May 22, 2015 3:24 pm

Getting Information for Preparing Your Tax Return

Whether you prepare your return yourself (on paper or electronically) or use a paid preparer, you need information to input. Hopefully, you’ve kept great records throughout the year to simplify your data collection at this time. But if you haven’t, don’t despair; there are many ways to gather the information you need for your tax return. And there are ways in which you can simplify your return preparation duties. Here are some suggestions:

W-2s and 1099s

You should receive their information returns from the payor (e.g., your employer; brokerage firms) by the end of January 2015. However, you can simplify data entry on your tax return by obtaining the information electronically. For example, if you self-prepare your return using tax preparation software, you are able to retrieve W-2 information as long as your employer offers this option (typically large employers do and small employers do not). Similarly, you can access electronically your 1099s from brokerage firms so that all income and transactions are automatically recorded on your return; no manual entries are required.

Medical expenses

If you plan to itemize but don’t have all the receipts for your out-of-pocket medical expenses, consider:

  • Contacting your doctors to ask for a printout of your payments.
  • Ask your pharmacies for documentation. For example, at CVS.com you can sign up for prescription access and then receive your prescription history.

Note: It’s up to you to make sure that you deduct only costs that have not been reimbursed by insurance or covered by tax-free withdrawals from an FSA or health savings account.

Charitable contributions

Again, if you plan to itemize, you must have written acknowledgments for any donations of $250 or more by the time you file your return. If you don’t have them, simply ask the charity for this documentation.

For smaller donations, look over your check register and credit card statements to remind you of donations; keep copies of checks and credit card statements with your return.

Last year’s return

You can’t simply enter numbers from last year’s return on the current tax return. But you can look over last year’s return to remind you of items that may otherwise be overlooked. Check for:

  • Interest and dividend payors (unless you input your 1099 information electronically this year)
  • Charitable organizations so you don’t overlook contributions you might have made

Miscellaneous payments

Don’t remember the amount of your real estate taxes or other deductible items? Contact the party to which you made payment and ask for a statement. Often these can be emailed to you.

Conclusion

Preparing a tax return or getting information together for a paid preparer can be daunting and time consuming. Any tips you can take to simplify the process and save time is always helpful.

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Tax Glossary

Miscellaneous itemized deductions

Generally, itemized deductions for job and investment expenses subject to a 2% of adjusted gross income floor.

More terms