What Do You Need To File Taxes? A List of All the Documents To Have

A woman scans through a W-9 forms as she does her taxes.
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Tax filing can feel like a never-ending stack of paperwork — especially if you find yourself digging for documents as you try to work through your return. Having a checklist and preparing your information ahead of time, however, will help ensure you’re ready to file your tax return. Read on and find out which documents you need to file taxes.

Tax Checklist: See the 5 IRS Forms You’ll Need To Get Your Refund

Tax Preparation Checklist: What Do I Need To File My Taxes?

A checklist for all the information you need can make the tax preparation process easier. Often, your income and tax figures are provided to you on special forms, but sometimes you have to rely on your own records for your source of income. Although most people have their taxable income reported to them — and the IRS — on official tax forms, you are required to report all of your taxable income, even if you don’t receive a form.

For example, a company only has to prepare a W-2 for you if you earned more than $600. However, if you earned $500, you’re still required to report that income on your tax return even though you likely won’t receive a W-2.

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Here’s a tax-filing checklist of all the information you need to file your tax return:

Personal Information

  • Your name, address and Social Security number
  • Your spouse’s name and Social Security number, if applicable
  • Direct deposit information, such as routing and checking or savings account numbers in case of a refund

Not Prepared? 15 Tax Tips and Deadlines To Know for Last-Minute Filing

Dependent Information

  • Social Security number or taxpayer identification number and birthdate for each dependent
  • Form 8332 from the custodial parent if you are a noncustodial parent entitled to claim a child as your dependent for the year

Income From Working

  • W-2 from each job (reported on Form 1040)
  • Self-employment forms or records (such as Form 1099-MISC), records of business income received or business expenses paid for your own business
  • Royalty income (reported on Form 1099-MISC)

Learn: How To File Self-Employment Taxes

Investment Income

  • Rental income records, including income, expenses and depreciation (reported on Schedule E)
  • Interest income received (reported on Form 1099-INT)
  • Capital gains (often reported on Form 1099-B) and other investment income like dividends (reported on Form 1099-DIV)

Distributions From Special Accounts

Other Income

  • Unemployment benefits or state income tax refunds (reported on Form 1099-G)
  • Gambling income (reported on Form W-2G)
  • Distributions from 529 Plans and Coverdell educational savings accounts (reported on Form 1099-Q)
  • Income from sales of property (reported on Form 1099-C)
  • Prior year installment sale information (reported on Form 6252)
  • Business or farming income (reported on Schedule F and Form 4835)

Related: Taxable Income You Must Report To Avoid an IRS Audit

Childcare Costs

  • Fees paid to child care providers, including day care centers and individual providers
  • Social Security number of any individuals who provided child care

Job-Related Expenses

Beginning in 2018, the only employees eligible to deduct job-related expenses are armed-force reservists, qualified performing artists, fee-basis state or local government officials, employees with impairment-related work expenses or eligible educators (reported on Schedule 1). Some of the expenses you’ll want to keep track of include:

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  • Tools and uniforms (including cleaning); if you have a qualifying home office, the portion of the house it uses and its square footage could also get you a deduction
  • Travel costs including mileage, tolls, gas, maintenance, taxes and parking; if you have to travel long distances, it could also include airfare and hotels
  • Classroom expenses for eligible teachers and other educational professionals from kindergarten to grade 12

Tax Preparation Costs

  • If you are self-employed, you’ll need records of what you paid for your tax return preparation

Find Out: The Major Tax Changes for 2021 You Need To Know About

Adoption Costs

  • Records of qualified adoption expenses (reported on Form 8839)

Educational Costs

  • Educational costs for yourself and anyone you claim as a dependent (often reported on Form 1098-T)
  • Scholarships received (reported on Form 1040)
  • Student loan interest paid (reported on Form 1098-E)
  • Contributions to a Coverdell educational savings accounts (reported on Form 5498-ESA)

Healthcare-Related Records

Charitable Contributions

  • Receipts for donations of cash and property to charities
  • Mileage driven for charitable purposes

Retirement Savings

  • Contributions to IRAs (reported on Form 5498)

Real Estate Property Costs — Including Your Primary Residence

  • Mortgage interest paid (reported on Form 1098)
  • Mortgage points paid
  • Mortgage insurance premiums
  • Real estate taxes paid
  • Records of energy-saving improvements (reported on Form 5695)
  • Records of any property losses or insurance claims (reported on Form 4684)

Deductible Taxes

  • State and local income taxes paid during the calendar year (reported on Schedule A)
  • Personal property taxes paid (reported on Schedule A)
  • Foreign income taxes (reported on Form 116)

Federal Disaster Area Provisions

  • Property that was hit by a natural disaster
  • You might qualify for special tax relief

Other Information

  • Estimated tax payments you made during the year, prior year’s refund applied to the current year and any amount you paid in connection with a filing extension
  • Foreign bank account information (reported on Form 8938)

Although all of the items on this tax checklist might not apply to your situation, taking the time to gather the information you’ll need before beginning work on your taxes is a smart move. Not only will you save time, but you also should have all the information you need to get the tax deductions and tax credits you deserve. Plus, you’ll never have to ask, “What do I need to file my taxes?”

Read more about every single tax deduction you could possibly ask for.

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Cynthia Measom contributed to the reporting for this article.

About the Author

Michael Keenan is a writer based in the Kansas City area, specializing in personal finance, taxation, and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by Quicken, TurboTax and The Motley Fool.

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