About the author: Lamar Watson, CFP®, is a Fee-Only Financial Advisor in the Washington, D.C. area that works with clients virtually across the country. Lamar's work with his clients focuses on budgeting, employee benefits, paying down debt, buying their first home, and investing. Lamar is the Founder of Dream Financial Planning, a virtual Fiduciary Financial Planning firm specifically designed to help young professionals and minorities take control of their finances and fulfill their dreams. Feel free to schedule a complimentary consultation to learn how we use the DREAM Financial Planning Process ™ to help our clients achieve their goals.
The tax season is officially here. If you haven't already, now is the time to get prepared. Whether you meet with a tax professional or prepare your taxes yourself, proper planning helps the processes go more smoothly and may reduce the risk of costly errors. Check out the tips below and prepare to tackle this tax season with confidence.
To-Do #1: Gather All of Your Forms
Beginning in January, you likely started to receive the forms you need to properly complete your tax return. If you are expecting a large refund, you will want to make a list so you don't forget anything that could affect it. Once you have received your documents, first give them a scan to make sure they are correct and contact the sender if there are any discrepancies. Remember, even a simple misspelling can cause a flag with your tax return. Inspect all of your documents carefully.
Some of the forms you will need to look out for include:
- W-2s from your job
- SSA-1099 for Social Security benefits
- 1099s for additional income, interest, gains, and losses
- 1095-A for government marketplace health coverage
- 1098s for reporting interest and tuition payments
- W-2Gs for any gambling winnings
- Schedule K-1s for company ownership
To-Do #2: Round Up Your Receipts
If you have your own business or plan on itemizing your deductions, you will need to record expenses so that you can take advantage of any available write-offs. Gather all the receipts for business expenses, medical expenses, and other expenses that can be listed on your Schedule A or Schedule C. Receipts can be physical receipts or bank and credit card statements that show payments for these items. Once gathered, organize them by type, so they are easy to find when you begin filing.
To-Do #3: Acquire Records of All Charitable Contributions
Throughout the year, you may have made donations to a tax-exempt organization. These donations can provide you with a charitable contribution write-off. Traditionally, this could only be done if you choose to itemize your deduction. However, because of the CARES Act, filers who choose a standard deduction may be able eligible to write-off up to $300 in charitable contributions.1
Other donation types will still require an itemized deduction and documentation. Most organizations, from churches to fundraisers, can provide a record of your tax-deductible contributions.
To-Do #4: Create a List of All Personal Information
While you likely know your Social Security number by heart, you will want to jot down the Social Security numbers of any dependents you wish to claim. This way it is easy to access and you can be sure it’s accurate. Also, make a list of addresses for any properties you own as well as the dates on which they were bought or sold.
To-Do #5: Get a Copy of Last Year’s Tax Return
If you are using the same preparer as the previous year, they should have a copy of your tax return. If not, find your old copy and have it ready with your other tax items. Being able to reference your previous return can help you see what you filed last year, so you don't overlook something this year.
To-Do #6: Determine How You Will Spend Your Refund
If you expect to get a refund this year, you might want to take some time to consider what you plan to do with your return once you receive it. You have the option to apply your payment towards your tax bill next year if you believe you will owe. This can be a good idea for those who pay estimated taxes throughout the year as it can often put a chunk towards your first installment.
Alternatively, you can choose to send the money directly to a checking or savings account, or contribute it to an IRA, health savings account, or education account. If you plan to split the funds between accounts, you will need to complete a Form 8888.
Don't let tax preparation leave you feeling overwhelmed. Enjoy less stress and a smoother process by preparing everything you need for filing this tax season.
Dream Financial Planning Process ™
Whether you're managing student loan debt, starting a family, or considering buying your first home, the DREAM Financial Planning Process™ is tailored to the unique needs of busy professionals in their 30s and 40s. This process focuses more on short-term goals while you grow and evolve in your personal and professional life. So if you're looking for guidance on Financial Planning, optimizing employee benefits, budgeting, student loans, and managing your 401k or investments, we can help.
With uncertainty surrounding the economic stability of our country, it's okay to have fears and anxieties surrounding your own savings and investments. The most productive course of action from here is to reach out to Dream Financial Planning (or whoever your trusted advisor might be) and discuss your options. It's easy to have knee-jerk reactions when it feels like the bottom is falling out, but it is imperative to make decisions using research-backed data and a level head. If you'd like a Complimentary Review and risk assessment of your investment portfolio, feel free to send me an e-mail.
In the August Newsletter, I explore how you should invest money for your short-term goals after you've established an emergency fund. I also discuss how a Financial Advisor can help you avoid emotional decision-making with U.S. News and World Report and how to know if your Financial Advisor is the right fit for you. There are also blog posts where I outline how to complete a mid-year financial check-up and 5 college planning mistakes to avoid.
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