The short version of everything below is: I’ll need your tax return from last year (unless I prepared it, in which case I already have a copy); any tax forms you received (W-2’s, 1099’s, 1098’s, etc.); and a summary of your tax situation including any income sources and deductions for which you didn’t receive a tax form. That’s a good start, and from there we should be able to fill in all the gaps with some back-and-forth via email. For a list of the most commonly overlooked items, see here.
I realize this isn’t exactly a checklist, but it’s a list, so … close enough. It’s not intended to be complete; it covers only the items that are most common to my clients’ income tax returns. It’s utterly impractical for me to ask you about every possible source of income or tax deduction; there are far too many to count!
If you believe there’s a tax-relevant circumstance that applies to you but isn’t included in the list below, then by all means tell me! It’s ultimately up to you to inform me of all aspects of your tax situation.
- New clients only: a copy of your prior year tax return. PDF strongly preferred. (For returning clients: I already have a copy of your prior year tax return.)
- Change of address. Let me know if you’ve moved.
- Changes to your marital status or household arrangement. Married? Divorced? Living apart from your spouse or kids? Joint-custody arrangements? These can have significant tax implications.
- New children/dependents. I will need to know full names, birth dates, and social security numbers, if not shown on your prior year tax return.
- Account number and routing number for your bank account, if your bank account has changed since the previous year. This is not required if you do not want to have any refunds direct-deposited.
- Estimated tax payments. If you made any estimated tax payments, I will need a list of the dates and amounts paid, federal/state/local.
- Portland/Multnomah/Metro account numbers. If you are subject to Portland/Multnomah Business Income Tax, Metro Supportive Housing Services tax, or Multnomah Preschool-For-All tax, I will generally need to know your tax account number(s). You can usually find these by logging into your Portland Revenue Online account, or by calling up the Portland Revenue Division. If you don’t have account numbers for these taxes, that’s ok; I should be able to guide you through that process.
- All tax forms you’ve received that show income, such as W-2’s, 1099-R’s, other types of 1099’s, and K-1’s. Please verify that the name and social security number are correct on all forms you receive. Note that tax forms aren’t always mailed to you if you’ve elected paperless statements; you may need to go online to download them from your bank, brokerage, etc. If you transfer an investment account mid-year, there will generally be two 1099’s, one from each financial institution.
- Self-employment income, including independent contracting, sole-proprietorships, single-member LLC’s, etc. Please prepare a summarized list of income and expenses, subtotaled by category. See here. It’s helpful for me if you can separately show income that was reported to you on tax forms (1099’s), vs. income that wasn’t. Use any method of presentation that makes sense to you; I’d rather have you do that, than have you force it into a format prescribed by me. If I don’t understand something, I’ll ask! Likewise, please ask me about any item that you’re unsure what to do with. Also: if you’re expecting a 1099-MISC or 1099-NEC but haven’t received it (they’re often issued very late), there’s no reason to put everything on hold; just make sure you’ve accounted for the income in your summary.
- Rental income. Please prepare a summarized list of income and expenses. See here. If you have made significant renovations (beyond regular maintenance) to the property, please provide me with the cost of the renovations and the date they were completed.
- Retirement account (IRA, 401k, etc) withdrawals and rollovers. I’ll need the 1099-R for any withdrawal or rollover. These are issued by the institution the funds were withdrawn from or rolled out of, not into. Even if you’re certain a rollover was tax-free, the 1099-R must still be included on your tax return (and indicated as tax-free), to avoid IRS notices. Note that there is generally no 1099-R issued for a trustee-to-trustee IRA transfer, which is not considered to be a rollover. I do not need to see 401k or IRA account statements.
- Health savings accounts. If you use any HSA funds, or rollover a HSA, there will be a 1099-SA issued. These are often only made available via download from your HSA bank. HSA funds used for medical expenses are generally tax-free, but I nonetheless need to account for the 1099-SA on your tax return. (That is, I can’t entirely omit the 1099-SA from your tax return.) Note that healthcare FSAs, “flex spending accounts”, are different from HSAs, and I typically need no documentation for healthcare FSAs.
- A summarized list of any other income not reported to you on a tax form. This would include things like employee tips, foreign income, alimony or spousal support, jury duty pay, prizes, scholarships, income from lawsuits or settlements, gambling winnings and realized cryptocurrency gains, sales of personal property (including your main home), etc. Many of these will turn out to be nontaxable, but not all of them, and it’s best to let me make the call on those. In particular, it’s often safer to show some of these types of items on a tax return, and indicate that they’re nontaxable, rather than omit them from the tax return altogether.
Deductions and credits:
- All tax forms you have received that show deductions. These are usually 1098’s for things like mortgages and student loan interest. Note that tax forms aren’t always mailed to you if you’ve elected paperless statements; you may need to go online to download them from your loan servicer. If your loan servicer changes mid-year, which is very common for mortgages, then there may be two or more 1098’s for the same loan.
- Property taxes. If you pay your property taxes directly to the county, rather than via your home loan, please let me know the amount paid (after any applicable discount for payment in full). I do not need to see the property tax statement. If your taxes are paid via your monthly loan payments, the tax amount is typically shown on the 1098 for your mortgage.
- Charitable donations made to 501(c)(3) organizations, for which you have received a receipt or confirmation from the charity clearly indicating the tax-deductible amount. Please prepare a summarized list, with separate amounts for cash/check/cc donations vs. non-cash “in-kind” donations (see next bullet point). Separately indicate any donation made to the Oregon Cultural Trust. I don’t need or want to see the receipts or confirmations! Keep them with your records. I only need a summary. Generally speaking, if the charitable organization hasn’t provided you with a receipt that clearly shows the tax-deductible amount, then it’s probably not a tax-deductible donation. Charity auction purchases, GoFundMe gifts, raffle tickets, political contributions, and the value of your own time/services typically are not deductible.
- Non-cash (Goodwill/Salvation Army/etc) charitable donations. If you’ve donated more than $500 worth of “stuff” for the year, then the IRS requires the following info for each donation date: 1) date of donation; 2) name of the charity/organization; (3) a rough description of what was donated (e.g. “Clothing and Shoes”, “Misc Household Items”); and (4) the aggregate value (re-sale, not original) for that donation date. If the total is under $500 for the year, I do not need that detail, just the total dollar amount (e.g. “Used items donated to charity – $400”).
- Political contributions to candidates, PACs, etc. I’ll need to know the total contributed. It’s not deductible per se, but there’s an Oregon tax credit that you may qualify for.
- Childcare expenses. I will need the name, address, and taxpayer ID# for each childcare provider, and the amounts you paid for each child. I’ll need this even if you were reimbursed via a dependent case FSA. Include only pre-K expenses, after-school care, or summer daycare. Note that the maximum that can generally be claimed is $3,000 for one child (or $5,000 if you use a dependent care FSA), or $6,000 for two children, so if you have multiple providers, I only need info for the first $3k/$5k/$6k. Also note: If you’ve paid an in-home nanny more than $2,400 “under the table”, then I won’t be able to prepare your tax returns for you! You’d need to go through the whole process of filing a W-2, paying unemployment tax to the state, and so on; that’s work that I’m unable to do for you. Your nanny will need to report the income on their own tax return. If your childcare provider works out of their own home, then this does not apply.
- College tuition and education expenses. Please provide me with the Form 1098-T showing the tuition expense for the year; I’ll also need to know the total amount you actually paid during the year, if different from what’s shown on the 1098-T. I may also need the total spent on course books and required supplies. If you used funds from a 529 plan or other tax-deferred college savings plan, I’ll need the 1099-Q.
- College savings. Please let me know the total amount contributed to the Oregon College Savings Plan for tax year 2022. I do not need or want account statements; they don’t always capture all contributions, so they can be misleading.
- Bought a home, refinanced a mortgage, or borrowed against home equity. Please provide a copy of the closing statement (typically the “Buyer’s Statement” or “Closing Disclosure” will suffice), showing all closing costs. For any cash-out refinance or equity line of credit, I will need to know what percentage of the loan proceeds were used for home improvements.
- IRA contributions. Please let me know the amount of any IRA contributions. You may receive a tax form (5498) that shows the amount, but it may not arrive until after tax season, so don’t count on it. (Note that contributions to your 401k/403b are generally shown on your W-2; I don’t need any additional documentation for these.)
- Energy-saving (e.g. high-efficiency furnace) or energy-generating (e.g. solar panels) home improvements. This can be complicated, but as a start, I’ll need to know how much you spent on qualifying improvements
- Electric vehicle purchases. If your vehicle is eligible for a tax credit, I’ll need the make/model, date of purchase, amount paid, VIN, and expected tax credit amount. Note that leased or used vehicles are not eligible for the tax credit. (Used vehicles may qualify for a credit if purchased in 2023 or later, but not 2022.)
- Medical expenses. Medical expenses are generally deductible only to the extent that they exceed 7.5% of your income; for most people, this rules out any deduction. Note that expenses paid with pre-tax funds (e.g. HSA or FSA funds) cannot be deducted, since they’re already pre-tax.
- Health insurance. If you purchased health insurance on the federal exchange, I’ll need the 1095-A, which you can download from healthcare.gov. I don’t need copies of 1095-B or 1095-C forms for employer-provided insurance; these have no impact on your tax return.
- Health savings accounts. I’ll need to know if you contributed to your HSA outside of normal payroll deductions. You may receive a tax form (5498) that shows the amount, but it may not arrive until after tax season, so don’t count on it.
- Alimony or spousal support. If the divorce occurred prior to 1/1/2019, I will need to know the name and social security number of the payee, the date of the divorce, and the amount paid. Child support is not deductible.
- Home-office deduction. There is no deduction for home offices! There is only a deduction for “business use of home”. If you are primarily self-employed or otherwise run a business out of your home, please provide me with a summarized list of your expenses. (Rent, utilities, maintenance, HOA fees, etc.) I’ll also need to know the square footage of the business space — and it must be used regularly for business, and exclusively for business, with no personal usage at all. The business space needn’t be defined by four walls and a door; that is, it can be part of a room, even if the full room doesn’t qualify.
- Other potentially-deductible items for which you may not have received a tax form. Please provide a summarized list. I do not need or want receipts, account statements, etc. These would generally be items where you say to yourself “I think this might be deductible…?”
Unreimbursed work-related expenses, prior year tax preparation fees, financial advisor fees. Please provide a summarized list. In most cases, these expenses are only deductible to the extent they exceed 2% of your income.[These deductions have been eliminated as of tax year 2018.]
Other miscellaneous items:
- Virtual currency (including cryptocurrency). I’ll need to know if you received, sold, sent, exchanged or otherwise disposed of any virtual currency during the year. If you did, then I’ll need a detailed list of gains/losses from all transactions. Two notes: 1) purchasing virtual currency with USD does not count as “receiving” it; and 2) the next bullet point does not currently apply to virtual currency accounts that are located outside of the US, but that rule could change at any point.
- Foreign financial accounts. I’ll need to know if you had any “financial interest in or signature authority over a financial account located in a foreign country”, including bank accounts, securities accounts, or brokerage accounts. You may be subject to foreign financial account reporting requirements, depending on the value of the account(s); see here for details. You’ll need to let me know if this applies to you. Note that holding foreign stocks or mutual funds in a US brokerage account does not count as having a foreign financial account.
- Anything else that you think might be relevant. You know your situation better than I do!
If you have any questions about the above items, or if you don’t know if they apply to you, don’t worry. Just ask, and we’ll figure it out together.