January is the perfect time to wipe your slate clean. There are 365 days for healthy habits, crushing goals, and getting your finances in order. Like it or not, it’s also time to get organized for tax season.
By starting now, you are less likely to make costly mistakes. You won’t have to rush as the deadline approaches. And if you are expecting a tax refund, you may get your hands on the money sooner.
The time for procrastination is over. Watch the mail, log into your online accounts, and start printing forms. Here is what you need before diving into your 2018 tax return.
Reporting your income
First, you need to track down a form for each of the ways you earned money in 2018. This may include your salary, unemployment income, your business, and rental properties. It will also include retirement income and money earned through your investments. There may even be sources of income you haven’t thought of. We have compiled a list to help jog your memory.
- Employed – Form W-2
- Unemployment benefits – 1099-G
- Record(s) of rental income
- Receipts to verify rental expenses
- Quarterly tax payments – Form 1040-ES
- Retirement income
- Investment income
- Miscellaneous income (it’s easy to overlook these!)
- Alimony received
- Gambling – W2-G
Tracking your deductions and credits
It’s easy to get overwhelmed once you add up your income. Earning more is a good thing, but it also means forking over more to the IRS. Luckily, they do offer some breaks to ease the burden. You will need copies of these forms to maximize your savings.
Before plowing through
our list, you should know there is a big difference between credits and
deductions. A tax credit directly reduces the money you owe, dollar-for-dollar.
Deductions, however, aren’t quite as generous. They are part of the calculation
to arrive at your final bill. But they only count if you choose to itemize
versus picking the standard deduction.
Last year’s sweeping tax law changes nearly doubled the standard deduction, so opting to itemize may be less likely. It’s another reason why it’s smart to begin collecting forms now.
- Retirement savings contributions
- Health insurance and healthcare expenses
- Child or dependent care expenses
- Child and dependent care credit – receipts to verify qualifying expenses (calculated on Form 2441)
- Homeownership expenses
- Education expenses
- State and local taxes
This is by no means an exhaustive list of deductions and credits. But if you have compiled most of the forms above, you are one step ahead of the average filer. An experienced tax professional can share anything you may be missing.
The hardest part is getting started
Let’s face it — taxes are easily one of the most dreaded activities. But like other boring tasks, starting is often the hardest part. Once you have all the forms, filing is a lot less daunting. The sooner you begin, the easier it gets. Checking taxes off your to-do list means one less thing to worry about — and more time to tackle the rest of your 2019 goals.
Disclaimer: the content presented in this article are for informational purposes only, and is not, and must not be considered tax, investment, legal, accounting or financial planning advice, nor a recommendation as to a specific course of action. Investors should consult all available information, including fund prospectuses, and consult with appropriate tax, investment, accounting, legal, and accounting professionals, as appropriate, before making any investment or utilizing any financial planning strategy.