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Tax Prep To-Do List: 5 Must Do's

Insights Taxes

It's officially Tax Season! If you haven't already, NOW is when you want to get prepared. Whether you're a do-it-yourselfer or you meet with a tax professional, the right planning can help the processes go as smooth as possible and may even reduce the risk of costly errors. Check out our tips below as you prepare to tackle the tax season.

To-Do #1: Gather Your Tax Forms

Beginning in January, you likely started to receive the forms you need to properly complete your tax return. Whether you are expecting a large refund or not, you will want to make a list so you don't forget anything that could affect it. Once your documents are received, give them a quick scan to make sure they are correct, and contact the sender if you think there is something wrong. Something as simple as a misspelling can cause a flag with your tax return, so inspect all of your documents carefully.

Some (not all) of the forms you will need to look out for include:

  • W-2s from your job
  • SSA-1099 for Social Security benefits
  • 1099s for additional income, interest, gains and losses
  • 1098s for reporting interest and tuition payments
  • W-2Gs for any gambling winnings
  • Schedule K-1s for company ownership

For a complete list, visit the IRS's website:  IRA Forms

To-Do #2: Round Up Your Receipts

If you are a business owner or plan on itemizing your deductions, you will need to record expenses so that you can take advantage of any available write-offs. Gather all the receipts for business expenses, medical expenses and other expenses that can be listed on your Schedule A or Schedule C. 

Receipts can be physical paper receipts or any bank and credit card statements that show payments for these items. Once gathered, organize them by type, so they are easy to find and calculate once you begin filing. 

To-Do #3: Acquire Records of All Charitable Contributions

Throughout the year, you may have made donations. If they are to Tax-Exempt Organizations, these donations can provide you with a charitable contribution write off. Traditionally, this could only be done if you choose to itemize your deduction. However, because of the CARES Act, filers who choose a standard deduction may be able eligible to write-off up to $300 in charitable contributions.1 

Most donations will still require an itemized deduction and the accompanying documentation. If you can't find your proof of donation, most organizations, from churches to fundraisers, can provide a record of your tax-deductible contributions.

For a complete list of Tax-Exempt Organizations, click here.

To-Do #4: Get a Copy of Last Year’s Tax Return

If you are using the same professional or software as last year, that person or company should have a copy of your tax return. But, if you are making a change this year, it's a good idea to have last year's copy ready along with your other tax documents.

Being able to reference your previous return can help you see what you filed last year, so you don't overlook something this year or even find something that was missed last year. 

To-Do #5: What Will You Do With Your Refund? 

If you are expecting a refund this year, it pays to take some time and think about what you will do with that money. You have a few options:

  • Apply your payment towards your tax bill next year if it's possible you may owe. 
    • This is a good idea for those who pay estimated taxes throughout the year as it can take some of the burden off of your first installment.
  • You can choose to send the money directly to a checking or savings account, and spend it! As the kids these days say YOLO! -"You Only Live Once!"
  • OR, invest it. Put the money into something that will hopefully create more money for you over the long term.
    • Contribute it to a retirement plan, or brokerage account. 
    • Make an upgrade to your home.
    • Pay down debt. 

If you plan to split the funds between accounts, you will need to complete Form 8888.

For many of us, tax time is very difficult and can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Enjoy less stress and a smoother process by preparing everything you need for filing this tax season - ahead of time!

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About the Author 

James M. Comblo , CFF
is the President & CEO of Officer at FSC Wealth Advisors. His greatest passion in the financial services industry is helping clients accomplish their dreams in finances and life! To learn more about him click here.


  1.        https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/how-the-cares-act-changes-deducting-charitable-contributions