What Do I Need to File My Taxes?

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Before you start your tax return process, there are a few things that you will need handy to get started. It will become increasingly difficult to fill out all of the forms correctly, if you don’t have everything necessary to do so. Whether you decide to take your paperwork to a licensed tax professional, use an online service, or plow through the paper forms yourself, you will definitely need everything together. Remember that a proper preparation prevents a poor performance.

While it is very important to have all of your tax paperwork together, it is equally as important to know which tax form you should file. There are three different forms you can possibly choose from: 1040, 1040A, and the 1040EZ. Each form is different and has its own sets of positives and negatives:

Use the 1040 tax form if

  • Your taxable income is $100,000 or more
  • You owe household employment taxes
  • You have a certain income (self-employment, unreported tips, insurance policies dividends, beneficiary of an estate/trust, etc.)
  • You can itemize your deductions
  • You can claim certain tax credits/adjustments to income

Use the 1040A tax form if

  • Your taxable income is less than $100,000
  • Your only income is from wages, salaries, tips, interest, taxable scholarships, pensions, etc.
  • You don’t claim itemized deductions
  • You’re only claiming certain tax credits (child care expenses, dependent care benefits, education credits, child tax credit, earned income credit, etc.)
  • Your only income adjustments are to student loan interest deduction, IRA deduction, tuition/fees deduction, and educator expenses

Use the 1040EZ tax form if

  • Your taxable income is less than $100,000
  • Your only income is from wages, salaries, tips, unemployment, scholarships/grants
  • You claim no dependents
  • You file as single or married filing jointly
  • You claim only Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC)
  • You haven’t advanced any Earned Income Credit payments
  • You are not in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case
  • You do not owe household employment taxes

Whether you decide to do your taxes yourself, or take them to a professional tax preparer, the forms will still be the same. All three versions of tax preparation forms can be filed electronically, or be sent in via mail.

Follow this simple checklist to ensure that you have everything you need to file your taxes, and get the most you can back on your tax return:

Personal Information

  • Your full name
  • Your spouse’s full name (if applicable)
  • Address
  • Social security number or tax ID number
  • Your spouse’s social security number or tax ID number

Dependent(s) Information

  • Birthdates
  • Social security number(s) or tax ID number(s)

Sources of Income

  • W-2 forms from all employers you worked for in the past year
  • W-2 forms from all employers your spouse worked in the past year (if filing a joint return)
  • Unemployment income (1099-G form)
  • Retirement income (1099-R form for pension/IRA/annuity income)
  • Income from local and state tax refunds from the prior year
  • Investment income information (i.e. interest income, dividend income, income from stocks and bonds, and income from foreign investments)
  • Rental property income
  • Social security benefits/RRB income (forms 1099-SA, RRB-1099)
  • Miscellaneous income (i.e. jury duty, lottery, gambling winnings (form 1099-MISC) for prizes and awards, form 1099-MSA for medical savings accounts distributions)
  • Record of alimony paid/received with ex-spouse’s name and social security number


  • Educational expenses
    • Form 1098-E for student loan interest paid
    • Form 1098-T from educational institutions
    • Records of scholarships received
    • Itemized receipt of qualified education expenses
  • Childcare expenses
    • Receipts of wages paid to a babysitter
    • Receipts of fees paid to a licensed care center for an infant or toddler
  • Adoption costs
  • Health insurance
    • Form 1095-A for insurance plans through the Marketplace
    • Form 1095-B/C for insurance through any other source
  • Charitable donations
    • Receipts of non-cash charitable donations
    • Sum of miles drives for charitable/medical purposes
    • Cash amounts donated to places of worship, schools, or other charitable organizations
  • Medical expenses
  • Home ownership (all 1098 forms)
  • Work expenses
    • Receipts for classroom expenses (grades K-12)
    • Job-hunting expenses
    • Employment related vehicle expenses (tolls, mileage, gas, parking, etc.)
    • Employment related expenses (dues, uniform costs, travel, etc.)
    • Receipts of moving expenses not reimbursed by employer
  • Tax preparation fees
    • Receipt of amount paid for preparation of last year’s tax return
  • IRA/HAS contributions
  • Federally declared disaster
    • Check FEMA site

Direct Deposit Information

  • Your bank’s name
  • Your banks’ routing number
  • Your personal account number

Now you are ready to file your taxes on your own, or hand them off to a licensed tax preparer. Some online tax filing services and agents will offer you other tips and other ways to maximize your return. Take all of the advice you can.

Most places, online and in-store, will charge you to use their services. However, most do offer the cool option to have their fees taken directly out of your tax refund. So the money you owe is gone before it even reaches your bank account or mailbox. That way, if you don’t have the funds to pay for the services right then and there, you don’t have to wait to file.

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