When you know you have to do something, but you’d rather do anything but that something, then The List is the tool to have. Just like your favorite GPS, it keeps you on track and gives you a clear way to move forward with confidence. Tax Checklists in particular are life savers, so provided here are some examples of the most common things you’ll need to do, and have next to you, as you fill out your Form 1040.
- File. First of all, before jumping in, file. That’s right, file. As in filing papers – you know, taking receipts and putting them it in a file folder. Or, if you don’t have a filing system in place, at least find all of your 2011 papers and put similar ones in piles together. Here’s why: you are about to use much of that information, and pawing through stacks of loose papers repeatedly is a huge waste of your time. Look, you’ll have to go through those papers at least once during the course of doing your taxes, so do it first, and be done with it. Go on, get that bag of receipts hiding in the coat closet (you know who you are) and go for it!
- Grab your checkbook(s) and personal calendar from 2011. Put them in the Tax Box and keep that box handy. Now is the time to open those pesky envelopes with the perforations on each side, along with all the other pieces of mail. Take the papers out and create piles of each kind of document (for example, ‘1099-INT, 1099-OID, 1099-DIV’ etc.) and staple them together.
- Now it’s time for a little trip down memory lane. You have to think back and ask yourself some questions, like:
‘did my name or address change, or did I get married?’ (see, this is easy…)
‘did I start a business or incorporate?’
‘did I sell my home?’
‘did I take money from, or put money into, a retirement plan?’
‘did I buy or sell stocks or bonds?’
‘did I have tuition expenses?’
This short list shows you the kinds of things that you will need to know, find paper documentation for, and be ready to enter when the time comes. Everybody needs slightly different information on their returns, but there are some basic questions that everybody needs to ask (post your request here, and we’ll send you a general list).
Now that you have all your documents together, you will next start to tackle the real issues. By the way, you are doing all this work – organizing your information – so that you’ll be able to see if the end result is going to be ‘Party!’ time, or ‘Find-some-money-to-pay-taxes’ time. Stay tuned for the next blog!