Here Is a Tax Season Checklist

  1. Tax Preparation Checklists
  2. Gathering up all the documents needed to prepare and file your tax return with ease
  3. General Information
  4. Income Documentation
  5. Adjustments to your income
  6. Deductible Expenses
  7. Additional Documentation
  8. Tax Preparation Checklist
  9. To help maximize your tax return, we also recommend that you collect:
  10. Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) Checklist
  12. SUPPLEMENTAL DOCUMENTS (only needed if using passport without a stamped entry to U.S.)
  13. Tax Filing Preparation Checklist – TaxAct Blog
  14. Find last year’s return
  15. Understand the IRS timeline
  16. Double-check your ITIN
  17. Tax Filing Preparation Checklist
  18. Dependent(s) Information
  19. Income
  20. Retirement
  21. Savings
  22. Investments
  23. Miscellaneous Income or Losses
  24. Deductions
  25. Charitable Donations
  26. Education
  27. State and Local Taxes
  28. Disaster Relief
  29. Small Business Tax Preparation Checklist: Get It Here
  30. The Ultimate Small Business Tax Preparation Checklist
  31. 1. Know which tax forms you’ll need to fill out.
  32. 2. Meet with your bookkeeper.
  33. 3. Update your mileage log.
  34. 4. Gather your financial records.
  35. 5. Capture all expenses you have paid for pocket.
  36. 6. Record all personal expenses paid for from your business accounts.
  37. 7. Gather any 1099s you have received.
  38. 8. Make sure you have issued 1099s as appropriate.
  39. 9. Pull receipts for asset purchases.
  40. 10. Ensure your loan balances match your balance sheet.
  41. 11. Make sure your meal expenses are properly categorized.
  42. 12. Note any changes in business ownership.
  43. 13. Remember to deduct estimated tax payments.
  44. 14. Schedule a pre-appointment call with your tax preparer.
  45. 15. Request a tax-filing extension if necessary.
  46. The Bottom Line
  47. Tax Prep Checklist: What to Gather Before Filing
  48. Personal information
  49. Credits
  50. Payments

Tax Preparation Checklists

Here Is a Tax Season Checklist

Tax season offers plenty of challenges especially when it comes to gathering up all that documentation that needs to be handy while working on your tax return.

Fortunately, a tax preparation checklist can make light of the situation and help you discover what's needed to proceed when ready.

Being prepared for tax season will help you expedite your tax return preparation process, and quite possibly reduce your taxes.

Gathering up all the documents needed to prepare and file your tax return with ease

Our checklists are provided to help you collect the most common items that are generally required when you are filing tax returns or gathering up documentation to supply to your personal tax professional (CPA).

These lists include common items and documentation generally required to prepare tax returns for individuals and families, business owners, self employed taxpayers and investors.

General Information

  • Bank account number and routing number, if you are opting for depositing your tax refund directly into your bank account.
  • Date of Birth for yourself, spouse and dependents.
  • Full Names and Social Security Numbers for yourself, your spouse, and any children / dependents that you have.
  • Payments of Estimated Federal, State, local taxes paid or paycheck withholding amounts paid over the tax year being filed.
  • Previous years tax returns for you and you spouse.

Income Documentation

  • Alimony received
  • Business or farming income – profit/loss statement, capital equipment information
  • Cost Basis of Securities Sold
  • Miscellaneous income: jury duty, gambling winnings, Medical Savings Account, scholarships, etc.
  • Prior year installment sale information – Forms 6252, principal and interest collected during the year, SSN and address for payer
  • Rental property income and expenses: profit/loss statement, suspended loss information
  • Social Security received
  • W-2 forms for you and your spouse
  • SSA-1099 for Social Security benefits received
  • 1099-MISC Income: independent contractor forms
  • 1099-S form for income from sale of a property
  • 1099-C forms for cancellation of debt
  • 1099-R, Form 8606 for distributions from IRAs or retirement plans
  • 1099 – Interest and Dividend Income, Retirement, Annuities, tax refunds, Unemployment
  • 1099-G unemployment income forms, or state / local tax refunds
  • 1099-INT, 1099-DIV, 1099-B, or K-1s investment, interest income

Adjustments to your income

  • Alimony paid
  • Keogh, SEP, SIMPLE, and other self-employed pension plans
  • Receipts for qualified energy-efficient home improvements (solar, windows, etc.)
  • Records of IRA contributions made during the year
  • Records of Medical Savings Account (MSA) contributions
  • Records of moving expenses
  • Self-employed health insurance payment records
  • Teachers: Canceled checks or receipts for expenses paid for classroom supplies, etc.
  • Form 1098-E for student loan interest paid (or loan statements for student loans)
  • Form 1098-T for tuition paid (or receipts/canceled checks for tuition paid for post-high school)

Deductible Expenses

Itemized Deductions (Schedule A)

  • List of Charitable Contributions
  • Medical Expenses, Health Care Insurance, Prescriptions, Doctors, Dentists, Eyeglasses, Long Term Health Care Insurance
  • Real Estate Taxes and other taxes paid, PMI insurance, points,
  • Un-reimbursed Job Expense
  • Union/Professional Dues, Job related costs, uniforms, supplies, seminars, continuing education, publications, travel, etc.)
  • Form 1098 – Mortgage Interest Expense

Tax Credit & Deduction for Individuals

  • Adoption expenses
  • Alimony Paid (need Social Security number of recipient)
  • Casualty and theft losses, insurance reimbursements
  • Charitable donations: official receipts/checks, cash amounts, donated property value, miles driven, out-of-pocket expenses
  • Child Care Expenses provider’s name, address, tax ID, $ amount
  • Home business expenses, home size/office size, home expenses
  • Investment interest expenses
  • IRA contributions
  • Medical and dental expense records
  • Medical savings account
  • Moving expenses
  • Personal property taxes
  • Real estate taxes paid
  • Rental Property Expense & cost basis
  • Work vehicle license fees, mileage

Additional Documentation

Prior-year refund applied to current year and/or any amount paid with an extension to file

Foreign bank account information: location, name of bank, account number, peak value of account during the year

click to print personal tax preparation checklist for individuals

General Taxable Income ___ Alimony Received or Paid ___ Dividend Income Statements: Form 1099-DIV ___ Interest Income Statements: Form 1099-INT & 1099-OID ___ Miscellaneous Income: Form 1099-MISC ___ Sales of Real Estate: Form 1099-S ___ Sales of Stock, Land, etc.: Form 1099-B ___ State Tax Refunds: Form 1099-G ___ Unemployment Compensation Received ___ W-2 Form(s) for Wages, Salaries, and Tips

Retirement Income

___ Railroad Retirement & Social Security Income: Form SSA-1099 ___ Retirement Income: Form 1099-R

Business Income

___ Business Income and Expenses ___ Farm Income and Expenses ___ Form K-1 Income from Partnerships, Trusts, and S-Corporations ___ Rental Income and Expenses ___ Tax Deductible Miles Traveled for Business Purposes

Tax Credits Checklist

___ Adoption Expense Information ___ Child Care Provider Address, I.D. Number and Amounts Paid ___ First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit ___ Foreign Taxes paid

Expense and Tax Deduction Checklist

___ Amount Paid to Professional Preparer Last Year ___ Casualty and Theft Losses ___ Charitable Cash Contributions ___ Doctor and Dentist Payments ___ Fair Market Value of Non-cash Contributions to Charities ___ Home Mortgage Interest from Form 1098 ___ Home Second Mortgage Interest Paid ___ Hospital and Nurse Payments ___ Investment Expenses ___ IRA Contributions ___ Job-hunting Expenses ___ Last Year's Tax Preparation Fee ___ Medical Expenses for the Family ___ Medical Insurance Paid ___ Miles Traveled for Volunteer Purposes ___ Miles Traveled for Medical Purposes ___ Miles Traveled Related to Your Job ___ Moving Expenses ___ Personal Property Taxes Paid ___ Prescription Medicines and Drugs ___ Real Estate Taxes Paid ___ State Taxes Paid with Last Year's Return (if itemized) ___ Student Loan Interest Paid ___ Tax Deductible Unreimbursed Expenses Related to Your Job ___ Union and Professional Dues ___ Unreimbursed Expenses Related to Volunteer Work

Tax Estimate Payments Checklist

___ Estimated Tax Payments Made with ES Vouchers ___ Last Year's Tax Return Overpayment Applied to This Year ___ Off Highway Fuel Taxes Paid

General Information

___ Bank Account Number (BAN) (For direct deposit/debit purposes) ___ Child Care Expenses for Each Dependent ___ Copy of Last Year's Tax Return ___ Dependents' Names, Years of Birth, and Social Security Numbers ___ Dependents' Post High School Educational Expenses ___ Educational Expenses for You and Your Spouse ___ Prior Year Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) & Personal Identification ___ Routing Transmit Number (RTN) (For direct deposit/debit)

___ Social Security Numbers for You and Your Spouse



Tax Preparation Checklist

Here Is a Tax Season Checklist

Whether you are planning to visit a free tax assistance location or planning to file your taxes on your own, organizing all of your tax documents beforehand can help save you time and make your tax filing easier. Here is a sample checklist to help you get your tax documents in order.  

  • W-2s for each job held in 2020 for each person in the household, this form reports your name, wages, and other tax information to the IRS
  • 1099s showing other income (unemployment, social security, school loans, health care reimbursement, state tax refund, gambling winnings, contract work) that is reported to the IRS
  • 1098s showing payments you’ve made (school loans, property tax)
  • 1095-A if you received credit from the marketplace
  • Income/interest statements received for any savings account/investments
  • Bank account numbers: a voided check or your bank or credit union’s routing number and savings or checking account number for your refund to be deposited automatically into your account through direct deposit
  • Last year’s tax return (if you have it)
  • Social Security Numbers for every member of your household

To help maximize your tax return, we also recommend that you collect:

  • Childcare expenses: name, address, Tax ID or Social Security Number of your child care provider
  • Business expenses and assets: if you’re self-employed or have a small business
  • College: loans and/or scholarships received, and bills for technical/community college or university (Forms 1098-T/1098-E)
  • Educator expenses for teaching grades K-12 (school supplies and materials used in the classroom)
  • Charitable donations: list of contributions and amounts, receipts for contributions over $250
  • Vehicles: vehicle sales tax, personal property tax statement for each car you own, total miles driven for the year and/or total miles driven for business
  • Renters: amount of rent paid (if renting)
  • Homeowners: mortgage interest statement (Form 1098), real estate taxes paid, Statement of Property Tax Payable in 2020
  • Retirement/IRA: amount contributed to an IRA (Individual Retirement Account) and total value as of December 2020
  • Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN): if you need do not have a Social Security Number, you may need apply for an ITIN for yourself or a family member, find out what other documents you need to take with you when you get help filing your taxes for free

Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) Checklist

Use the following checklist to know what forms and documents you need to get ready to renew or apply for your ITIN.

  • Complete a W-7 Form – Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
  • Check if your Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Site has Certified Acceptance Agents or use this list to find a paid preparer.
  • Gather identification document from list of acceptable documents below


  • Passport  (with stamped date of entry to U.S. unless from Mexico or Canada)
  • National identification card (must show photo, name, current address, date of birth, and expiration date)
  • U.S. driver's license
  • Civil birth certificate (required for dependents under 18 years of age)
  • Foreign driver's license
  • U.S. state identification card
  • Foreign voter's registration card
  • U.S. military identification card
  • Foreign military identification card
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) photo identification

SUPPLEMENTAL DOCUMENTS (only needed if using passport without a stamped entry to U.S.)

  • U.S. medical records for dependents under 6
  • U.S. school records for dependents under 18 and
  • U.S. school records, rental statements, bank statements or utility bills listing the applicant’s name and U.S. address, if 18 years of age or older.
  • Rental Statement listing the Applicant’s Name and U.S. Address
  • Utility Bill listing the Applicant’s Name and U.S. Address
  • Bank Statement with Applicant’s Name and U.S. Address
  • Ensure documents include all information and documents are not expired 
  • Sign and date the tax form 
  • Ensure packet is mailed or mail packet to processing center in Texas
  • Check on your renewal by calling 1-800-908-9982

Click here to download and print a PDF version of this checklist. 

To stay up to date on information and resources, please text “Taxes” to 211-211.


Tax Filing Preparation Checklist – TaxAct Blog

Here Is a Tax Season Checklist

Tax season is just around the corner, which means it’s time to start thinking about the documents you need to get ready.

Here are a few things to consider ahead of filing your 2020 tax return.

Find last year’s return

A quick way to find all of the important information you need to file your 2020 tax return is to dig up your 2019 tax return. For instance, you may need to reference your 2019 adjusted gross income (AGI) or look back to see what you received as a state refund. Plus, your old return lists the personal information needed for any spouse(s) or dependent(s).

You can also use it as a comparison tool to ensure you don’t overlook any details when you file your return this tax season.

Understand the IRS timeline

The IRS has not yet announced when it will start accepting tax returns in 2021. But they have made it clear that people who submit returns claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit will not be issued refunds before mid-February. Delaying these refunds gives the IRS a better chance at combating tax-related identity theft.

Double-check your ITIN

Certain taxpayers who don’t have a Social Security number are required to have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). It’s a number issued by the IRS, and those individuals are required to use it if they want to file a federal tax return.

ITINs expire on a scheduled date and must be renewed prior to filing a return the following tax season. If you were assigned an ITIN, double check when yours expires to know if you need to renew it this year.

Tax Filing Preparation Checklist

To start preparing to file your return, use this checklist to gather the tax and finance documents you need to make your filing time quick and efficient. Keep in mind, not all items listed will apply to your specific tax situation.

Dependent(s) Information

  • Child-care records, including the child-care provider’s tax ID number (if applicable) and the total fees paid to the provider or babysitter.
  • Form 8332 – (This is only applicable if you are not your child’s custodial parent.) This form proves the child’s custodial parent releases their right to claim the child as a dependent to you.


Traditional Employment

  • Form W-2 – You’ll need this form for every traditional part-time or full-time position you held with a company during the year.
  • Form 1099-G – If you are unemployed or were at one point during the year, this form documents any unemployment compensation you received. You’ll also receive Form 1099-G if you received a state refund for the previous tax year

Self-Employed (contractor or freelancer)

  • Form 1099-MISC – Used to report miscellaneous income, rental income and royalties
  • Form 1099-NEC – New for 2020: used to report non-employee compensation
  • Form 1099-K – Form used to report certain payments received through reportable payment card transactions
  • Schedule K-1 – Issued to report each partner’s share of partnership earnings, losses, deductions, and credits on an investment
  • Business expense records, including receipts and credit card statements
  • Estimated tax payment records (Check your Form 1040-ES!)
  • Workplace information (i.e., square footage of your home office, payment receipts if you rent a space outside of your home)
  • Business-use asset information for tracking depreciation


  • Up-to-date income and expense records
  • Rental asset information for tracking depreciation
  • Estimated tax payment records


  • Form 1099-R – This form reports any pension, IRA or annuity income.
  • Traditional IRA basis – (Compile the amount of money you contributed to an IRA that was already taxed.)
  • Form SSA-1099 – This form reports any social security benefits you received during the year.
  • Form RRB-1099 – If you work for the railroad, this form indicates the payments you received from the Railroad Retirement Board.
  • Form RRB-1099-R – This document reports the annuity or pension payments railroad workers received from the Railroad Retirement Board.
  • Form 5498-SA – Used to report contributions to a health savings account
  • Form 5498 – Lists IRA contribution amounts, including catch-up contributions, required minimum distributions (RMDs), and the fair market value of the account
  • Form 5498-QA – Furnished by the issuer of a Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) savings account; reports contributions, rollovers, and program-to-program transfers
  • Form 5498-ESA – Used to report contributions to a Coverdell education savings account


  • Form 1099-SA – If you use HSA funds during the year, this form reports the distributions you took.
  • Form 1099-LTC – This form is sent to you if you received any long-term care benefits.
  • Form 1099-INT – Used to report interest income
  • Form 1099-OID – Reports original issue discount interest as part of a person’s income
  • Form 1099-DIV – Used by banks to report dividends and other distributions to taxpayers


  • Form 1099-B – Itemizes all investment transactions made during the tax year.
  • Form 1099-S – Used to accurately report the earnings from a real estate sale
  • All investment acquisition dates along with cost records or another cost basis of the property you sold
  • An up-to-date record of any expenses related to your investments
  • Record of estimated tax payments made to cover the tax bill on the income from those investments

Miscellaneous Income or Losses

  • Form W-2G – Reports gambling winnings and any federal income tax withheld from those winnings
  • A detailed record of hobby income and expenses
  • Information on any prizes or awards you received during the tax year
  • Details on Trusts
  • Royalty income 1099-MISC
  • Records of any alimony paid or received (Make sure your ex-spouse’s name and SSN is included.)


  • Form 1098 – Mortgage Interest Statement
  • Real estate tax records
  • Personal property tax records
  • Receipts for energy-saving home improvements
  • Medical expense records

Charitable Donations

  • Records of any non-cash or cash donations made to charitable organizations
  • Record of miles driven while volunteering for a charity


  • Form 1098-T – Reports billed tuition expenses at a college or university
  • Receipts for educational expenses, books and other supplies
  • Scholarship or fellowship records
  • Form 1098-E – Reports how much a tax filer paid in student loan interest

State and Local Taxes

  • Record of the state and local income tax you paid throughout the year
  • Vehicle sales tax invoice, if applicable
  • Record of the amount of sales tax paid during the year

Disaster Relief

If you lived in a federally declared disaster relief area in 2020, you’ll need this information when filing your tax return:

  • Name of the city and county that you worked or owned property in that was declared a disaster area
  • Property loss records (i.e., appraisals, clean-up costs)
  • Detailed list of rebuilding costs
  • Paperwork that supports any insurance reimbursements or claims to be paid
  • FEMA assistance information


Small Business Tax Preparation Checklist: Get It Here

Here Is a Tax Season Checklist

Update: Due to the coronavirus outbreak the U.S. Department of Treasury has delayed the federal tax due date by 90 days. Taxes are now due July 15, 2020. “All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties,” said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin in a release.[1] 

Do you find yourself scrambling to prepare whenever tax season rolls around? Small business owners have a lot of tax responsibilities, and when you add those to your regular business responsibilities, there’s a lot to keep track of. A checklist for your small businesses taxes can help you file a more accurate return, spot more tax deductions, and avoid paying penalties.

Here’s your ultimate small business tax preparation checklist.

The Ultimate Small Business Tax Preparation Checklist

Preparing for tax season can be daunting, even if you have kept up with your bookkeeping and record-keeping throughout the year. But it doesn’t have to be hard if you follow our ultimate small business tax preparation checklist.

1. Know which tax forms you’ll need to fill out.

You can’t file your taxes correctly without the right form or forms, so identifying the proper tax documents you’ll need is one of the first steps that any small business owner should take.

The type of form you require will depend on the nature of the business you run.

  • If you’re a sole proprietor, attach a Schedule C Form to your personal income tax return, or use a 1099-MISC
  • If you’re a C-corporation, use Form 1120
  • If you have S-corporation status, use Form 1120S
  • If you’re in a partnership, file Form 1065 as an informational return and submit your share of the business’s expenses, income, and losses on Schedule K-1

Keep in mind, your tax liability can vary widely what type of business entity you have. Your accountant or tax preparer will be able to explain the impact of your business type on your tax burden.

2. Meet with your bookkeeper.

Whether you outsource your bookkeeping or keep it in-house, your bookkeeper is a valuable resource when it comes to small business tax preparation. That’s why meeting with your bookkeeper tops our small business tax preparation checklist.

Many bookkeepers do not prepare tax returns, but an experienced bookkeeper knows many of the answers to your tax preparer’s questions—before your tax preparer even asks them.

Schedule some time to review the previous year’s books with your bookkeeper.

Make sure any questions they have for you have been resolved. Ensure all your accounts are fully reconciled. Review the balance sheet for the proper recognition of new asset purchases.

Being comfortable with your books before your tax appointment will make the process go smoother for both you and your tax preparer.

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3. Update your mileage log.

If you use your personal vehicle for business, deducting the standard mileage rate on your tax return is usually more beneficial than deducting your actual vehicle expenses for the year. The trick, of course, is you have to track your mileage in order to take the correct deduction.

Fortunately, the days of keeping a paper log are behind us, and there are a number of mileage tracking apps you can install on your smartphone to make tracking mileage painless.

Before scheduling your tax appointment, make sure your mileage log app has been updated and all trips have been properly classified as either business or personal. Print out the report and take it to your tax preparer, along with your vehicle mileage at the beginning and the end of the tax year.

  Avoid the temptation to “estimate” your mileage deduction—the IRS requires you to keep a log, and failure to do so can lead to your deduction being disallowed in the event you are ever audited.

4. Gather your financial records.

The third tip on our small business tax preparation checklist is to gather your financial records.

Here’s a list of some of the most common documents that small business owners should track down before filing:

  • Income statement
  • Balance sheet
  • Bank and credit card statements
  • Payroll documents
  • Last year’s business tax return
  • Partnership agreements
  • Accounting documents
  • Asset purchase details
  • Depreciation schedules

By making sure all this information is on-hand before beginning, business owners can make the tax preparation process less time-consuming. Ideally, you should be using business accounting software to generate most of these financial records. 

5. Capture all expenses you have paid for pocket.

Do you purchase things for your business using your personal Amazon account? Have you ever used your family PayPal account to subscribe to a business service? As much as possible, you should always separate personal from business finances, but even if you do use a personal account for business expenses, those expenses are legitimate tax deductions.

That’s why scanning your personal expenses for business purchases makes our small business tax preparation checklist.

How do you capture these expenses? Review your personal account activity for the previous year, and isolate any business expenses you find in them.

If you act before the end of the tax year, you can write yourself a reimbursement check from your business bank account and capture the expenses that way.

Often, there are expenses you may not remember until after the beginning of the new year. In that case, enter the expenses into your bookkeeping by debiting the appropriate expense account and crediting an equity account. 

6. Record all personal expenses paid for from your business accounts.

Just as you may purchase things for your business using your personal accounts, you might occasionally grab your business credit card instead of your personal credit card when you are in a rush at the grocery store checkout line. These personal expenses need to be recorded properly in your bookkeeping system, so they are not improperly deducted as business expenses.

Ideally, you would repay your business for these expenses, but it’s much more common to simply enter the transactions as a credit to your checking or credit card account and a debit to either a loan to business or equity account. The best way to avoid this problem in future years by using a separate bank account and credit card just for business expenses. 

7. Gather any 1099s you have received.

Forms known as 1099s serve as “tattletale” documents to help the IRS ensure taxpayers are reporting all their income. If your business is service-based, you will ly receive 1099s from a number of your customers. If you provided any work for a company or individual as a non-employee, you’ll receive a 1099-MISC form.

Since 2012, credit card processors and payment processing companies PayPal and Stripe have been required to issue a new kind of 1099 called Form 1099-K. Form 1099-K is used to report credit or debit card payments in excess of $20,000.

Form 1099-K is also issued when a payee receives payment for more than 200 credit or debit transactions in a year, regardless of the annual dollar amount.

Most tax preparers don’t use Form 1099-MISC or Form 1099-K to prepare a business’ tax return, but they review them to ensure their clients are reporting at least as much income as the total reported on the 1099s received. That’s why this tip makes our small business tax preparation checklist. 

8. Make sure you have issued 1099s as appropriate.

The IRS requires you to issue Form 1099 to any non-corporate service provider to whom you pay more than $600 in a given year (the corporation rule does not apply to attorneys, who must be issued a 1099 regardless of corporate status).

There is an exception, though: If you pay for these services using a credit or debit card, or if you use a payment service such as PayPal or Stripe, you must exclude those payments from your 1099 reporting. The payment processor is responsible for reporting those payments on Form 1099-K.

 Other rules apply to 1099 reporting, so double-check with your bookkeeper to ensure you have issued all necessary 1099s. 

9. Pull receipts for asset purchases.

Assets include furniture, computers, vehicles, and other large purchases. Generally speaking, an asset will cost at least $500 and is expected to be in use more than one year. Typically, businesses depreciate assets slowly, deducting the full purchase price of the asset over a number of years.

However, thanks to a provision of the tax code called Section 179, you can choose to depreciate the cost of certain eligible assets all at once in the year of purchase.


Your tax preparer will need to know when the asset was purchased and what was included in the purchase price—so pulling these receipts makes our small business tax preparation checklist.

This will help her determine how much depreciation can be recorded in the tax year or whether the asset qualifies for Section 179. Your tax preparer may also want to retain a copy of the receipt or other purchase documentation in their work papers.

10. Ensure your loan balances match your balance sheet.

Many small business owners record the entire amount of their loan payments as a decrease in the liability owed. Not only does this cause the loan balance to be reflected inaccurately on the balance sheet, but it also doesn’t separate out the interest paid. Loan payments for principal are not tax deductible, but the interest on a loan is.

Review your loan statements at the end of the year with your bookkeeper, and make sure the loan balances on the balance sheet match the balances on these statements.

As is the case with bank and credit card statements, many tax preparers will want to review your loan statements before preparing the tax return, so include them in the paperwork you take to your tax appointment.

11. Make sure your meal expenses are properly categorized.

Generally speaking, expenses for meals you have with your customers and clients are only 50% deductible. However, certain meals—such as those purchased while you are traveling—might be 100% deductible.

Additionally, meals you provide for your employees for the business’ convenience—let’s say, pizza you order so your team can work through lunch to meet a deadline—are also 100% deductible.

If you classify all meals as “Meals and Entertainment” expenses, your tax preparer will only deduct 50% of the expenses as a business expense.

Take a little extra time to subcategorize these expenses as Travel or Employee meal expenses to maximize your tax deduction.

12. Note any changes in business ownership.

If a partner leaves the business, or if you offer a stock option to your employees, your tax preparer needs to know about it.

Changes in ownership affect the equity in your business, and—while your bookkeeper may have recorded the changes to equity in your books at the time of the change—you will need to call the changes to your tax preparer’s attention. This is an important tip for our small business tax preparation checklist.


Ownership changes can have some tricky tax ramifications, so before making a move this in your business, consult with your tax preparer to ensure you are making the best decisions from a tax standpoint.

13. Remember to deduct estimated tax payments.

Most small business owners must make estimated income tax payments throughout the tax year. (In addition, business owners must deposit payroll taxes on an ongoing basis.) When you finish your tax return, deduct the income taxes you’ve already paid from your total income tax liability. That way, you won’t overpay your taxes.

14. Schedule a pre-appointment call with your tax preparer.

Few things are worse than showing up for your tax appointment unprepared. Not only does this mean you have to make multiple trips to your preparer’s office, but it also delays the preparation of your return.

Your tax preparer knows what information they will need from you in order to file your tax return.

In this article, we highlighted the information you need for your business tax return, but additional information will be needed for your personal tax return.

Many tax preparers create client organizers to help ensure their clients are fully prepared for their tax appointments. Asking for a client organizer or other guidance from your tax preparer can prevent many headaches as you prepare for your tax appointment.

15. Request a tax-filing extension if necessary.

The tax filing and payment deadlines for most business types fall on either March or April 15 (the following business day if the 15th is a holiday or falls on a weekend). If you don’t think you’ll be able to file on time, don’t hesitate to request a filing extension from the IRS.

You can e-file for an automatic tax-filing extension, giving you until the fall to file your return. Just remember, even though you have a longer time to file your return, you have to pay your taxes by the original deadline.

If not, you face the risk of incurring tax penalties and back taxes.

The Bottom Line

Nothing will completely eliminate the pain of tax season. Even with these 15 tips at hand, preparing for your tax appointment will take some time and effort. However, knowing what to expect, and taking the time to properly prepare using our small business tax preparation checklist, will make tax season go much more smoothly for both you and your tax preparer. 

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Tax Prep Checklist: What to Gather Before Filing

Here Is a Tax Season Checklist

Whether you hire a professional or do it yourself, you need certain information and documentation to file your tax return. Here’s a tax prep checklist most taxpayers might need to complete the job.

Personal information

Let’s start with the obvious items on any tax prep checklist.

  • Last year’s taxes, both your federal and — if applicable — state return. These aren’t strictly necessary, but they’re good refreshers of what you filed last year and the documents you used.

  • Social Security numbers for yourself, your spouse and all dependents. Remember, in addition to children, dependents can include elderly parents and others. 


Next on the tax prep checklist are credits, which are deductions’ more valuable cousins: They provide dollar-for-dollar cuts in any tax you owe. But as with deductions, you need documentation to claim them. Here are some popular tax credits:

  • American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning credits. These education-related credits can save you quite a bit of money. As with the tuition and fees deduction, Form 1098-T is required to claim either.

  • Child Tax Credit. The standard Child Tax Credit is worth up to $2,000 per child dependent in 2020 and up to $3,600 per child in 2021. If you added to your family through adoption, you might be eligible for additional tax credits.

  • Retirement savings contributions credit (also known as the Saver's Credit). Contributions to a 401(k), similar employer-sponsored plan or an IRA might allow you to claim this credit (read how it works).


Most of us have income taxes withheld from our paychecks to cover our tax liabilities; that amount is on our W-2 forms. But if you made federal estimated tax payments during the year, have this amount handy, too.

This tax prep checklist covers preparation issues common to most filers, but taxes are different for each of us. Be prepared to tailor the tax prep checklist to your situation.

» MORE: See the different ways you can make an IRS payment

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