Taxes Basics

Basic Taxes 101 - Prepping for Taxes


If you’re relatively new at filing your own taxes, the process can appear daunting, but understanding the basic official documents and preparing them in advance can save you a lot of time, headaches, and possibly money.



If you’re relatively new at filing your own taxes, the process can appear daunting, but understanding the basic official documents and preparing them in advance can save you a lot of time, headaches, and possibly money. Ensuring that you organize all necessary documents before you file can help you prevent scrambling last minute to locate missing information, or having to amend a return, which will cost you money.

The earlier you file, the more you can help prevent fraud if someone has stolen your identity with the intention of filing a tax return illegally on your behalf. Also, the refund process takes more time and tax advisors get busier the longer you wait to file. It is highly recommended to file as early as possible, preferably right after you receive all official documents and gather all necessary information to file. For more information about identity theft and tax fraud, please visit the IRS website at: https://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Releases-the-Dirty-Dozen-Tax-Scams-for-2013

The deadline to file your taxes is Monday, April 18, 2016. If you miss this deadline, you can file an extension through the IRS but you will have to pay a penalty fee.

Common official documents:

  • W-2: Form you will receive from your employer which lists the wages you earned and taxes you paid the previous calendar year. If you held multiple jobs the previous calendar year, expect to receive a W-2 from each employer.
  • 1098: Form you should request from your mortgage company if you plan to claim a deduction on your mortgage interest.
  • 1099: Form you will receive from banks on interest earned for savings accounts, or other forms of income from sources other than your employer. These include people you work with if you are an independent contractor.

    These forms typically arrive before January 31st at the mailing address your employer has on file for you. If you haven’t received a W-2 from your employer by February 14th, first speak directly with your employer to make sure W-2s have been mailed out. In most cases, you may request that your employer print you out another copy. However, if your employer has not mailed out W-2s by February 14th, you may contact the IRS for more in-depth assistance. For more information on missing W-2s or 1099 forms, please visit the IRS website at: https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc154.html.

    Also, keep in mind that the companies or people who send you these forms also report that information to the IRS, so it is important to accurately report all information on your taxes in order to avoid being audited by the IRS.

    Other documents and information you may want to collect before you file your taxes are records of home improvement costs if you own your own home, investment, retirement, and bank account statements, and social security numbers for all individuals you intend to claim as dependents.

    Please consult your tax advisor for assistance determining all the information you will need before you file your taxes.

    Possible Tax Credits

    For students or people repaying student loans:

    Lenders will send 1098-E forms for each of your student loans. Be sure to keep these along with other important tax documents before you file your taxes – they will help you claim any interest you paid on your student loans in the previous calendar year.

    For parents or people who pay for child care:

    You may qualify for a tax credit for each of your children. You will need a statement from your child care provider with the business’s tax ID number.

    For people who have contributed charitable donations:

    If you itemize your taxes, you may qualify for tax credits for your charitable donations. Be sure to keep receipts for all donations you made in the previous calendar year and present them to your tax advisor for possible tax credit.

    The information contained in this article is intended for general educational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal, tax, or financial advice. Please consult with your own legal, tax or financial advisor for guidance with your own particular circumstances.

    Sources and more information:

  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website, https://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Releases-the-Dirty-Dozen-Tax-Scams-for-2013
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website, https://www.irs.gov/Forms-&-Pubs
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website, https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc154.html
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website, https://www.irs.gov/Credits-&-Deductions/Individuals




The information contained in this article is intended for general educational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal, tax, or financial advice. Please consult with your own legal, tax or financial advisor for guidance with your own particular circumstances.