Don't miss out on the tax deduction for charitable donations
Decoding your W-2

Tax filing checklist 2014

CheckmarkYour annual tax statements are trickling in, so now it's time to make sure you have all the other info you'll need to file your 1040 when the 2014 season opens on Jan. 31.

Today's Daily Tax Tip offers a checklist of what to round up, regardless of whether you will do your taxes yourself or hand them over to a tax professional.

Documents for all: Along with your W-2s, 1099s and other documents, the general tax information and documents that apply to most taxpayers include:

  • Social Security numbers for yourself, spouse and all dependents.
  • Last year's federal return, including your prior year's state filing if you live in a state that collects tax. These docs are good guides to your current filing.
  • Records of estimated tax payments you made for both your federal and state taxes.
  • Do you get tips as part of your job? Have your records of those payments handy.
  • Were you unemployed for a bit? The W-2G you (and the Internal Revenue Service) got is income that has to be included on your 1040.
  • The same is true for gambling and prize winnings.
  • If you're getting alimony, that's taxable income. If you're paying alimony, it's an adjustment to your income. Make sure you have the correct amounts in either case.
  • If you got distributions from retirement accounts, depending on the type of plan it could be taxable. Double check retiree income statements for your IRAs and Social Security benefits.
  • If you're still contributing to your retirement plan, is any of it deductible? Have your statement of these amounts to help you decide.

Schedule A specifics: If you itemize deductions, in order to complete Schedule A these are the records and receipts you'll need:

  • Homeowners have that 1098 handy for the deductible mortgage interest amount you paid. It also might show any property tax payments that you also can itemize. You'll also want to find the statement for any Interest paid on a home equity loan or home equity line of credit. It's deductible, too, in most cases.
  • Records of your medical and dental expenses. This includes drugs, doctor office visit payments, dental care costs, hospital bills, medical insurance premiums as long as they aren't paid at work via pretax dollars, long-term care insurance premiums and the mileage to and from physicians' offices. Every dollar counts now that you must exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income before you can claim these costs on Schedule A.
  • Other taxes you paid are deductible. This includes state and local income or sales taxes, real estate taxes and personal property taxes. When it comes to sales tax write-offs, major purchases such as a car can be added to the standard state and local tax amount for your state.
  • Your philanthropy pays off here. Gather us those receipts of charitable contributions, be they cash or goods.
  • If you had a casualty or theft losses last year or sustained damages from a major disaster, find the data on the costs associated with your recovery efforts. It could be deductible.
  • Track down those work-related costs, both for unreimbursed employee expenses and money spent searching for a new job.
  • Don't forget investment expenses. Some of them count as a miscellaneous deduction.
  • Chances are you lost as well won when you placed your bets. Records of your gambling losses can be used to offset any taxable gambling proceeds.

A few more questions: In addition to collecting all your filing material, take the time to answer a few questions that could have tax implications. They include:

Do you have any unresolved state or Internal Revenue Service tax issues?

Did you get married or divorced last year?

Are you supporting anyone not living with you?

Did you adopt a child or begin the adoption process last year?

Did you pay for child or another dependent's care so you could go to work?

Did you receive any assistance from your employer to pay for education expenses, child care costs or adoption expenses?

Did you or any member of your household pay any college costs?

Did you hire household help?

Did you make any major improvements to your home?

Did you sell, refinance or face any foreclosure transactions on your personal residence?

Do you own a second residence or any other real estate? If so, did you rent it out last year?

Did you move in connection with a job?

Were you a resident of, or did you have income in, more than one state during the year?

Did you have money in a foreign account?

Did you make any large purchases, such as a vehicle?

Did you have any nonresidential debt that was canceled?

Did you serve in the military? If so, did you receive combat pay?

More checklists: Most tax professionals provide their clients with worksheets and/or questionnaires that include these questions and potential tax situations.

If you've ever hired a tax pro, you've probably received a comprehensive packet with these and many more things to think about and bring to meetings with your adviser.

Some samples are provided by enrolled agent Rachel Millios, Intuit's TurboTax, U.S. Tax Center, BFS, H&R Block and three separate checklist pages (1, 2 and 3) from Advisors Square.

Other numbers you'll need: Finally, if you e-filed last year, find the personal identification number (PIN) you used. You'll need it or to verify your identity so you can electronically submit your return again this year. If you don't have it, you can use the IRS' PIN retrieval tool.

If you want your refund directly deposited, make sure you have the correct account numbers and financial institution routing number.

The account number shouldn't be a problem, but sometimes banks use different routing numbers for tax refund deposits. It's not always the same as shown on your checks, so double check with your bank for the correct digit string.

Happy 2014 filing!

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