Why a Tax Preparation Checklist Will Make Your 2020 Season Easier

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Preparing for the tax season doesn’t have to be hard or bothersome, but the main way to make it stress-free is to have a tax preparation checklist.

A tax checklist shortens the amount of time you will need to spend trying to remember what important documents your Tax Preparer may ask for.

Sometimes it’s the little items we forget to have ready that can cause the tax preparation process to be a bit draining and annoying.

I’m all about making the tax filing experience fun and easy for you to survive the 2020 tax season!

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO. 

Tax Advisor carrying the client's Tax Preparation Checklist.

How to Use Your Tax Checklist

  1.  Sign up to download and print your FREE tax preparation checklist as a PDF here.
  2. Have a designated folder to file your tax document checklist (this can be a physical file folder or a digital file folder on your PC).
  3. Keep all the tax documents you receive in the same folder and check them off the list as you get them.
  4. Remove or block out the items on the tax preparation checklist that is not applicable to you .
  5. Add any additional information that is not on any of your tax documents (i.e., your bank routing number for direct deposit).
  6. Keep your sensitive information in a safe place.
Tax Preparation Checklist of Deductions
Click image to download your FREE personal tax preparation checklist 2020 pdf.

Tax Preparation Planning

As the new tax season approaches, it is good to know what your filing status will be and if you even need to file taxes.

How do you determine if you need to file a tax return?

  • If you are a U.S. citizen, or a resident alien
  • Your gross income (the amount of money you make before anything is taken out for taxes or other deductions) is above the recommended amount listed in the chart below
  • Your filing status and age meet the requirements on the chart below

These are all indicators that you will need to file a tax return for the 2020 season.

What Filing Status Should I Use?

It is very important to select the correct filing status when filing your individual tax return. Many tax credits, deductions, and the amount of taxes paid are dependent upon the filing status selected.

Two Men Choosing Right Filing Status for Tax Preparation Checklist

At times, more than one filing status may apply to you. In this case you should work with your Tax Advisor to figure out which status is best for you.

The 5 Filing Statuses:

  1. Single – You must file single if you are considered unmarried and do not qualify for any other filing status.
  2. Married Filing Jointly – You can file as married filing jointly if you are considered married and your spouse agrees to file a joint return.
  3. Married Filing Separately – You can file as married filing separately if you desire or if you cannot agree to file a joint return with your spouse.
  4. Head of Household – You can file as head of household if you meet all of the following requirements:
    • Unmarried or considered unmarried on the last day of the year
    • Paid more than half of the cost of keeping up a home for the year
    • A qualifying person lived in your home for more than half of the year except for temporary absences such as illness, education, business, vacation, or military service. If the qualifying person is the dependent parent, the qualifying person does not have to live with you.
  5. Qualifying Widow(er) with dependent child – A widow or widower with one or more dependent children may be able to use the qualifying widow with dependent child filing status.

What Documents are Needed to Prepare Taxes

Let’s go through what information to look out for and to gather that will help make your tax planning a simple and easy process.


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With this information, Tax Advisors will be able to give you an in-depth interview to ensure you will get all the deductions and credits you have earned.

Personal Information

  • Driver’s License
  • Social Security Card(s)
  • Dependents Social Security Numbers and Dates of Birth
  • Last Year’s Federal and State Tax Returns (helpful, but not always required)

Income Information

  • W-2 Forms
  • Form 1099 – Pension or Retirement Income
  • 1099G Form – Unemployment Income
  • Form SSA 1099 Social Security Income
  • 1099 Int/Form Interest and Dividend Income
  • Form 1099B Sales of Stocks and Bonds
  • W-2G Form Lottery or Gambling Winnings
  • Form 1099C Cancellation of Debt
  • IRA Contributions
  • Form 1099G – State Income Tax Refund Amount
  • Alimony Paid or Received
  • Commissions Received

Business Information

  • Form 1099 Misc Self Employed Income & Expenses
  • Commissions Paid
  • Income and Expenses from Rentals
  • Schedule K-1 Income from Partnerships, S Corporations, Trusts, and Estates
  • Record of Purchase or Sale of Residence
  • Estimated Tax Payments

Personal Expense Information

  • Child Care Expenses & Provider Information
  • Form 1098 Mortgage or Home Equity Loan Interest Paid
  • Real Estate and Personal Property Taxes Paid
  • Form 1098-T – Tuition and Education Fees
  • 1098-E Form – Student Loan Interest

Forms 1095-A, B, or C – Health Insurance Marketplace Statement

  • State or Local Sales Taxes Paid – Foreign Taxes Paid
  • Moving Expenses
  • Lottery or Gambling Losses
  • Casualty or Theft Losses
  • Cash and Non-Cash Charitable Donations
  • Unreimbursed Employment-Related Expenses
  • Job Related Educational Expenses
  • Medical, Eye Care and Dental Expenses
  • Educator Expenses
  • State and Local Tax Payments
  • Other Interest Paid

More Tax Tools: Need to know where you stand for the 2020 tax season, use the Tax Bracket Rate Calculator to find out here!


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Things to Remember Regarding Your Tax Return Checklist

You probably have income taxes withheld from your paycheck each time you’re paid which covers your tax responsibilities. This amount is shown in your W-2 form that you usually receive in January.

Couple preparing for tax season with Tax Preparation Checklist

This form is one of the key tax checklist items to have on hand to make your preparation much easier.

If you’ve made estimated federal tax payments throughout the year, then be sure to have those document(s) ready for your Tax Advisor too.


File Your Taxes for Free with eFile.com

How can I get my taxes done for free?

Now that you know what documents are needed for your tax return checklist, you may be thinking…

“What if I only need a basic tax return done. Is there a discount for me?”

If you have a simple tax return that you need filed, websites like eFile.com offer 50% off discounts and sometime FREE filing services if you qualify.

You can see if you qualify to get your taxes done for free here with eFile.com

Final Thoughts

As financial statements begin to roll in, place them in a dedicated folder or binder and mark “2019 tax information.”

In this folder you can also place your W2s, mortgage interest document, giving contribution statement, and any other tax related documents.

This will not only make it easy for you, it will also make it a smooth process when your taxes are being prepared by a qualified Tax Advisor.

For your convenience, I’ve compiled a tax preparation checklist in PDF that you can download, fill out on your computer or mobile device, and save.

Hope this list was helpful and informative. Happy tax season from The Handy Tax Guy!

Colorful rainbow pencils ready to help you with your tax preparation checklist for 2020.
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If you enjoyed this article, then you’ll love these:

Want to get started on tax season early? You can file your simple tax return here!

Until the next money adventure, take care!

Handy

The Handy Tax Guy

Disclosure Statement: All data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. The Handy Tax Guy makes no absolute representation to the correctness, mistakes, omissions, delays, appropriateness, or legitimacy of any information on this site.

(Original Article Date: March 1, 2019/Updated December 28, 2019)

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