- One of the most critical pieces of paperwork to have for taxes is an income statement. If you work multiple jobs, have interest from investments as well as an employer or worked for more than one business during the previous year, you'll have multiple income statements. W-2 forms come from your employer while banks issue 1099-INT forms for interest, businesses in which you own stock issue 1099-DIS forms for dividend earnings, retirement plans issue 1099-R forms and other sources of income issue 1099-MISC forms. Each one indicates how much you earned, how much of it is taxable and how much was withheld in taxes. This information is all required as you work your way through a tax form, and incorrect or missing information can result in a fine or penalty.
- If you file taxes for your family, or file for yourself as well as a spouse jointly on the same tax return, you'll need to have personal information for each member of the family. This includes legal names and social security numbers. In the case of children, only one adult guardian can claim each child as a dependent and take the tax exemption this allows, so you'll need to know whether you're the primary caregiver and eligible for an exemption if you share custody or have a nontraditional living arrangement.
- If you itemize your tax deductions, you'll need receipts to total and confirm each expense. Itemizing deductions allows you to deduct the money you donate to nonprofit organizations, mortgage interest, health insurance costs, child care costs, education expenses and business expenses. You may find after totaling your receipts that you'd be better off taking the standard deduction, which reduces your taxable income by a fixed amount based on your filing status. If your receipts show that you can take a larger deduction by itemizing, you'll need to retain them as proof of payment in case you face an audit in the future.
- For most taxpayers, each year's taxes are similar to the previous year's return. Incomes vary and new deductions or credits appear, but the best procedure for completing a tax return remains largely unchanged unless you have a significant change in your life such as a major new investment, unemployment, retirement or the birth of a new child. This means that old tax records, including a copy of last year's return, can be a very useful thing to have on hand. Referring to old records can help you avoid mistakes and answer questions that you've already done the hard work to answer.