make A Plan. If you’re getting a refund, strategize ahead of time what you plan to do with the money. You might not know exactly what your refund will be but it’s always a good idea to plan ahead. Once the money hits your account, it’s easy to spend it and forget to pay off that credit card or save for next year’s vacation.

There is still plenty of time left until the April 15 income tax filing deadline, but why wait until the last minute to get your affairs in order? Preparing now can help make your life a lot easier come crunch time.