Ready, Set, Taxes: A Printable Tax Prep Guide

Use this checklist to get a head start on filing your taxes.

Analog clock with sticky note on it that says tax time iStock

Tax season approacheth, which means digging out receipts, tax documents, bank records, proof of income—oh, and don’t forget your calculator app. But don’t fret—doing your taxes doesn’t have to be stressful. The biggest step in tackling your taxes is the preparation.

Preparing well before the April 15 deadline is important as tax rules can change significantly.

Print our tax prep checklist to help you get started—and follow the tips below for more insights on these necessary documents.

Gather your personal information

If you’re due for a refund, get it fast with direct deposit by supplying your bank account number and routing number. You also may need to supply information from your previous tax return, so keep last year’s taxes handy as a reference within your tax prep documents.

Include proof of income

For many, the most important form is your W-2, which shows how much you earned and how much of your income was withheld for taxes. You should receive one of these from each of your employers for the tax year. Your employer must deliver your W-2 to you no later than January 31, so keep an eye out in your mailbox and email.

Sort out your expenses and tax deductions

Deductions can help reduce your taxable income, in turn lowering your tax bill. But the key to claiming deductions is keeping your receipts and other documentation. Tax prep pro tip: Put aside these receipts throughout the year in an envelope or folder, and write down relevant info that you may forget later on the back of the receipt.

Compile self-employment information

Do you freelance or own a business? If you’re self-employed, taxes aren’t automatically deducted from your take-home pay. Instead, you’re responsible for keeping track of what you owe in federal and state taxes—and paying each on time. Keep in mind: It’s essential to keep track of your business expenses year round, as many of these can be deductions—like advertising, for example—in most cases.

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