Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What to bring to the tax man

Every year, millions of Americans use amateur or professional tax preparers to prepare and file their tax returns. But using a pro doesn't mean that you don't still play a critical role in getting your taxes done. Those who fail to provide their preparers with all of the necessary documents and information may miss out on important deductions or credits -- or underreport their income and find themselves in hot water with the IRS. (Find out what you can deduct, read The 10 Most Overlooked Tax Deductions and Tax Tips: Filing To Your Advantage.)

In order to avoid these problems, here's what you need to bring with you when you visit the tax man this year:

If you…

You'll Need…

Are a salaried employee

Your W-2 form(s)

Are self-employed, or earned rental, royalty or miscellaneous income

1099-MISC Form(s), receipts and/or detailed records of all expenses related to this income

Have unreimbursed childcare expenses

Records from the care provider breaking down all expenses paid

Paid alimony to an ex-spouse

Written record of what you paid, as well as a copy of the divorce decree or separation agreement if your preparer does not already have it on file

Have income from partnerships or passive activities

Form K-1

Have Social Security income

Form 1099-SSA

Made contributions to a traditional, SEP or SIMPLE IRA

Statement(s) from the custodian showing the amount of your contributions for the year

Have retirement income from an IRA, pension or annuity

Form 1099-R

Made any charitable contributions of either cash or property

Receipt from charity, along with qualified appraisal of any tangible property donated

Moved from one residence to another

Receipts of moving expenses

Paid federal or state estimated taxes

Records and proof of payments made

Have a mortgage…

Form 1098

Have unreimbursed educational expenses either for yourself or your dependents, including tuition, fees, room and board, lab costs, books and supplies

Form 1098E

Have investment income from interest, dividends and/or capital gains

Form(s) 1099-INT, 1099-DIV, and 1099-B

Have student loan interest

Your annual statement from each lender showing the amount of interest you paid

Special Cases

Be prepared to do further research for specialized issues. Your tax preparer will tell you if any further information is needed. Contact your client or employer if you are missing any W-2s or 1099s. All issuers of these documents should be able to furnish you with copies if necessary.

It is also a good idea to bring copies of your last three tax returns to your preparer if he or she does not already have this on file. The IRS can provide you with copies of your tax forms if you do not have these on hand.

Complete form 4506-T and submit it to the IRS. They will send you a computerized copy of everything that you reported on your tax return for that year. Then you can contact each of your statement issuers and request a duplicate copy from them (you may have to pay a small fee to get this done). Of course, you can authorize or request your tax preparer or accountant to obtain these documents as well, but this will slow down the preparation process and may add to your fees. The IRS generally keeps copies of all of your tax documents anywhere from four to ten years.

Other documents that you may need could include divorce decrees, records of partially depreciated property, and any correspondence that you received from either the IRS or your state department of revenue.

The Bottom Line

Chances are you will only need a few of the documents listed above when you prepare your return. For more information about other tax forms that you may need, visit the IRS website and check out the "1040 Central" link

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