For many Americans, the steady approach of Tax Day can be a serious source of anxiety. That’s the case, of course, because this is the oft-dreaded day — set for Tuesday, April 18, 2023 — when taxpayers’ individual income tax returns are due to be submitted to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). And for those of us who put off the work involved in preparing our returns until the last minute, doing so can result in a mad scramble to collect the records, documents and other information needed to successfully complete the task. It can also bring the anxiety that inevitably accompanies the eleventh-hour rush.
But by working ahead to prepare for the upcoming tax season, a good deal of this unnecessary stress can be eliminated. Even before the tax year ends, taxpayers can begin taking small steps toward being prepared for tax season, such as making a list of all the things they’ll need to complete their returns (find a bit of help with that below). They can also start to collect the available documents that will be required to prepare their returns, and begin to fill out their tax forms with the information already available to them. Then, when their W-2 and/or 1099 forms become available (by January 31 at the latest, as required by law), they’ll already have a lot of the legwork done.
IRS-recommended early tax-prep steps
The IRS suggests taking a number of steps ahead of tax season to be ready for easier filing when the time comes. Among the agency’s recommendations:
- Create or access your online IRS account. Visit irs.gov/account to create a secure online account that gives you a fast and easy way to access a range of information about your taxes. The capabilities an online account enables include accessing tax records, viewing taxes owed, making payments, applying for payment plans and much more.
- Begin collecting and organizing your needed records. Getting a head start on gathering the documents you’ll need for filing can eliminate stress and errors later. See below for a list of the information most commonly needed for preparing your tax returns.
- If applicable, check the status of your ITIN. For taxpayers who aren’t able to get a Social Security number, an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number is required. For taxpayers with ITINs, making sure it is up to date and filing for renewal if needed can greatly speed up return processing and any tax refund that might be owed.
- Adjust the amount you’re withholding if needed. For taxpayers who owed taxes or received a substantial refund the preceding year, adjusting the amount of tax money withheld from their paychecks could reduce their tax bill or let them hold on to more of their earnings throughout the year. Other reasons to consider adjusting your withholding include major life changes such as getting married or divorced, welcoming a new child, changing jobs, or taking on an additional job.
- Get set up for a direct deposit. By electing to receive their tax refunds via direct deposit rather than via a mailed check, taxpayers can greatly speed up the time it takes to receive the funds they are owed. As part of the process of signing up for a direct deposit, taxpayers must provide the IRS with their bank account number(s) and routing information.
Information needed for filing
All taxpayers have their own unique financial situations. But for the vast majority of us, the process of filing our tax returns can be fairly simple and straightforward — once the right documents have been collected.
In most cases, the information a taxpayer will need to complete his or her return falls into these categories:
- Personal information: Taxpayers must provide the birthdates and Social Security numbers (or ITINs) of all immediate family members, including themselves, their spouses and their dependents.
- Income and investment details: The documents most frequently needed for tax filing include the W-2 form, typically provided by employers to show how much a taxpayer has earned in his or her job over the course of the year, along with how much income was withheld for tax purposes.
Other documentation often required in this area can include the following:
– bank or other financial statements showing the amount of money contributed to any retirement accounts
– documentation of any home mortgage payments made over the course of the tax year
– documentation of any student loan debt payments made over the course of the year
– any 1099 forms received for income other than wages, salaries and tips
– (for those who itemize deductions) documentation of the amount of any state refund received for the previous year’s taxes
– documentation of any other miscellaneous income, such as award money, gambling winnings, lottery payouts, etc.
- Self-employment information (if applicable): Self-employed taxpayers or those who operate a side business need to provide documentation of any business expenses, along with mileage records and any details on any installments they may have already paid on their tax bill over the course of the year. Further, those planning to take a home office deduction must know the square footage of their working space.
- Receipts from any charitable donations: Those who intend to claim a tax deduction for any charitable donations should gather receipts exhibiting the organizations to which they contributed, the contributions’ value and the donation date(s).
- Details on medical expenses: Tax deductions can be claimed for any unreimbursed medical expenses that exceed a certain percentage of a taxpayer’s income. Those looking to make any such claims should gather documentation of any unreimbursed amount spent on medical expenses such as exams, prescriptions, preventive care, braces and glasses, among other qualifying expenses. These filers will also need to provide documentation of their health insurance coverage (Form 1095, which insurers or employers are required to supply) and any Social Security benefits received over the course of the year (Form SSA-1099).
- Information regarding any already-paid taxes: Owners of residences can claim deductions for any property taxes paid during the tax year, so gathering copies of any property tax receipts can be helpful. Additional deductions can be claimed for any state and local income taxes paid and any personal property taxes paid (such as taxes on a new vehicle), so having documentation of those expenses can be beneficial, as well.
- Other details: Those desiring a direct deposit of their tax refunds should have the routing and account numbers of the account(s) they’d like to have the funds deposited to available. Other needed information can include details on any foreign bank accounts the taxpayer may hold, along with their peak values during the tax year.
At The Southern Bank, we pride ourselves on offering friendly, personalized service to all of our customers — and that includes providing guidance when you have questions about any of our banking services. To learn more about our Personal Banking services ranging from Personal Checking and Mortgages to Savings & Money Market, Certificates of Deposit (CDs), and more, check out the Personal Banking page on our website or visit one of our local branches for friendly, in-person service with a smile.