How to tame your tax documents.

Don’t get burnt out trying to make sense of last year’s finances. Explore strategies to simplify tax season and churn through your tax returns with ease. 

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Your quick-start guide to tax preparation.

  • Get your personal information together.

  • Collect all the supplemental forms and documents to report your income and deductions.

  • Merge the information into a single PDF to send to your tax preparer or refer to as you complete your return.  

From state tax information, business expenses, and federal tax documents to W-2 forms, records of reimbursements, and personal property taxes, having a guide to what you need to file can be handy whether you work with a CPA or file yourself with tax software. Keeping track of so many different forms, receipts, and personal documents is a daunting task for any taxpayer.

 

 

Create your tax document checklist.

 

Life gets complicated, and sometimes that means filing taxes gets complicated too. If you’re self-employed, have multiple dependents, take lots of tax deductions, or have any number of other complex life circumstances, it takes a lot of paperwork to claim your full tax refund.

 

Follow this checklist to make your taxes a little less taxing.

 

 

1.

 

Gather your personal details. Before you kick off your tax preparation process, you should gather information about everyone covered in your tax return. You’ll need the dates of birth and Social Security numbers for your spouse and anyone you’re claiming as a dependent for the Child Tax Credit.

 

Be sure to have your checking or savings account number close at hand, as well as your bank’s routing number, so you can receive your refund via direct deposit. Keep this personal information secure by password protecting the file you store it in.

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2.

 

List your income and expenses. Start your tax prep with a list of the different ways you earned money during the year to determine what income tax paperwork you’ll need. Anything that grew your bank account, from mortgage interest to alimony payments, needs to be reported. Other forms of income to report include:

  • Social Security benefits (Form SSA-1099)

  • Stock dividends (Form 1099-DIV)

  • Gambling winnings (Form 1099-MISC)

  • Income from a rental property

  • Economic Impact Payments 

You should separately list expenses from the prior year that you can use to lower the amount of your income that gets taxed. Qualifying expenses include:

  • Property taxes

  • Charitable donations

  • Educational expenses (Form 1098-T)

  • IRA contributions

  • Child care costs

  • Student loan interest (Form 1098-E)

  • Medical expenses

3.

 

Digitize your paper documents. It can take a lot of supplemental information, from credit card statements to health insurance receipts, to prove that your income and deductions are accurate. Instead of trying to file and store physical copies, digitize these documents throughout the year, saving them in a central location so you can access them easily at tax time.

 

Apps like Adobe Scan make it simple to turn any physical document into a high-quality image or PDF, which you can save using Adobe Document Cloud. Once all your documents are online, you can use Adobe’s free Merge tool to combine multiple PDFs into one with just a few clicks. All you have to do is drag individual documents into the Merge interface, where they’ll be converted into a single PDF for quick viewing.

A receipt is shown being digitized in Adobe Scan on a mock-up of a phone in the center of a blue background

4.

 

Send it to your family or tax preparer for review. With all your documents in one place, it’s easy to highlight sections, add notes, and share the entire file with family members, so they can add their own personal information. Once you’ve gathered everything you need, compress the file if necessary and email it to your tax preparer so they can complete your return. Be sure to password protect the file before you send it to anyone to keep your personal data secure.

 

When you’re filing a complicated return, the sheer number of tax forms required to claim your refund can make you want to just give up and take the standard deduction. But some patience, preparation, and the right tools can wind up saving you a lot of money.

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