Tax season is here, but before you groan in protest, we’re here to help! We’ve created a thorough checklist to make your tax-preparation experience as smooth and simple as possible so you can get back to doing what you love.
Gather Your Personal & Income Information
As your tax documents begin to arrive in your inbox and your mailbox, create an organized system for the following:
- Form W-2: These are issued by employers and show your wages and tax withholdings. They are supposed to be mailed by January 31.
- Form 1099-MISC: These report income you have received as an independent contractor or freelancer. You should receive one from each person or company that pays you.
- Form 1099-INT: This form will show any interest you have earned.
- Form 1099-R: This form reports income received from annuities, IRAs, or pensions.
- Form 1099-DIV: Any dividend income you earn is reported on this form.
- Form 1099-B or 1099-S: You will receive these if you have any income from the sale of property or stock.
- Form 1098: You will get this from your mortgage company reporting the interest that you paid.
- Form 1098-T: This reports payments of qualified tuition and expenses.
- Form 1095-A or 1095-C: These forms report your healthcare coverage for the year and your premium tax credit, if applicable.
- Schedule K-1 (Form 1065, Form 1120S, or Form 1041): This reports income for a partner, a shareholder, or an income beneficiary of an estate or trust. The Schedule K-1 normal deadline can be as late as April 15th.
- Form 1098-E for student loan interest paid, or loan statements for student loans received
- Form 1098-T for tuition paid or receipts from the institution you or your dependents attend
- Receipts for any qualifying energy-efficient home improvements
- Records of IRA contributions made during the year
- SEP, SIMPLE, and other self-employed pension plan information
- Records of medical savings account (MSA) contributions
- Moving expense records
- Self-employed health insurance payment records
- Alimony you paid
If you want your tax-filing experience to be painless, you’ll also want to make sure that you have all of your and your dependents’ personal information available, such as:
- Social Security numbers and birth dates
- Copies of last year’s tax return (helpful, but not required)
- Bank account number and routing number, if you wish to have your refund deposited directly into your account
Organize Your Documents For Itemization
Also, if you itemize your deductions, you’ll need records to include your totals and provide proof.
Deductions And Credits
- Childcare costs: provider’s name, address, tax ID, and the amount paid
- Education costs: Form 1098-T, education expenses
- Adoption costs: SSN of the child; records of legal, medical, and transportation costs
- Form 1098: Mortgage interest, private mortgage insurance (PMI), and points you paid
- Investment interest expenses
- Charitable donations: cash amounts and official charity receipts
- Medical and dental expenses paid
- Casualty and theft losses: the amount of damage, insurance reimbursements
- Records/amounts of other miscellaneous tax deductions: union dues; unreimbursed employee expenses (uniforms, supplies, seminars, continuing education, publications, travel, etc.)
- Records of home business expenses
- State and local income tax
- Real estate tax
- Personal property tax
Okay, so that’s the nitty-gritty of what you’ll need in front of you to thoroughly fill out your tax return. But there are also a few things to think about that could impact how you file, such as any changes that have occurred this year. Did you add another child to your family? Did one of your children start college? Did you start taking withdrawals from a retirement account? All of these changes need to be reflected on your tax return but won’t show up on prior returns.
More than personal changes, there may be changes to federal or state tax law that you should be aware of. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act tax reform bill of 2017 is still being implemented, and the new SECURE Act could also affect your 2020 tax situation.
Specifically, you should stay on top of annual changes to retirement plan contribution limits. For the 2020 tax year, you can put up to $6,000 in any type of IRA. If you are over age 50, that amount goes up to $7,000 thanks to the $1,000 catch-up contribution. Annual contribution limits for 401(k)s, 403(b)s, the federal Thrift Savings Plan, and most 457 plans also increased by $500 for 2020. The new annual limit on contributions is $19,500. If you are 50 or older, your yearly contribution limit goes up to $26,000. And if you are eligible to contribute to an HSA, you can save $3,550 if you have single medical coverage and $7,100 if you are covered under a qualifying family plan. If you are 55 or older, those limits go up another $1,000. Keep in mind that for IRAs and HSAs, you have until April 15th, 2021, to contribute for the 2020 tax year.
Start The Year On A Proactive Note
Taxes are complicated, so each little step to simplify the process will add up and save you time and money. Let’s take a step beyond this year’s taxes, and look long term. Are you optimizing all of the tools available to you to minimize your taxes? Do you have a plan for your tax refund that will further your overall financial goals?
Working with an experienced tax professional who understands the unique challenges presented during tax season can help maximize your opportunities. Together, we can work toward your overall financial plan and optimize all of your available tools to limit your tax liability.
If you want to be proactive about tax planning and you don’t have a trusted advisor yet, we would love to help you experience confidence in every aspect of your financial plan. Schedule a no-obligation consultation by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at 916-276-8677.
James Callens is a financial advisor at GLH&C Financial Services, a full-service, comprehensive wealth management firm. Jim has over 30 years of experience in the financial industry and uses his extensive resources, knowledge, and experience to help his clients experience simplicity and clarity in their financial life. Jim spent over 20 years working for GE Financial Advisors, both in their insurance services department and as a regional manager and financial advisor. He took part in GE’s Six Sigma Quality Training program and completed the National Association of Life Underwriter’s four-year LUTCF course. Jim also earned his certificate in financial planning from the University of California at Davis. In 2011, Jim combined his own firm, Callens Financial Group, with GLH Financial Services, creating GLH&C Financial Services, so he could provide even more value to his clients.
Jim is a member of the Financial Planning Association of Northern California and National Association of International & Financial Advisors (NAIFA). He has served as a board member of several nonprofit organizations and has been involved in Cub Scouts leadership and youth sports coaching. Jim lives in Folsom, CA, with his wife, Melissa, and his four children, Jacob, Kristen, Grant, and Andrew. Together, they enjoy outdoor activities such as kayaking, bicycling, and vacationing at Lake Tahoe. To learn more about Jim, connect with him on LinkedIn.
For a comprehensive review of your personal situation, always consult with a tax or legal advisor. Neither Cetera Advisors LLC nor any of its representatives may give legal or tax advice.