How prepared are you to prepare your 1040? The earlier you compile and organize the relevant paperwork, the easier things may be for you (or the tax preparer working for you) this winter. Here are some tips to help you get ready:
As a first step, look at your 2013 return. Unless your job, living situation or financial situation has changed notably since you last filed your taxes, chances are you will need the same set of forms, schedules and receipts this year as you did last year. So open that manila folder (or online vault) and make or print a list of the items that accompanied your 2013 return. You should receive the TY 2014 versions of everything you need by early February at the latest.
You can file your federal tax return starting January 20. IRS filing season will start right on time in 2015, and there is wisdom in filing your 1040 well before April 15. You can get it out of the way earlier, and if you e-file, you can put yourself in position for an earlier refund.1
What should you gather up for your CPA? If you want to save time and possibly money along with it, come to your preparer’s office ready with the appropriate paperwork. If you own a business, that list includes all W-2s and 1099-MISC forms you get from clients, any 1099-INT and K-1 forms displaying interest income, your Schedule C and P&L reports, and any and all paperwork you can round up detailing your expenses – your personal expenses too, not only business costs but also any tuition, medical and miscellaneous ones. If you have made charitable contributions worth itemizing, that paperwork needs to reach your preparer. The same goes for documents detailing mortgage interest, other forms of interest paid, and any tax already paid.2