income tax, preparation — December 28, 2015

Get Ready, Get Set …

by Bob Williams

tax documents

In these last few days of 2015, let's take a look at how to get a jump on your yet-to-be-filed 2015 tax return, long before the first W-2 has been printed. Just one hour or less of work now can mean your next income tax return could be e-filed in the blink of an electron.

Getting Ready to File

First, think deductions. Do you expect to take the standard deduction, or is itemizing a possibility? If itemizing, you have just a few days left to beef up your deductions by giving extra cash or property to a charity. Just make sure the charity is a qualified 501c3 charity in the eyes of the IRS, and that your donation paperwork is dated before Jan. 1, 2016.

Collecting Paperwork

If you’re squared away on deductions, it’s time to get paperwork together. Basically, any records that back up your claims to deductions or credits need to be at your fingertips come tax time. That includes, for example, your receipts from those charitable contributions; gas receipts and uniform rental charges from employee business expenses; and expense records if you’re claiming the Office in Home deduction.

Of course, if you’re sticking with the standard deduction, you’re good to move on to the next stage.

Your other paperwork – your W-2 (or Schedule C if you’re self-employed), student loan statement or Social Security print-out will be ready until after Jan. 1, so keep an eye out for them in your email or mailbox.

Do you expect to report any special circumstances on this next tax return? Did you get married or have a child during the tax year? Did you have any casualty losses from a natural disaster or theft to report? Did you sell a home or other property? If your answer to any of these is yes, include any documents on those issues in your preparations.

Filing Status Decisions

And while you’re at it, do you know your filing status on your next return? If you’re single or Married Filing Jointly, the decision is pretty simple. But single parents with children at home or a couple with separate incomes may have other choices. Click the blue “Help Me Decide” link on the name and address screen to see what each filing status requires so you can make the best choice for your situation.

Annndd You're Done (for now)

If you don't already have an account with to do your taxes, you can set one up now. Tax-filing time is just around the corner, so get ready!

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