Tax Preparation Checklist for 2021 Tax Season


Make preparing taxes easier this year with our handy tax preparation checklist for 2020. We’ll go through everything you need to know to get your tax documents in order. Tax time can be stressful, but we’re here to help every step of the way!

Make preparing taxes easier this year with our handy tax preparation checklist for 2020. We’ll go through everything you need to know to get your tax documents in order. Tax time can be stressful, but we’re here to help every step of the way!

Do I need to file taxes?

First thing’s first: do you even need to file income taxes? Don’t waste time gathering your tax documents if you don’t need to file. Here’s how you know if it’s worth taking the time to prepare taxes this year.

If you’re under 65 and...

  • Single, file if you made at least $12,200 in 2020 (before taxes).
  • Married filing separately, you have to file if you made at least $5 in 2020.
  • Married filing jointly, file if you’re both under 65 and made at least $24,400.
  • Head of household, file if you made at least $18,350 in 2020.

If you’re over 65 and...

  • Single, file if you made at least $13,850 in 2020 (before taxes).
  • Married filing jointly, file if you’re both over 65 and made at least $27,000.
  • Married filing jointly, file if one of you is over 65 and made at least $25,700.
  • Head of Household, file if you made at least $20,000 in 2020.
These are just the most common filing statuses. If your spouse has passed, if someone can claim you as a dependent, or if you had wages from a church, there are different requirements. Let us know if you’d like help determining your filing status.

What Do I Need To File My Taxes?

The tax documents you need to gather will be different, depending on your circumstances. Are you a W-2 employee or a 1099 freelancer? Did you have more than one job? Did you collect unemployment? We’ll break down each of those situations with a simple tax checklist.

Preparing taxes will look a little different this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, not to mention the wildfires and hurricanes. The Economic Impact Payments released earlier in 2020 need to be included in your tax prep checklist. 

If you’re preparing your tax documents and need more details on disaster relief or the CARES Act, get in touch with one of our ATAX offices. Our team of experts has the latest information on the IRS response to this year’s unprecedented challenges.

Tax Checklist for W-2 Employees

If the business or company you work for takes taxes out of your paycheck automatically, you’re probably a W-2 employee. At the end of the year, your employer has to give you a W-2 statement. By law, they must provide it to you by February 1, 202.

Here are the tax documents to gather:
  • Form 1040: The standard IRS tax form most people use for preparing taxes. The 1040EZ and 1040A forms are a thing of the past.
  • W-2 statements: You’ll need one from each of your employers if you have more than one job. You’ll add amounts from each W-2 together when you fill out your 1040 form.
  • Tip record: If you get tips, you should be keeping a daily record of the amounts. If you report your tips to your employer, this info would be on your W-2, and you don’t need a separate record.
  • Economic Impact Payment notice: If you received a payment, you should have gotten a notice from the IRS in the mail.
  • Investments: If you have an IRA or a pension, expect to get a 1099-R Form from your investment broker. Dividends from stock investments also need to be reported.
  • Deductions: If you’re claiming any deductions this year, make sure you have the documents to back it up. For example, if you donated to a charity, keep the tax receipt. 

These are the basic documents you’ll need to complete your taxes this year. Certain deductions require you to fill out tax schedule documents in addition to what’s listed here. If you’re unsure about documents not listed here, please contact us by phone, email, or in person.

Tax Checklist for 1099 Employees

Freelancers, contractors, and those who are self-employed won’t get a W-2 form to file. In this case, it’s essential to deduct taxes from your income directly. Most 1099 employees report taxes quarterly, but if you didn’t, here’s what to round up if you’re preparing taxes as a 1099 employee.
Tax document checklist for self-employed:
  • Form 1040: This is the basic form used by nearly everyone reporting an income, whether they’re self-employed or not. Some variations of this form exist, like the 1040-SR for seniors.
  • Schedule C: This is the reporting form you submit in addition to your Form 1040 as a sole-proprietor. That includes anyone who works for themselves or as an independent contractor.
  • Economic Impact Payment notice: If you received a payment from the IRS as part of the CARES Act, you’d need to claim it as income on your taxes. The IRS sent out paper notices, even if your payment was direct-deposited.
  • Deductions: As a self-employed individual, there are all kinds of business deductions you can claim. Gas, professional development, home offices, meals, and advertising can all be deducted. Just make sure to document them!
  • Investments: Dividends from your financial investments are usually taxable. Check with your investment broker about getting the proper reporting forms, like a 1099-R. If you had to take unplanned disbursements, those are taxable too.
Self-employment has its rewards, but it does tend to make preparing taxes a bit more complicated. The good news is that you can deduct the supplies and expenses you pay during the year.

What If I Was Unemployed In 2020?

If you were unemployed in 2020, you’re not alone. In November 2020, there were over 10 million Americans collecting unemployment benefits. That’s down more than half from the 23.08 million in April.

Income tax preparation checklist for unemployment:
  • Form 1040: Even if you didn’t have a job in 2020, you still need to file your taxes. Unemployment payments are considered “taxable income” by the IRS.
  • W-2 statements: If you were employed in the early part of 2020 but had to stop working, don’t forget to count your income from that job.
  • Form 1099-G: if you received unemployment this year, you should obtain a form 1099-G from your local unemployment office.
  • Economic Impact Payment notice: If you couldn’t work this year, the IRS economic impact payments probably helped a little. Check your payment status with the IRS if you don’t remember getting yours.
  • Deductions: You may be able to deduct job search expenses like travel, resume preparation, and postage. Collect your receipts to claim deductions for these expenses. It’s a good idea to digitize them too.
  • Investments: Just because you missed out on income this year doesn’t mean your investments aren’t earning dividends. Check with your broker to get the right forms to report them.
That’s our checklist for tax preparation under the most common circumstances. Keep it handy when you’re preparing your taxes so you can have everything ready in one place. Consulting a tax professional can take the anxiety out of tax time.

Do you have any questions about customizing your tax preparation checklist? Need help deciding which deductions to take? ATAX is here to help with filing personal taxes, bookkeeping, payroll, business taxes, and incorporations. Visit one of our many locations or call us at 866-999-2829

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