“Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success.” – Ross Perot
Judging by what we have been hearing from new and current clients, Mr. Perot up there in my quote selection (with all due respect for his obvious business acumen) probably never prepared his own taxes.
And I recommend you do not either. We do not prepare them, and I am not a fan of trying to “do it yourself” when it comes to anything legally or financially significant … but, the thing sort of speaks for itself, I would say. How can I say this?
The Form 1040 instructions estimate that on average it takes a taxpayer around 18 hours to complete a tax return.
And that is the average. And speaking of average, there have been approximately 4,680 changes to the U.S. tax code (let alone the states) since 2001, which is an average of more than one per day.
And when you print out the *guidance* explaining the tax code, it is over 1-foot high. Let alone the 4 million words of the code itself.
So, let me know if you need a recommendation — but please let’s not have you tackle this yourself. (Remember what that did, even, for our esteemed Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner!)
With the help of a CPA, we have put together this yearly list of items you should be gathering these next few weeks as you prepare for tax time. I hope that this will help you to delegate this sometimes-painful process effectively.
This list is mostly complete–but I am always looking to add to it! Let me know if you think I missed anything.
Social Security Numbers (including spouse and children)
Child care provider tax I.D. or Social Security Number
Employment & Income Data
W-2 forms for this year
Tax refunds and unemployment compensation: Form 1099-G
Miscellaneous income including rent: Form 1099-MISC
Partnership and trust income
Pensions and annuities
Jury duty pay
Gambling and lottery winnings
Prizes and awards
Scholarships and fellowships
State and local income tax refunds
Residential address(es) for this year
Mortgage interest: Form 1098
Sale of your home or other real estate: Form 1099-S
Second mortgage interest paid
Real estate taxes paid
Rent paid during tax year
Interest income statements: Form 1099-INT & 1099-OID
Dividend income statements: Form 1099-DIV
Proceeds from broker transactions: Form 1099-B
Retirement plan distribution: Form 1099-R
Capital gains or losses
Auto loans and leases (account numbers and car value) if vehicle used for business
Student loan interest paid
Early withdrawal penalties on CDs and other fixed time deposits
Personal property tax information
Department of Motor Vehicles fees
Gifts to charity (receipts for any single donations of $250 or more)
Unreimbursed expenses related to volunteer work
Unreimbursed expenses related to your job (travel expenses, entertainment, uniforms, union dues, subscriptions)
Education expenses (tuition and fees)
Child care expenses
Medical Savings Accounts
Tax return preparation expenses and fees
Estimated tax vouchers for the current year
Self-employment SEP plans
Self-employed health insurance
K-1s on all partnerships
Receipts or documentation for business-related expenses
State and local income taxes
IRA, Keogh and other retirement plan contributions
Casualty or theft losses
Other miscellaneous deductions
Darlynn Morgan is an estate planning lawyer at Morgan Law Group, a unique law firm that she created to truly make a difference in the lives of her clients.
She’s really good at making it easy for your family to talk about and plan for tough subjects like money, death and taxes. For more, you can Follow her on Twitter , Friend her on Facebook or check out her Blog. If that’s not enough, you can also find her on Linked In or Avvo.